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Why is Africa Slow to Adopt Bitcoin?

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Africa Slow to Adopt Bitcoin

With 54 countries in one continent, the adoption and integration of bitcoin in Africa will and continues to happen at different tempos. Although bitcoin has shown massive potential globally, its uptake in most parts of Africa has been and continues to be slow.

For bitcoin to experience massive adoption in Africa, co-founder and CEO of Regenize, a South African startup, Chad Robertson, believes that educating people on how bitcoin works is the key.

Regenize aims to motivate people to recycle things and in exchange they get rewarded with virtual currency that they can use to purchase various goods. The recycling services are monthly and come at a fee. Customers are then rewarded with the virtual currency that they can use on Regenize’s mobile voucher platform.

Since Regenize’s launch in 2016, the startup has had a positive impact on the people of South Africa. Still, Robertson firmly believes that different industries will influence the uptake of digital currencies.

In an interview with Disrupt Africa, he is quoted as saying,

“Using bitcoin as a means of purchasing everyday goods will be determined by the adoption rate of your larger retailers. However, for the financial services sector it has a high uptake due to reduction of costs when transferring bitcoin.”

Factors Hindering the Adoption of Bitcoin in Africa

According to Robertson, several factors make the adoption of bitcoin and other virtual currencies slow in Africa.

Education and Awareness

In his view, education and awareness are mandatory if bitcoin is to scale in Africa.

“Specifically, in South Africa, we have such a huge gap that keeps on growing regarding wealth but also knowledge on the ever-changing tech landscape. If I’m sitting in a coffee shop in the CBD, it’s quite likely someone will know what bitcoin is. However, head down to the Cape Flats or townships, and it’s highly unlikely that there’ll be many people who are aware of this,” he went on to say.

“However, this lack of education and awareness could be drilled down further on to find the root cause. There are too many people living in poverty in South Africa and Africa. They simply cannot think about using bitcoin as it’s not relevant to their needs. The local spaza shop does not accept bitcoin so how will someone get their bread or milk? Schools don’t accept it for school fees. You cannot buy electricity with bitcoin to keep your lights on. So why would they care or want to be educated on it?” he asked.

In Robertson’s view, there is need to develop solutions that work for everyone and not just the minority if bitcoin and other digital currencies are to have significant momentum.

“If you look at the available places one can spend bitcoin in South Africa, it makes sense why it’s the minority who’s focused on it,” he added.

Security and Visibility

Another factor that needs to be addressed before digital currencies can be fully adopted is security which ties back to education.

“There are many people who have been scammed on the internet, especially those who are digitally uneducated. Therefore, there is a fear and a stigma around using the internet as a place to transact,” stated Robertson.

On the other hand, Africans are used to the normal brick and mortar institutions where they can go and make their inquiries. Digital currencies are decentralized and lack visibility hence raising certain questions.

Robertson said, “With bitcoin, there’s no visible place to lay a complaint or an enquiry. I would think change management would play a large role in the transition from using a bank. For generations, people have given their money to the bank and there’s a trust as the bank is a brick and mortar institution. With bitcoin, people might have fears of what happens to my money? Who do I complain to?”

According to him, for more African nations to come on board, the focus shouldn’t be on change but on the people and their needs.

Smartphones and Data Access

The founder of the South African startup, The Sun Exchange, Abraham Cambridge, believes that the most basic hindrance to bitcoin adoption is access to data and smartphone adoption since bitcoin transactions rely on internet access. The Sun Exchange uses bitcoin to crowdfund for solar projects.

“Feature phones don’t really cut it, but it is just a matter of time. With smartphones getting cheaper every day, soon anyone in Africa will be able to use bitcoin services where data is available,” Cambridge said.

“To help reach this point, at The Sun Exchange we are developing hybrid solar/data access projects with cryptomines embedded into the infrastructure. This will ensure that remote villages get energy, communications and their own digital currency money supplies in one fell swoop.”

Despite these setbacks, Cambridge’s optimism on the future of the blockchain technology is significantly high.

“This stuff is just getting started. Think global, free to use, secure computer systems‎ that run autonomous businesses, data storage, and energy transfer. Whole governments will be running on blockchain applications. The UAE city of Dubai has already set a target of being 100 percent running on blockchain by 2020 so we are really not far from this world,” he noted.

“Smart contracts running on self-driving cars that ‘bid’ for their position in traffic is just one of many incredible ideas I have come across that will change every aspect of our civilization.”

Although Africa is slow to the adoption of bitcoin or any other digital currency for that matter, countries like Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa are already a step ahead. Moreover, the University of Cape Town in Windhoek, Namibia is set to be the first in Africa to offer a postgraduate degree that teaches about bitcoin come January 2018.

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The Top 5 African Countries That Are Embracing Bitcoin

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African Countries

Bitcoin tends to polarise opinions between sceptics and believers, with almost no room for the middle ground. However, there’s a substantial demand for bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies in many Africa countries.

Do a quick search on Google Trends and you will see three African countries in the top ten of global search interest for the term “bitcoin.” This is a testament to the embrace of bitcoin in a number of leading African economies.

In this guide, you will discover the five leading bitcoin economies in Africa that have the most demand for digital currency as well as the most active local cryptocurrency communities.

South Africa

south africaBitcoin is popular among South Africans. According to their search interests on Google, they top the ranking for bitcoin. One particular group bitcoin appeals to is millennials. South Africa has a lot of them. Young people between the ages of 15 to 34 years old make up 20.6 million people – 35.7 percent of the total population, according to Statistics South Africa’s 2018 mid-year population estimate report. Combined with the fact that the country has one of the highest internet penetration rates in Africa, the country has become a sweet spot for many cryptocurrency exchanges.

The online multi-asset broker, eToro, reported a 671 percent increase in new users trading between January and November 2017, and a 574 percent increase a year before. LocalBitcoins, one of the largest peer-to-peer (P2P) bitcoin marketplaces in the world, saw over 600 percent increase in trading volume between January and December 2017, according to data from CoinDance.

The latest report by Ecobank on the state of cryptocurrency regulation in sub-Saharan Africa shows only two – South Africa and Swaziland – have a favourable stance on cryptocurrencies. The bank analysed 39 African countries.

The South African Reserve Bank has stated that virtual currencies pose no significant risk to financial stability, price stability or the National Payment System.

Africa’s second-largest economy has been struggling to stand on both feet for the past two years; the economy has refused to grow. In light of this, bitcoin has become a haven from the political and economic turmoil.

Nigeria

buy bitcoin in nigeriaIn Nigeria, many local traders and activists believe this is an opportunity to liberate themselves from a flailing economy using digital currencies and blockchain technology.

The main driving force for Nigeria’s strong bitcoin adoption could be tied to the prolonged dollar shortage in the country in 2016 and 2017. The government had devalued the currency and inflation was at rising rapidly. Bitcoin was a viable means for Nigerians to work around the lack of access to foreign exchange and also preserve their money from being eroded by inflation.

In the week of August 19, 2017, LocalBitcoins’ trading volume crossed the 1 billion naira mark (about $360 million) in Nigeria. The exchange’s weekly trading volume has not traded less than that amount since then. Local crypto exchanges have also been on the rise in the country giving more people access to a broader range of cryptocurrencies.

Zimbabwe

ZimbabweThe situation in Nigeria is not too dissimilar from Zimbabwe. A cash-strapped economy, failing currency and depleted foreign exchange markets saw locals turn to bitcoin as a store of value. Golix, the leading crypto exchange in Zimbabwe, says it processed bitcoin transactions worth around $1 million during October 2017. The price of bitcoin had once risen more than double the average price in other countries in 2017.

However, in 2018, the relationship between financial regulators and crypto businesses have been strained. The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) decided to ban all local financial institutions from servicing cryptocurrency businesses. There have been court cases and more back and forth between the country’s leading crypto exchange, Golix and the RBZ, but as it stands it is difficult for local exchanges to operate within the country’s borders.

Young Zimbabweans – desperate to overcome the foreign currency and liquidity challenges plaguing the country – have found innovative ways around the ban though. Recently, Cryptogem Global defied the ban and opened a branch in Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare. Remitano and LocalBitcoins have also been servicing crypto fans in Zimbabweans.

Kenya

KenyaA Citibank research in December 2017 ranked Kenya among countries with the largest bitcoin holdings worth $1.63 billion, approximately 2.3 percent of the GDP.

The East African country has one of the highest bitcoin trading volumes in Africa. The weekly trading volume on LocalBitcoins jumped by almost 429 percent in 2017 and has only dipped by 19 percent this year despite bitcoin losing two-thirds of its value.

Also, local innovators have launched cryptocurrency systems to support payments and cross-border transactions, as embodied by initiatives like BitPesa.

Kenya is also one of the few countries in Africa with a Bitcoin ATM. Others are Zimbabwe, South Africa, and Djibouti.

Ghana

buy bitcoin in GhanaGhanaians began the year 2018 with a statement from the Bank of Ghana (BOG) cautioning the public about the use of bitcoins.

The central bank also expressed an interest in introducing cyber security guidelines to guide the use of digital currencies in the country. The central bank presented a bill referred to as Payment Systems and Services Bill to the Ghanian parliament. The BOG also hailed the potential of the technology behind bitcoin, blockchain.

A report earlier in 2018 shows Paxful, one of the prominent P2P exchange in Africa, monthly bitcoin volume in Africa is now around $40 million. The company’s most active locations are Nigeria and Ghana, the second and third largest markets respectively.

There are also several local bitcoin and blockchain startups, such as Bitland and BTCGhana.

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South African Man Beaten And Tortured to Give Up Bitcoin Holdings

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A South African bitcoin trader was reportedly drugged, beaten, and tortured by assailants who wanted to gain access to his bitcoin holdings.

Facebook Invitation Led to Torture and Bitcoin Theft

According to local media, the incident happened on November 16 after the victim was invited by a man he met on Facebook to give a presentation on cryptocurrency. The same man who had invited him was present when the victim arrived with six other people in the room.

Identified only as Andrew, the victim trustingly entered the residence of his attackers in the afternoon. It was at this point that someone approached him from the back and covered his face with what is presumed to be a drug-stained cloth that knocked him out.

cryptocurrency tax regulationsAfter regaining consciousness he woke up in a different house and was surrounded by two women and three men. According to a report from the Meadowlands police, the victim was stripped of his clothing, tortured and assaulted.

Andrew also stated that the gang demanded his bitcoin password and his FNB (First National Bank) account details. All the while threatening to kill him and burning him with a hot iron if he failed to give up the information. He was at first reluctant to give up the information but gave in after they continuously tortured him.

After finally giving the details, he transferred R 800,000 ($57,789) worth of bitcoin to the account they provided him with. He also transferred a further R 100,000 ($7,224) from his bank account to their account. Apart from the bitcoin holdings and the money on the victim’s account, the robbers also got away with R 3,000 ($216.53) in cash, two laptops, and two Apple iPhones.

After the theft, the gang of robbers blindfolded Andrew and dumped him off at Kliprivier Road in Johannesburg. He is currently in the intensive care unit recovering after sustaining burn wounds on his body.

Crypto Related Crimes Are on the Rise

Unfortunately, the downside of cryptocurrencies gaining so much popularity means that people who trade in it are vulnerable to attacks. Cryptocurrency theft is a lucrative business for criminals especially since it is difficult to trace transactions.

This is not the first crime and will be a far cry from the last, as scams involving digital coin are being reported more often and violent attacks on known bitcoin holders have increased since 2017.

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Middle Eastern Bitcoin Exchange BitOasis Launches in Egypt and Morocco

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BitOasis

Dubai-based digital asset exchange BitOasis has announced that it has now opened its doors in Egypt and Morocco, expanding its operation to North Africa.

BitOasis Expands Into North Africa

BitOasisBitOasis has been serving the Middle East as one of the first exchanges to offer cryptocurrency trading for local currency and has now decided to expand into North Africa to provide Morrocans and Egyptians with the opportunity to buy bitcoin (BTC) and other digital assets.

Despite the recent rise in interest of cryptocurrencies in Africa, Moroccan and Egyptian markets rarely make the news. While markets like South Africa, Nigeria, and Uganda have cryptocurrencies exchange services set up shop, the North African countries have largely remained underserved.

Part of the reason Morocco did not previously have any exchanges could be because transactions using digital currencies are considered de facto illegal. A year ago the Moroccan central bank, and the country’s Foreign Exchange Office, Office des Changes, declared that transactions using digital currencies such as bitcoin constitute a violation of the country’s exchange regulations.

Cryptocurrency enthusiasts in Egypt have been facing similar issues. From the Central Bank of Egypt asserting that no organisations have authority to trade bitcoin, to Dar Al Iftaa classifying cryptocurrencies forbidden by Islam, bitcoin has had no easy ride in the North African country. Still, there has been a growing interest in Egypt for blockchain technology as well as cryptocurrencies.

BitOasis is now an excellent alternative platform to peer-to-peer exchanges to buy bitcoin in Egpyt and Morrocco. Moreover, Egyptians and Moroccans are now also able to trade LTC, BCH, BSV, XRP, XLM, ETH, ETC, and ZEC.

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