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Bitcoin in Zimbabwe: Are Zimbabweans Really Embracing Cryptocurrencies?

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Bitcoin in Zimbabwe

If you read crypto media, you may be under the impression that bitcoin plays a major role in helping cash-strapped Zimbabweans. The “bitcoin is saving Zimbabwe” story may sell but the reality of cryptocurrency adoption in the Southern African nation is quite different. In this article, you will discover the real story of bitcoin in Zimbabwe told by a local journalist.

Zimbabwe Today

Zimbabwe’s deteriorating socio-political environment is widely blamed on the mismanagement of the country’s failing fiat currency and the standoff between the country’s main political parties. Since the August 2018 disputed elections, the country has witnessed a number of demonstrations that turned violent resulting in the destruction of property and loss of lives.

Introduced in 2016, the Zimdollar – which briefly traded at par with the USD – has depreciated by as much as 900 percent leading to an inevitable spike in inflation and the subsequent social unrest. While the government has suspended the announcement of inflation figures, John Hopkins University’s applied economics professor, Steve Hanke, currently estimates it to be 558 percent.

To compound matters for Zimbabweans, the government has since introduced different regulations that have essentially curtailed the use of foreign currency as a hedge against inflation. Zimbabwe has had a dollarised economy since 2009 but this was discontinued in June 2019 when a statutory instrument made it illegal to conduct local transactions in USD.

With the USD option now seemingly closed, Zimbabweans are now seeking other alternatives that shield earnings and savings from hyperinflation. Bitcoin would be such an option.

Bitcoin in Zimbabwe

bitcoinIn fact, to many people outside Zimbabwe, the aforementioned conditions make it seem logical for Zimbabweans to switch to bitcoin and cryptocurrencies in general. So, have they embraced cryptocurrencies?

Indeed, local bitcoin trading has been growing but it is the extent of this growth that remains far from what some would expect.

Despite this narrative being overhyped by the global media, bitcoin use in Zimbabwe remains insignificant. The reasons for this lack of enthusiasm range from the usual challenges like price volatility, regulatory uncertainty as well as country-specific ones like the lack of reliable exchanges, ignorance, and limited internet access.

Cryptocurrencies are borderless and thus not subject to Zimbabwe’s stringent foreign exchange controls. Yet, the technology remains relatively a novel one to ordinary Zimbabweans. Few see it as a solution to the country’s long-running fiat currency troubles.

While there might be a general consensus when it comes to identifying the genesis of the country’s fiat currency troubles, the ensuing debate suggests that decentralised cryptocurrencies are not (yet) seen as a viable alternative.

Some economic experts including one of Zimbabwe’s most successful finance minister, Tendai Biti, believes the adoption of the South African rand as the best solution to attack the country’s currency problems. Cryptocurrency is generally seen as a far-fetched solution. Although, the current finance minister, Mthuli Ncube did talk up its potential soon after being appointed to the job. 

Lack of Peer-to-Peer Exchanges Presence

It would seem that only a few Zimbabweans are aware that it was Golix, a crypto exchange, which briefly brought this crypto alternative to the country. Golix (previously known as Bitfinance) opened its doors to provide a bitcoin trading platform for local users. In early 2018, Golix stated that it has grown its userbase to over 50,000 and had experienced $20 million in transaction volume in the three years since its launch.

In fact, Golix managed to grow its platform and userbase and announced plans to expand into South Africa, Kenya, and Uganda after a successful ICO (initial coin offering) in 2018. However, during that year the country’s central bank issued a moratorium that essentially barred financial institutions from supporting cryptocurrency exchanges. Golix even had its Bitcoin ATM seized as authorities pushed back against cryptocurrencies prompting the exchange company to seek redress at the High Court.

The court did overturn the central bank’s decision in May 2018 but Golix ultimately decided to shelve its Zimbabwean exchange business. In spite of this setback, some Zimbabwe-based traders were unperturbed and continued trading. They simply circumvented local central bank regulations by conducting deals on foreign domiciled exchanges like LocalBitcoins, Paxful, Reminato, Coindirect, etc.

For example, on one of the world’s largest peer-to-peer bitcoin trading platform, LocalBitcoins, there are six offers for bitcoin in Zimbabwe, at the time of writing, with a total supply of less than $30,000 worth of BTC. On the bid side, there are six traders who are willing to purchase the crypto but it should be emphasized that some of these traders could be based outside Zimbabwe.

At the same time Paxful, which has managed to establish itself as one of the most popular peer-to-peer exchanges in Africa, does market bids and offers for Zimbabwe-based users. At first glance, there seems to be more activity in this Zimbabwean bitcoin market than on LocalBitcoins with dozens of listed advertisements. Closer inspection, however, shows that there are no cash in person, EcoCash or local bank transfer purchase options that local Zimbabweans would typically use to trade bitcoin. There are also no available advertisements for transactions in the Zimbabwean dollar (ZWL). Zimbabweans are seemingly not using the platform.

Other peer-to-peer exchanges with a presence in Africa include Coindirect, Remitano, and Cryptogem. However, all of them show little to no activity involving Zimbabwean traders.

Informal Crypto Trading Groups

informal trading groupsEvents of 2018 forced Zimbabwe-based crypto traders to use other platforms to facilitate crypto trading. Facebook, Whatsapp, and Telegram have since emerged as some of the popular platforms where buyers and sellers meet.

For instance, one such chat group has about 31 members but only five members traded over the past 31 days while the value traded did not exceed $2000 at the time of writing.

Interestingly, on August 15, 2019, when cryptocurrency prices dropped heavily, one trader posted that they were selling 25 BTC. Bemused group members apparently not accustomed to such amounts, responded by asking if the seller had possibly made a typo error when posting.

Nevertheless, it is also possible that the traded values could be higher between peers or in other groups to which this writer is not exposed to. BitcoinAfrica.io reached out to one member of Zimbabwe’s crypto community who – besides actually working for a blockchain startup – has been involved in this space for five years, three of which are on a full-time basis. The member who preferred to remain anonymous had this to say:

“Now that the bull run period is confirmed, we are seeing around 30-40k per day of new money entering into the crypto industry locally, with 95 percent plus of that being USD into bitcoin. Potentially, you could double that as we are not exposed to all the groups in Zimbabwe.”

Still, such traded values do not support the hype, which reached a zenith in July 2019, when one online crypto media outlet claimed Zimbabwean traders were paying up to $76,000 USD for one BTC! Of course, this was incorrect.

In activities seen in one chat group, Zimbabwean bitcoin buyers are asked to pay a small premium of between 5 and 10 percent on the global USD bitcoin price. Sellers can choose to receive funds in local ZWL through the mobile money application Ecocash. At the current exchange rate (1:10), a seller receiving funds in ZWL via Ecocash will get about $105,000 to $110,000, a figure that should not be confused with the USD. That is how most bitcoin trades are currently being conducted in Zimbabwe. 

Ignorant Diaspora

Meanwhile, a case has consistently been made for the utility and cost-effectiveness of using cryptocurrencies when sending remittances. Zimbabwe, which has a sizeable Diaspora community, should naturally see more funds channeled via this route. However, statistics from the country’s central bank and other sources like the World Bank show that many Zimbabweans abroad still use formal money transfer agencies (MTA) like Western Union, Moneygram or Mukuru.com to send money home. Many more use informal channels but no one can really ascertain the values transferred therein as there is no reliable data.

It would seem Zimbabweans remain ignorant of the potential benefits of cryptocurrencies while the lack of a properly registered local crypto exchange remains a key deterrent to those interested in buying and using bitcoin.

The anonymous crypto enthusiast also added:

“Zimbabweans need a crypto application that is reliable, fungible, cheap and one that allows for swift transfer of funds. When such a platform becomes available, Zimbabweans will embrace cryptocurrencies in large numbers.”

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Amber Group Announces Q3 2022 Launch of Openverse, the Gateway Into the Metaverse

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Openverse

SINGAPORE, 11 May 2022Amber Group, the leading global digital asset platform, today announced its entry into the metaverse with the launch of Openverse, a Web3 enablement platform for creators, brands, and businesses. A culmination of Amber Group’s multi-disciplinary expertise in digital architecture and blockchain-native infrastructure, Openverse serves as a gateway to the metaverse, empowering Web2 creators, brands and businesses with tools and services to transition into Web3.

Amber GroupWith the metaverse economy projected to reach $13 trillion by 2030, Openverse marks Amber Group’s venture into Web3 community building. Due to launch in Q3 2022, Openverse is a significant milestone in Amber Group’s plans to aid businesses, industries and societies as they transition into Web3. As a one-stop platform, Openverse will create entry points into the metaverse by delivering end-to-end creative and digital infrastructures for creators, brands, and businesses.

“Digital assets are the first step in realizing a decentralized future where people are empowered to create and connect with online communities, unlocking new digital experiences. While there has been a lot of interest in the metaverse, it remains largely conceptual. With Openverse, we are taking a solid step towards creating this digital reality for all. Backed by our expertise and partnerships within the digital asset ecosystem, Openverse is at the forefront of onboarding businesses and communities into the metaverse, unlocking the true potential of decentralization,” said Amber Group’s Chief Executive Officer, Michael Wu.

Openverse is designed to be a Web3 enablement platform, supported by leading real-time 3D rendering technology to create an experiential digital world for all users. The platform will be accessible on mobile, desktop and VR platforms, and will come equipped with features such as real-time content interaction, gameplay, customizable digital avatars and an NFT valuation system. Openverse will also leverage Amber Group’s flagship digital asset platform, WhaleFin, for its crypto financial services, creating synergies with the company’s thriving consumer business line to expand the reach of its digital asset services.

“We are excited to launch Openverse and convert the possibilities of the metaverse into reality in the next few months. As we develop a gateway for everyone to journey into the metaverse together, we are also building a strong line-up of partnerships with gaming studios, sporting brands, digital artists, and creators in an effort to bridge the gap between physical and virtual economies. Not only will this encourage more Web2 users to migrate into the metaverse, it will also herald a new era for digital assets worldwide,” said Openverse’s Chief Executive Officer, Jo Xu.

About Amber Group

Amber Group is a leading digital asset platform operating globally with offices in Asia, Europe, and the Americas. The firm provides a full range of digital asset services spanning investing, financing, and trading. Amber Group is backed by prominent investors including Sequoia, Temasek, Paradigm, Tiger Global, Dragonfly, Pantera, Coinbase Ventures, and Blockchain.com.

For more information, please visit www.ambergroup.io.

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Why Crypto Casinos Are on the Rise in Africa

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crypto casinos africa

Online gambling has become a rapidly evolving industry. Today, many online casinos are embracing cryptocurrencies to stay on top of the latest trends in finance and technology. 

Because of the continued evolution in the online casino space, crypto casinos in Africa have experienced and continue to experience rapid growth. But, why exactly is this the case?

Read on to learn why crypto casinos are on the rise in Africa. 

Crypto Adoption is Booming in Africa

One of the main reasons why crypto casinos are on the rise in the African continent is because of the booming crypto adoption.

Africa’s crypto adoption rate is reportedly the highest globally. For instance, between July 2020 and July 2021, African countries alone received close to $105.6 billion worth of crypto, representing a 1,200% increase in value within that period only.

Some crypto casinos have been able to benefit from Africa’s high crypto adoption rates by accepting bets in digital currencies such as bitcoin (BTC) and litecoin (LTC). 

Anyone Can Take Part 

Using cryptocurrencies, there are zero restrictions as to who can send or receive payments, alleviating all potential payment issues that can arise with traditional payments companies when you are located in certain African countries. 

Additionally, players are guaranteed privacy, which is very appealing to most online casino players. This is because players don’t have to share their names, location, or bank details to receive payments from the online casino they are using.

Fast Deposits and Withdrawals

One challenge with traditional fiat currency that most casino players experience is that it can take up to a few days for a transaction to complete. Moreover, having to change the pay-outs from fiat to crypto and vice versa in order to deposit or withdraw funds into an online casino can become costly.

However, cryptocurrency transactions typically only take a few minutes. This means that players are able to near-instantly make their deposits and withdrawals with very little wait time, thus being able to fully maximise any potential profits. Additionally, crypto transactions are also very secure.

African Gamblers Want to Win Crypto

Another reason for the rise in crypto casinos in Africa is because African gamblers want to win crypto. 

African currencies in many countries have been known to suffer from currency devaluation thanks to high inflation rates, which have resulted in citizens turning to cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin. Besides, players also find it hard to make bets on online casinos using fiat currency as they become unable to fully maximise their profits due to high inflation.

Given that cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin are a store of value, players can also choose to HODL their pay-outs for as long as they need in their crypto wallets and trade the same when the price of bitcoin, for example, rallies. This way, players are not only able to earn some “extra” money, but they are also able to avoid paying costly fees in transactions when converting from fiat to crypto and vice versa.

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Weekly Roundup: African-Inspired NFT Art Collection to Launch in October & More

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African Inspired NFT Art Collection

An African-inspired NFT art collection is set to launch in October. To learn about this and other top stories this week, read on.

African-Inspired NFT Art Collection to Launch in October

Masks of EtherMasks of Ether, an NFT collection that draws inspiration from West African tribal art, will launch on October 5. Harrison Foko, the artist and creator of the NFT collection, “will release 10,000 generative images featuring pixel art masks.” Foko’s goal is to bring traditional African art to the blockchain and expose it to new audiences.

“I am excited to bring my own roots into the NFT space. Using something so tribal and traditional in this modern pixel-art form has never been done before. The community is ready and excited for something new,” he said.

Foko plans to give $100,000 of the NFT proceeds to The CryptoSavannah Foundation and Survival International. The former is a non for profit organisation using the blockchain to change African lives, while the latter is a human rights organisation that fights for the rights of indigenous people.

More and more African artists are embracing non-fungible tokens. For instance, these three Zimbabwean artists have made some income from selling their art on NFT marketplaces.

Crypto Exchange Yellow Card Secures $15M in Funding

Yellow Card, a crypto exchange operating in twelve countries, has secured $15 million in funding. According to the company, they will use the funds to scale their operations. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the company has increased its users across Africa almost 30-fold.

Yellow Card

“Our mission has always been to make cryptocurrency accessible anywhere and everywhere across the African continent. Now, we have the backing to make that a reality, alongside an amazing team of investors who share our vision,” said Chris Maurice, the CEO.

The Series A funding round was led by Valar Ventures, Castle Island Ventures, and Third Prime with participation from Square Inc., Coinbase Ventures, Polychain Capital, GreenHouse Capital, BlockFi, Blockchain.com, MoonPay, and more.

“We believe in Yellow Card’s vision of a Pan-African cryptocurrency platform. What cemented the deal is their multi-national team, which we believe has the local knowledge, technical expertise, and unequivocal passion to address the basic financial services needs of the continent,” stated James Fitzgerald from Valar Ventures.

eNaira Website Goes Live

Nigeria’s eNaira website is live ahead of the launch today. This could indicate that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is keen on seeing its plans for a Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) succeed.

The website states: “[The] eNaira serves as both a medium of exchange and a store of value, offering better payment prospects in retail transactions when compared to cash payments.”

With a CBDC in place, experts are worried that Nigeria will follow China’s steps and implement more anti-crypto policies.

“Yes, we expect the CBN to champion even more anti-crypto policies, as it is clear it sees crypto as a hindrance to its monetary policy objectives even though data confirms that as a fallacy. Every crypto company in Nigeria should innovate ways to work within a restrictive system and think about jurisdictional changes,” Chiagozie Iwu, CEO of crypto exchange Naijacrypto said.

Paxful Promotes Crypto Developers in Nigeria with Donation

Paxful has announced that it is donating to the Human Rights Foundation. The funds will go to “the Qala Fellowship, a program that will find and grow local Nigerian talent, starting with the developers who want to build a career in crypto.” The program will help the crypto developers to contribute to the open-source network, secure jobs with bitcoin companies, or start their own companies.

Paxful

Paxful CEO Ray Youssef said: “Paxful follows energy, and it is clear that the Nigerian youth will make a profound impact on the global economy through Bitcoin. They have entrepreneurship baked into their DNA, but they [do not have] the chance to showcase their talent on the global stage. First and foremost, the Qala Fellowship is a career roadmap for Nigerian developers. But it also is a way to support the local economy and a means for Bitcoin to capture more developer mindshare. We are proud to fund this project and cannot wait to see what these developers create.”

Nigerians that join this program will benefit from a six-month course that will teach them everything they need to be successful crypto developers. Moreover, Qala Fellowship will facilitate internships and full-time jobs and set up talks with seasoned professionals.

To learn more about Bitcoin, download the Bitcoin Beginner’s Handbook for free.

Bitcoin Beginner's Handbook

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