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The State of Bitcoin Regulation in Africa

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bitcoin regulation in africa

The legal status of bitcoin varies from one country to another and is mostly undefined or under review in most parts of the world. While some African central banks have explicitly banned or restricted its use, others have allowed it or have simply not issued any statement or regulations covering digital currencies.

In this guide, you will find a list of financial regulators in Africa that have made statements or issued regulations for the use of bitcoin and other decentralised cryptocurrencies within its borders.

Kenya

Kenyan Central Bank is not a Fan of Bitcoin

Buy Bitcoin in KenyaIn 2015, the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) issued a public notice warning against the use of bitcoin citing the lack of regulations to govern its use. The CBK proceeded to send out a circular to local banks instructing them not to provide services to bitcoin startups.

However, the CBK’s stance seemed to have little impact on Kenyans appetite for bitcoin with the country being ranked third in Africa when it came to trading volumes at local exchanges such as Localbitcoins. Also, things seem to be looking up with a number of public and private entities now experimenting with blockchain technology.

In addition, some financial regulators seem to differ with CBK’s stance, such as the country’s financial market regulator, the Capital Markets Authority (CMA). The CMA announced plans in April 2017 to organise forums for fintech and cryptocurrency players to discuss the state of regulations and challenges it poses to their activities. It is also worth noting the Kenyan government and World Bank announced their intention to partner in using blockchain technology to sell government bonds earlier this year.

South Africa

South African Reserve Bank is Open to Digital Currencies

south africaThe South African market regulator was the first to warn against the use of bitcoin in Africa saying it wasn’t a legal tender. The South African Reserve bank (SARB) argued in a December 2014 public notice that while cryptocurrencies and their underlying technologies had the potential to facilitate faster transactions, efficiency and reduce payment costs, they could also, “simultaneously provide a platform for, inter alia, money laundering and the financing of terrorism, and introduce a new set of risks to consumers as DCVCs (cryptocurrencies) are susceptible to misuse and at the very worst, have the ability to disrupt the financial system.”

Having said that, in August 2016, the SARB softened its stance on digital currencies with the Reserve Bank Governor, Lesetja Kganyago hinting the bank was open to cryptocurrencies. In July 2017, the SARB indicated plans to test regulations related to bitcoin and other digital currencies and selected Bankymoon, a blockchain solutions provider for its first sandbox trial run.

The Reserve Bank had already announced its intention to undertake its own research about blockchain technology’s feasibility in South Africa. However, according to an ITWeb report, the deputy governor of the SARB, Francis Groepe indicated at an August 2017 conference in Johannesburg,

“For the central bank to issue virtual currencies or cryptocurrencies in an open system will be too risky for us. This is something we really need to think about.”

Nigeria

The Central Bank of Nigeria is Open to Digital Currencies

Bitcoin in NigeriaThe Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is notorious for currency controls and so it came as no surprise when it informed the public to be wary of speculating in bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. The January 2017 directive caused uncertainty in the local bitcoin community, which is among the largest in Africa, with trading volumes on the P2P marketplace Localbitcoins showing an average of $3.2 million worth of trades being conducted every week.

Having said that, the CBN has shifted its position and is now researching blockchain technology and its possible applications in various industries. The regulator has also allocated personnel and resources to work on a whitepaper on digital currencies and its underlying technologies.

Many people in Nigeria view bitcoin as the alternative to hedge their wealth against currency losses, brought about by the constant depreciation of the local currency, the naira.

Speaking at a recent cryptocurrency conference in Lagos, CBN deputy director, Musa Jimoh said,

“[The CBN] cannot stop the tide of waves generated by the blockchain technology and its derivatives. Currently, we have taken measures to create four departments in the institution that are looking forward to harmonising the white paper on cryptocurrency.”

Uganda

The Bank of Uganda warns against Cryptocurrencies

UgandaThe Bank of Uganda sent out a strong statement cautioning investors against MLM schemes such as OneCoin, which was promising people high returns if they invested in the scheme.

The bank also warned against the use of digital currencies indicating there was lack of consumer protections or a regulatory framework to govern their use. As of the time of writing this article, the central bank’s position remains unchanged despite a growing bitcoin presence in the country.

Namibia

The Bank of Namibia bans Bitcoin for Commercial Purposes

NamibiaIn August 2015, the Central Bank of Namibia issued a statement saying that it did not support the use of digital currencies and users did so at their own risk. Similar to Kenya and other jurisdictions, the bank cited the lack of regulatory oversight as being its biggest concern with a promise to clarify its position in the future.

In September 2017, the bank proceeded to officially ban the use of bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies in the country. The directive was contained in a nine-page position paper which cited risks such as money laundering, legal, credit and operational risks as threats to Namibian users.  However, recognising the potential of blockchain technology and its possible application in various sectors, the Namibian Central bank acknowledged the need for further research stating, “the current position of the Bank may be amended and/or supplemented, should a need arise.”

Cameroon

Cameroon Still Undecided on Bitcoin

CameroonPresently, bitcoin traders and startups operating in Cameroon do not fall under regulatory oversight as the Central African Central Bank is yet to release specific guidance on the use of digital currencies. This means Cameroonians can purchase, hold or use bitcoin until specific guidance by the market regulator is issued.

The government has previously tested a cryptocurrency called Trest in 2015, which shows the country could be open to cryptocurrency solutions given its largely underbanked population.

Egypt

The Central Bank of Egypt Rejects Bitcoin Use

EgyptBitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are not officially recognised by the Egyptian Central Bank and trading them for fiat currencies is thus not authorised. In July 2017, the deputy governor of the Egyptian Central Bank, Mr Gamel Negm, responding to rumours that the bank was looking to officially adopt cryptocurrencies, insisted the bank only recognises official currencies and would not accept any digital currencies.

Mauritius

State Bank of Mauritius is Receptive to Cryptocurrencies

MauritiusThe island nation is aiming to become a leading hub for blockchain companies and serve as a gateway to African and Asian markets. Setting up this ‘Silicon Corridor’, which will be known as the Ethereum Island, is a collaborative effort between local authorities and blockchain-based companies.

Already, the country’s second-largest bank, State Bank of Mauritius (SBM) has partnered with Secured Automated Lending Technology (SALT) to allow its clients to use bitcoin or ether as a guarantee for loans. However, this was not always the case with recognition of cryptocurrencies in the country. Previously, in December 2013 the Bank of Mauritius warned the public about risks associated with the use of bitcoin. It appears the Bank reversed its position in light of the island nations ambitions to cement its position as a breeding ground for blockchain solutions.

Swaziland

Swaziland Central Bank is Studying Cryptocurrencies

swaziland cryptocurrenciesSwaziland is among the few African countries that is actively researching cryptocurrencies and their potential applications. Swaziland Central Bank Governor, Majozi Sithole, disclosed the bank was looking at potential case studies, at the Swaziland Economic Conference (SEC 2017). Speaking to the Swazi Observer, the Chief Banker said,

“It may not be wise to dismiss virtual currencies, and as the CBS we are learning, and we want to accept and support innovation. If this is innovation, we do not want to stifle it. We want to learn more about it.”

Currently, cryptocurrencies like bitcoin remain unregulated in the country and Sithole cautioned traders on local exchanges to be careful as the Central Bank seeks opinions of experts on the issue.

Algeria

Algeria Plans to Ban Bitcoin and Other Cryptocurrencies

AlgeriaBitcoin use, for the most part, has been undefined under the law in Algeria. However, a new 2018 Finance Bill being considered at the National’s People Congress (NPC) will make it unlawful to possess bitcoins or use it for transactions. The government aims to establish stricter control over cryptocurrencies, and its perceived dangers such as money laundering or tax evasion due to the pseudo-anonymity it guarantees its users.

Article 113 of the Finance Bill states,

“The purchase, sale, use and holding of the so-called virtual currency is prohibited. The virtual currency is the one used by Internet users through the web. It is characterized by the absence of physical support such as coins, banknotes, payments by check or bank cards. […] Any violation of this provision is punished in accordance with the laws and regulations in force.”

The document also recognises that cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin have no central authority, and presently escape any regulations or control by the state. This means bitcoin users in Algeria can still go about their activities until tighter restrictions are put in place.

Zimbabwe

Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Remains skeptical about Bitcoin

ZimbabweBitcoin adoption in the Southern African country is among the highest in Africa buoyed by hyperinflation, weak local currency and limited access to financial services. This has resulted in Zimbabweans moving to local exchanges to trade for bitcoins, which are immune from inflation, and thus allow them to protect their savings.

The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) has not officially permitted the use of bitcoin. In July 2016, the RBZ’s Director of National Payments, Josephat Mutepfa, warned Zimbabweans about the risks associated with bitcoin while speaking at a conference. He asserted that while they were a number of bitcoin initiatives in the country offering specific services, the central bank was yet to devise regulations for use of cryptocurrencies.

Recently, Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe director and registrar of banking institutions, Norman Mataruka, stated that the use of bitcoin is illegal in Zimbabwe. However, no actual regulations have been issued by the RBZ and no laws have been passed covering digital currencies in Zimbabwe.

Morocco

Regulators in Morocco Declare Bitcoin to be Illegal

moroccoThe central bank of Morocco, Bank Al-Maghrib and the country’s Foreign exchange office, issued a joint statement on November 20, 2017, informing the public that transacting in cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin is now considered illegal. According to the statement, transactions in digital currencies such as bitcoin, ether and others will constitute a violation of the country’s exchange regulations.

The two regulators point to the risks involved in using digital currencies for transactions as their reason for the directive. They further state,

“As a hidden payment system that is not backed by a financial institution, the use of virtual currencies entails significant risks for their users.”

This comes at a time when the demand for bitcoin in Morocco has been growing steadily for the past one and half years evident from trading volumes on the bitcoin exchange, Localbitcoins. But while the ban is a blow to bitcoin adoption in the country, it will be hard to control the cryptocurrency given its pseudo-anonymous and censorship-resistant nature.

Rest of Africa

Bitcoin regulation in the rest of Africa is essentially uncharted territory as regulators are still coming to terms with how best they can assimilate decentralised digital currencies into their economic structures without potentially destabilising their economies.

Ultimately, the challenge will be to come up with a regulatory framework that protects consumers against harmful activities and promotes cryptocurrency-based innovation. For now, bitcoin is largely unregulated and, therefore, de facto legal to use in the majority of African countries.

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Virtual Crypto to Make Accessing Cryptocurrency Easier in Africa

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Virtual Crypto

A distribution agreement was reached between Virtual Crypto and a South Africa-based third-party company to commence the sales of Virtual Crypto’s products in Africa.

According to the Exclusive Distribution Agreement distribution signed by Virtual Crypto Technologies, Inc. and South Africa-based Virtual Crypto SA Ltd., Virtual Crypto will start to sell its software and hardware products for the purchase and sale of cryptocurrencies via point-of-sales systems, ATMs, tablets, PCs and mobile devices in Southern Africa.

Territories in the Distribution Agreement cover sixteen African countries, including South Africa, Namibia, and Botswana, according to a company press release.

Virtual Crypto’s Push into Africa

virtual crypto“Cryptocurrency is increasingly popular in the Southern African Region, which is a strong emerging market. Cryptocurrency provides investors and businesses with an opportunity to diversify their portfolio. In addition, Virtual Crypto’s solutions offer businesses and consumers a secure payment alternative with real-time availability and broad accessibility,” Alon Dayan, CEO of Virtual Crypto said.

The main goal of Virtual Crypto is to make cryptocurrency day-to-day transactions easier and more common by providing easy access to cryptocurrencies through its array of currency-agnostic solutions.

“We felt that by creating a solution that was both platform and cryptocurrency agnostic, the masses can employ the advantages of utilizing cryptocurrency for all of their needs. While we’ve already demonstrated success in our solutions in other markets, we believe the advantages will be even greater in locations, such as the developing countries within Southern Africa, where local economies experience volatility,” added.

What Does This Mean for Local Investors?

Virtual Crypto’s products such as point-of-sale systems, ATMs, tablets, PCs and mobile devices will be available for integration by various SMEs to accept payment for goods and services provided. 

Not only could this move potentially boost Virtual Crypto’s stock price, but if all goes according to plan, Africans will find it easier to purchase cryptocurrencies and reap the benefits of being able to easily access decentralised digital currencies. 

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A Blessing and a Curse: Cryptocurrency Opens Doors to Both Investments and Scams in SA

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Investments and Scams in SA

Over the past year or so, cryptocurrencies have certainly made their mark across the globe. From the spread of information to the introduction of various rules and regulations, country after country appear to be building up their own ideas on just how to handle the cryptocurrencies gracing the world today. South Africa is certainly no exception. More and more businesses within the region are starting to accept cryptocurrencies and as mass adoption seems to become more and more likely, crypto enthusiasts are starting to rejoice at the thought that SA could soon be a region ready to utilise these currencies to their fullest.

However, with all good things come the bad and for cryptocurrencies, that means scams. Here, we’re taking a look just what cryptocurrency adoption could mean for South Africa.

Cryptocurrency Capital

For those living in South Africa, the cryptocurrency revolution has certainly been leaving its mark. Most surprisingly, perhaps, is the simple fact that it isn’t just financial experts that are taking an interest in these coins here. In fact, everyday use of these digital assets has been rife.

South Africa has been following cryptocurrency adoption for quite some time now and as a result, more and more businesses are beginning to boom with improved access to funds that might otherwise not have been available in fiat form. A huge variety of businesses have been picking up on this trend. Online banking, trading, gambling, sports betting and even physical stores are capitalising on these trends. In fact, sportsbooks were some of the very first companies to start to accept bitcoin, some opting for even bitcoin-exclusive payment options, and even schools are now accepting crypto to help the fulfillment of education gaps. With tourism and South African trade also benefiting from the spread of crypto, South Africa has truly been capitalising on cryptocurrencies in a way that no other country in the world has dared try.

For this reason, it’s clear that the interest in cryptocurrency use goes far beyond the experts and instead, often emanates from the residents. As a result, the South African Treasury introduced taxation on cryptocurrency funds as a new, yet traditional form of bringing in capital for the country. From April 2018, it was made clear that any profits made by cryptocurrencies for companies and businesses operating in South Africa would have to come under taxable law and the South African Revenue Service (SARS) had even offered to provide support and advice to those who weren’t clear on what this would entail.

In July 2018, however, amendments were proposed via the Taxation Laws Amendment Bill (TLAB) that would change the definition that digital assets were taxable financial instruments. They would become a financial instrument by the Income Tax Act standards and a financial service by the VAT Act standards, meaning that all crypto trades would then be exempt from VAT. These proposals, should they be successful, could encourage more and more businesses to pick up cryptocurrencies as a form of payment and further integrate these digital coins into everyday life in SA.

South African Scams

south africaHowever, while things seem to be going well, for the most part, there are of course negatives to take into consideration and unfortunately, those negatives are manifesting themselves in scams. The introduction of SAFCOIN – a cryptocurrency designed entirely to bring more and more South African’s safely into the world of crypto – has led to a high volume of investors and spenders entering the markets which, for hackers and scammers, is a new found gold mine.

One of the most recent and perhaps more terrifying scams for a low of Africans is the Nigerian Bitcoin Scam in April 2018. This scam saw thousands of people lose their entire life savings in some cases after a bitcoin trading company disappeared with practically billions of Naira. With both offices in Kenya and Nigeria both seemingly disappearing overnight, people were left confused, poor and scammed. March also saw a cryptocurrency scam, with around 28,000 virtual currency investors falling victim to BTC Global’s theft of over $80 million worth of cryptocurrencies.

These scams have opened up SA’s eyes to the potential risks associated with cryptocurrencies, though the debate is still rife as to whether this will actually make a difference as to how quickly and how eagerly they are adopting virtual currencies within the region. With further education and awareness, this could potentially become much safer but only time will truly tell.

What Do The Experts Think?

While Africa isn’t often thought to be at the forefront of any technological innovations, cryptocurrencies could be the market to change that – at least according to Rakesh Sharma, a business and technology journalist. Claiming that Africa could be the next leading frontier for cryptocurrencies, he said that SA “may be set to steal a march over other markets” namely due to the fact that Africa is suffering from such high inflation of their usual fiat currency. With an unstable economy, more and more people are likely to reach for a decentralised alternative to ensure that their funds are kept safe from the potential of corruption or disaster from central banks.

CEO of Liquid Crypto-Money, an SA cryptocurrency consulting firm, also predicted that Africa is likely to have government-issued cryptocurrencies in the near future. As a potential solution for governments seeking an answer to catastrophic inflation rates, cryptocurrencies aren’t to be ignored but with debate still suggesting that cryptocurrencies in Africa are dependent on speculation and an uncontrollable volatility, it’s difficult to determine just where things could go in the future.

As with most cryptocurrency markets, it’s undeniably complicated to determine whether or not South Africa could really be the country to adopt cryptocurrencies on a mass and stable scale. The potential they could hold, however, is promising enough for most and with government support and treasury regulation, the potential risks could, in time, be reduced.

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Almost a Quarter of High-Tech Consumers in South Africa Now Own Cryptocurrency

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High-Tech Consumers in South Africa

A new study titled “Digital Lifestyle Measure report” conducted by MBIT found that 23 percent of high-tech consumers in South Africa own at least one cryptocurrency, with bitcoin being the most common holding. 

New Report Shows High-Tech Consumers Hold Crypto

In the”Digital Lifestyle Measure report” report, each level of tech consumer (high, medium, and low) was grouped according to DM segmentation. A high-tech consumer is identified and tagged as a “DLM5 consumer”, and for the low-tech consumers, a “DLM1 consumer” was used. 

To place each of the participants in the right groups, the survey made use of a question and answer (Q&A) method. Each person was categorised according to how well they were able to answer the provided questions. The questions mostly focused on their private digital lifestyle and technological gadgets they own and can operate well.

The result of this survey shows that only six percent of the low-tech consumers (DLM 1) own crypto, while 23 percent of high tech consumers own cryptocurrencies. The remaining percentage was then shared in the order: DLM 2: seven percent, DLM 3: twelve percent, and DLM 4: eight percent.

cryptoThe report also stated that of the DML5 population, about 42 perfect of them are of the notion that cryptocurrencies are here to stay. Same goes for 30 percent of the DLM 4 consumers group.

Conversely, 41 percent of the low-tech consumers (DLM1 consumers) did not know what cryptocurrencies are all about, according to IOL

From the DLM 3 consumer group, about 34 percent of them cannot say what the future looks like for cryptocurrencies but 26 percent of them claimed cryptocurrencies to be the “future of financial transacting.”

The report has further shown that high tech consumers who are continually paying for something electronically, are more likely to buy crypto in the long run.

Based on the google trends data, South Africa currently has the highest levels of interest in bitcoin across the world. Hence, it should come as no surprise that tech-savvy South Africans are the ones investing in digital currencies and tokens. 

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