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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. On 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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The First African Art Collection Powered by NFTs is Here

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African Art
Photo credits: Kureng Dapel/Rich Allela

Picha Images – a digital media company powered by Artificial intelligence and Big Data – is launching the first crypto art non-fungible tokens (NFTs) in Africa. The upcoming auction will feature African art from the Kenyan-based Multiple Award-Winning Photographer and Filmmaker Rich Allela and will be held from April 26 to May 3, 2021.

The NFT auction and artwork will be hosted on OpenSea, one of the biggest non-fungible token digital marketplaces, founded in 2018.

Why is Picha Images Going Crypto?

Picha Images has a track record of being highly innovative and has been recognised as a disruptor in the Kenyan and African creative industries.

Covid Art Gallery

The Virtual Africa COVID exhibition held by Picha Images in conjunction with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Create2030

The company embraces Artificial intelligence and utilises Big Data analytics to produce high-quality photo and video productions.

Furthermore, Picha Images develops products and services in Business to Business (B2B) photography; digitises hardcopy images; facilitates cloud storage of images for companies, and carries out videography. The company has in the past been credited with holding one-of-a-kind Augmented and Virtual Reality exhibitions, even during tough times. 

Pre-COVID exhibition

Bringing still images to life using Artificial Intelligence in Rich Allela’s exhibition “30 under 30”, held in 2019 (Pre-COVID)

As a company that values technological advancements, Picha Images’ approach of having NFTs for artists such as Rich Allela makes technological and financial sense. The company is currently placing the wellbeing of their creative artists first by exposing them to a way to secure their work, maintain the copyrights to their creations and earn royalties in perpetuity.

For a customer of Picha Images, purchasing these NFTs will mean that you will have hacker-resistant proof of ownership of a digital piece of art.

Why Rich Allela?

Afro-renaissance

Photo credits: Rich Allela

Rich Allela is a multidisciplinary artist whose work focuses on culture and heritage in Africa. He has an interest in documenting cultures that are at the threat of disappearing due to modernisation.

Allela’s works are famously described as “Afro-renaissance” because they herald the rebirth of the African culture through the creation of a new generation of art aimed at rewriting the African narrative.

These unique art pieces have won numerous awards including the Africa PicFair photo awards and Kenya Photo Awards and have been used by companies such as Canon Global to launch products such as new cameras. As an influential artist, Rich Allela’s story has been featured on CNN, BBC, and other news outlets around the world.

Speaking to BitcoinAfrica.io, Rich Allela said;

“For ages, artists have been getting a raw deal when it comes to secondary sales of their work. By launching the Rich Allela’s Afro-renaissance collection on NFT, Picha Images aims to empower artists to maintain the copyright of their work and earn from secondary sales. Through this auction, the public will place their bids where the highest bidder will walk away with a piece of digital art and send a message to the world on the value of art as an investment worth making.”

Would You Like to Participate in the NFT Auction?

The auction will go live on April 26 and can be accessed via https://opensea.io/accounts/Rich_Allela.

To learn more about Rich Allela’s works, visit his Instagram account @Richallela or reach out to Picha Images by visiting their website.

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How to Buy Tether (USDT): A Step-by-Step Guide for 2021

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how to buy tether

Tether is a stablecoin backed 1:1 by the US dollar. As a result, it does not experience the same volatility as other cryptocurrencies. In this guide, you will learn how to buy tether on Africa’s leading peer-to-peer exchange, Paxful.

How to Buy Tether (USDT)

To buy USDT, you will need a cryptocurrency wallet and an account with an exchange. Here are the steps you should take:

  • Download a mobile, desktop, or hardware crypto wallet to store the USDT you will purchase.
  • Next, create an account with an exchange or a P2P marketplace that supports Tether USD. For instance, you can create an account on  Paxful. If you already have an account, log in.
  • After registering an account, verify the required credentials. Paxful requires users to verify details like phone numbers, home addresses, email addresses, and ID numbers.

How to Buy Tether from a Peer-to-Peer Marketplace

Buy Tether on Paxful

If you created an account on Paxful, you can buy tether by using these steps.

  • Visit the website.
  • Click “Buy” and select tether.
  • Choose your preferred payment method and currency. For example, Paxful offers over 350 payment methods such as PayPal, mobile money, gift cards, crypto, and debit cards. Also, enter the amount you wish to purchase and select your country.
  • Click “Search Offers.”
  • The platform will display a list of offers based on the criteria you chose. Browse through this list paying close attention to the buy limits, prices, offer terms, and time limits.
  • Read the reviews of the sellers that catch your attention. Before choosing a seller, ensure that they are fully verified and active on the platform.
  • Once you find a suitable seller, click “Buy.” Note that you should read the seller’s terms first before starting the transaction.
  • If the platform offers a live chat feature, you and the seller can discuss the transaction details. For instance, the seller will send you the payment details through this chat feature.
  • Make the payment and follow any other instructions the seller has provided. Additional instructions that sellers might require you to undertake include sending a photo of your ID. The seller could use this document to verify that the payment sender matches the name on the ID.
  • Once you complete the payment, confirm on the website that you have paid.
  • The seller will then verify the payment and release your USDT.
  • After a few minutes, your USDT balance should reflect in your account. If you desire, transfer the crypto to another wallet.

Purchase Tether in Person

If you prefer to make a one-on-one transaction, look for local tether sellers on reputable Facebook or Telegram groups, or choose the “in-person” purchase option on a peer-to-peer exchange.

  • Contact the seller and schedule a meeting at a public place. Tell them how much you wish to buy so that they can prepare themselves in advance. They should also tell you how much it will cost.
  • Once you meet with the seller, show them the money as a sign of trust. But do not hand it over just yet. The seller should send you the USDT first.
  • Wait until the new USDT balance reflects in your wallet before paying the seller.

Buying tether is straightforward and flexible. You can use your local currency or another digital currency to acquire this stablecoin. Moreover, using a platform like Paxful gives you more than 350 methods of buying USDT, thereby providing convenience.

To buy Tether USDT in Africa, access Paxful here.

*This article was written in cooperation with Paxful, Africa’s leading peer-to-peer bitcoin exchange.

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Weekly Roundup: Bitcoin Hits over $60,000, Luno Launches ETH & USDC Interest Accounts

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Bitcoin

Bitcoin broke past the $60,000 mark on March 13, 2021, to surpass Facebook in total market value. To learn more about this and other stories, keep reading this article.

Bitcoin Hits Over $60,000 and Surpasses Facebook in Value

Bitcoin AcceptedOn March 13, 2021, bitcoin recorded a high of $61,683.86. This is yet another milestone that the cryptocurrency has achieved after recording a series of several all-time highs in the past three months.

Institutional investors continue to boost bitcoin’s price with Chinese firm Meitu being the latest company to purchase crypto. The firm bought $22.1 million in ether and $17.9 million in bitcoin.

“Beeple’s $69 million [non-fungible token] record demonstrates the true power of crypto, adding curiosity and fuel to the retail fire. Expect volatility but a landing of $100K levels by Q3,” said Jehan Chu, Managing Partner of trading firm Kenetic.

Furthermore, bitcoin’s market cap has risen to the eighth position, surpassing Facebook. Currently, bitcoin has a market capitalization of about $1.07 trillion while Facebook has a market cap of $808.76 billion.

Luno Users Can Now Earn Interest on Ether and USDC Savings

Luno users can now add ETH and USD coin (USDC) to their savings wallet where they can earn 4 percent and 7.6 percent APR, respectively. The exchange introduced the savings wallet five months ago allowing users to earn up to four percent on their bitcoin savings.

Luno Earn

“The addition of two new cryptocurrencies to the savings wallet gives customers even greater flexibility and potential to earn interest as they grow their crypto savings. A high percentage of Africans who own cryptocurrency do so for speculative investment purposes, with the majority holding their crypto for the long term. If your crypto investment strategy is holding your crypto long-term, the savings wallet earns you additional interest for what you were already doing,” said Marius Reitz, the General Manager for Africa, at Luno.

According to a Luno 2020 survey, more than a third of the respondents (35 percent) were not earning interest on their traditional cash savings. On the other hand, 54 percent were not earning interest on their current bank accounts. As a result, Luno wants to change these statistics with its crypto savings wallet.

The savings feature pays out interest monthly and users can access their savings 24/7. Moreover, 250,000 people are using the savings wallet since its launch.

South African Company Invests in Bitcoin

It is not large companies alone that are investing in bitcoin. According to an article on Tech Central, open-source software firm LSD Information Technology has purchased R2 million in bitcoin (about $135,570.70).

The company’s board agreed to invest in the digital asset on January 4, 2021. In the initial purchase, it bought R1 million in bitcoin then bought the other R1 million over the next two weeks. The firm used the crypto exchange BitFund to buy and hold the BTC.

“Our vision is to make the world more open, and bitcoin supports our philosophy on how we believe the world works best. Working in the open-source space seems to attract many crypto enthusiasts for whom the decentralised open nature of cryptocurrencies appeals,” said LSD founder and CEO Stefan Lesicnik.

The firm participates in running and maintaining bitcoin full nodes.

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

Bitcoin Beginner's Handbook

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