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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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Mauritius to Receive World’s First Digital Asset Custody Regulatory Framework

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Digital Asset Custody Regulatory Framework

Mauritius is set to receive the first digital asset custody regulatory framework in the world, according to an announcement by the country’s Financial Services Commission (FSC). The framework will be effective from March 1, 2019.

The Digital Asset Custody Regulatory Framework

On September 17, 2018, digital assets were recognised as an asset class for Sophisticated and Expert Investors by the Financial Services Commission, Mauritius (FSC). This was followed by the FSC issuing a consultation paper with the intention of getting public and stakeholder feedback on the proposed Custodian Services (Digital Asset) License regulation, as BitcoinAfrica.io reported in November 2018. The license enables its holder to offer custody services for digital assets.

“In revolutionising the global FinTech ecosystem through this regulatory framework for the custody of Digital Assets, my Government reiterates its commitment to accelerating the country’s move to an age of digitally-enabled economic growth. As an African country, we look forward to fostering further innovation and bringing more prosperity to the region,” said Pravind Kumar Jugnauth, Prime Minister of the Republic of Mauritius.

The regulatory framework will make Mauritius the first jurisdiction to create a “regulated landscape for the custody of digital assets. Holders of the Custodian Services (Digital Asset) License will equally have to comply with the applicable framework for AML/CFT, in line with international best practices,” the announcement read.

Support for the Regulatory Framework

Digital Asset Custody Regulatory FrameworkAccording to the FSC, the regulatory framework was created after consultations with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) on the regulation and governance of digital financial assets.

The Chief Executive of the FSC, Harvesh Seegolam, asserted: “The FSC is committed to implementing enabling frameworks which facilitate the development of the Mauritius IFC. We continue to collaborate with our international counterparts and stakeholders in introducing the appropriate regulatory mechanisms.”

The Bank of Mauritius is also in support of the regulatory framework. The bank’s governor, Yandraduth Googoolye, said: “The Bank of Mauritius is supportive of innovation in the financial services sector. Banks, depending on their respective risk appetite, are encouraged to develop business relationships with players in the Digital Assets segment.”

In light of this announcement, the custody services license regulation could create a thriving cryptoasset industry in Mauritius, which could help position the country as the go-to digital asset investment hub on the continent.

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Ghana’s SEC Mulls Over Cryptocurrency Regulation Framework

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Ghana Cryptocurrency Regulation

Ghana may soon receive a cryptocurrency regulation framework that would enable local bitcoin startups and exchanges to operate legally and without the threat of a potential regulatory crackdown.

Cryptocurrency Regulations in Ghana

According to News Ghana, the country’s financial regulator, the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC), is contemplating regulating cryptocurrencies. The commission is also considering licensing exchanges dealing with digital assets.

The news comes at the backdrop of the increasing number of fraudulent “crypto” investment schemes in the West African nation. Last year, over 100,000 Ghanaian investors were reportedly victims of a crypto investment scam called Global Coin Community Help (GCCH), which saw the investors lose 135 million Ghanaian Cedi.

The SEC Deputy Director General, Paul Ababio, said: “[…] Desist from dealing with these crypto entities. […] When you choose to go there you are on your own. We have adopted a wide range of changes on it and we are still doing our research and gathering information. We welcome any input that people might have to help us formulate a view on how we should deal with it in Ghana.”

The State of Cryptocurrencies in Ghana

GhanaLike many central banks in Africa, the Bank of Ghana has warned citizens against investing or transacting in cryptocurrencies due to the risk involved.

Frances Van-Hein Sackey, the Secretary to the Bank of Ghana, in response to the GCCH scam, wrote in a statement: “Anyone who does business with these entities does so at his or her own risk and the Bank of Ghana will not be liable for the refund of any deposit lost by a depositor.”

The current state of cryptocurrency in Ghana could, however, change if the SEC regulates the sector, according to a report by GhanaWeb. The SEC ‘Ababio said that Ghana’s Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO) is probing three cryptocurrency companies whose operators are currently missing in action.

“[…] It has been very preliminary and it is a new area of our work that we are going to be quite strong on as well. We will be coming out shortly with a lengthier statement and we will name some of these firms,” he stated.

Furthermore, Ababio revealed that some of these firms operate online and do not have a physical presence. These firms will be classified as illegally operating in the investment sector, he added.

What Could This Step by the SEC Mean for Ghana?

According to the CEO of Modulus, Richard Gardner, the move by Ghana’s SEC is commendable since regulation of the sector will provide standard rules for exchanges to operate by. He believes that this will make the industry viable while protecting consumers from exchanges that engage in market manipulation, abusive trading, and money laundering.

Gardner also noted that the public and private sectors should work together towards creating these regulations.

“The best way to regulate an industry, especially one which is so technical, is to bring together those involved in the private sector, along with those from the public policy side. Together, we can usually find a way to encourage industry growth while protecting consumers,” he said.

Regulations can have a substantial impact on the local bitcoin startup community. Hence, it will be interesting to follow these developments in the coming months as they could mean the difference between Ghana establishing itself as an African leader in the cryptocurrency space or not.

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Places in Africa Where You Can Find a Bitcoin ATM

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Places in Africa

There are currently over 4,000 Bitcoin ATMs across the globe. The majority of them are found in the United States. Africa, however, is also home to a handful of Bitcoin ATMs. In this article, you will discover the complete list of places in Africa where you can buy bitcoin with fiat currency using a Bitcoin ATM.

What Are Bitcoin ATMs?

Bitcoin ATMs function like traditional cash machines with the difference being that instead of cashing out money from your bank account, you can buy and, in some cases, sell bitcoin against local fiat currency.

Zimbabwe bitcoin atmIn 2013, Canada received the world’s first Bitcoin ATM in the Waves Coffee Shop in Vancouver. Then, the following year, the first machine in the United States was introduced at a cigar bar in New Mexico. Two months later, Coinme installed another one in Washington that came with a money transmitter license. Since then, the market for Bitcoin ATMs started to steadily grow.

Today, North America leads the pack with 71.9 percent of Bitcoin ATMs, followed by Europe with 23 percent and Asia with 2.3 percent while Australia and Africa have a meagre 1.3 and 0.1 percent respectively.

Bitcoin ATMs in Africa

In total, there are currently nine reported Bitcoin ATMs in Africa. 

South Africa

South Africa, as a leader in bitcoin adoption, is home to five cryptocurrency ATMs that are situated in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Nelspruit and Cape TownOn Average, these ATMs can dispense between a minimum to a maximum of 100  to 1 Million South African rands (ZAR). Most ATMs require identity verification if you are buying more than 5,000 rands.

Nonetheless, none of these ATMs dispenses cash as they operate only fiat-to-crypto. One bottleneck that might discourage people from using the ATMs is high fees ranging from 8 to 14 percent.

Kenya

Kenya received its first Bitcoin ATM last year in the country’s capital, Nairobi. Operated by the BitClub Network, it is also a fiat-to-crypto only ATM and a minimum of 500 Kenyan Shillings worth of bitcoin and litecoin can be purchased using the machine. 

Uganda

The Kampala Post Office hosts Uganda’s only Bitcoin ATM, which is run by KIPYA Bit2Big, a local Blockchain company. Ugandans can use the ATM to buy bitcoin, bitcoin cash and ether.

Zimbabwe

Golix, the first ever cryptocurrency exchange in Zimbabwe and one of the biggest in Africa, also runs a Bitcoin ATM.

Based in the Golix offices in Harare, this machine provides an essential service in a cash-strapped country since it allows buying and selling of bitcoin, bitcoin cash, and litecoin.

Djibouti

Somewhat surprisingly, there is also a Bitcoin ATM in Djibouti. The currently only Bitcoin ATM in the small East African country is located at Appart Hôtel Moulk.

Interestingly, the ATM’s operator, Group DOS, plans to introduce two more Bitcoin ATMs in Djibouti. Group DOS CEO, Eleyeh Issa, told BitcoinAfrica.io that two new Bitcoin ATMs will be set up in the coming weeks, one at the airport and one at a shopping mall. 

While Bitcoin ATMs tend to come with high fees, which makes them less appealing purchase option for larger investors, they do help to push adoption among smaller investors who want to get started with their first bitcoin investment.

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