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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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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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The 2021 Lagos Blockchain & Crypto Conference Will Take Place on September 11-12

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Lagos Blockchain & Crypto Conference

We are delighted to announce that Nigeria’s premium hybrid blockchain conference, the Lagos Blockchain & Crypto Conference, organized and curated by Blockchain Nigeria User Group is back and bigger!

Covid-19 pandemic did not permit us to hold the event in 2020, but thankfully things are looking better now as we are poised to adhere strictly to the guidelines required for in-person events.

This year’s conference-themed “Blockchain, Crypto-Arts and the Future of Money” will be held at the Civic Center event facility along Ozumba Mbadiwe Street, Victoria Island Lagos, from 11th to 12th September 2021.

The conference will be chaired by Dr. Chuka Agbu, SAN, Lead Counsel at Lexavier Partners, and Chairman Blockchain & Virtual Financial Assets Regulations Working Group set up by SEC Nigeria.

Mr. Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi — Director-General/CEO National Agency for Technology Development (NITDA) will be the Special Guest of Honor while Prof Olayinka David-West, Academic Director and Professor of Information Systems at the Lagos Business School will be the Lead Keynote Speaker.

Ian Putter, Managing Director at Blockchain Research Institute (BRI) and Digital Innovation/ DLT & Blockchain Executive at Standard Bank Group SA, as well as Dr. Abubakar Suleiman, Managing Director at Sterling Bank PLC, is expected to grace the conference as the Keynote Speakers.

Other high profile industry experts, senior-level executives and thought leaders already confirmed as speakers include Dr. Sarah Alade, SA to President on Finance and economy, Yusuf Rakiya Opemi, Assistant Director PSMD, Central Bank of Nigeria, Agama Emomotimi, Deputy Director exchange licensing/ registration SEC Nigeria, Ernest Mbenkum, Founder/CEO Bantu Foundation. Erikan Obotetukudo, Founder Audacity Fund, Adedeji Owonibi, COO Convexity Technologies, Shaun E. Johnson, co-director Tachyon, Babatunde Obrimah, COO Fintech Association of Nigeria Nigeria

Date: 11–12th September 2021 | Venue: Civic Center VI, Lagos | Time: 10.00 AM

At the upcoming #LagosBlockchain2021, attendees will discover how Blockchain, DeFi, and NFTs together with, IoT, AI and Virtual Financial Assets are altering and disrupting incumbents and creating new opportunities for forward-thinking individuals, nations, and organizations. We shall also be drawing attention to the concept of creator economy, digital ownership & Intergenerational wealth creation using DeFi and NFTs.

One of Africa’s largest and most untapped markets is the creator economy. Using NFTs and Crypto Arts, creators across art, film, gaming, sports, etc can monetize their followers and intellectual property (i.e. ideas, copyright). They can have royalties and revenue streams across multiple assets. They can leverage their work to earn interest or borrow capital to create even more value.

The conference has several tracks consisting of Panel discussions, Innovative tech product exhibitions, NFT workshops, and Startup Investor Round-Table.

The event will be both virtual and physical and is being organized in partnership with the Fintech Association of Nigeria and will be both virtual and physical.

Our previous conferences have attracted key figures like Prof Kingsley Muoghalu, Dr. Mrs. Oby Ozekwesili, Dr. Andrew Nevin, Dr. Segun Aina and several eminent personalities favorably disposed to the positive impact of Blockchain Technology in our polity.

This year’s conference sponsors include Tezos Foundation, Convexity, Quidax, Bantu Blockchain, Audacity, Muna.Africa and Xend.Finance.

More information about the event is available at the event website: https://blockchainnigeria.group/

About BNUG

Blockchain Nigeria User GroupBlockchain Nigeria User Group (BNUG) is a vibrant group of Blockchain and Cryptocurrency developers, enthusiasts, and investors helping to drive adoption and awareness of the Blockchain industry in Nigeria and across Africa since 2016. The objective of BNUG is primarily to create a pro-innovation environment for the industry, meeting the growing global demand for accessible, transparent and democratic financial and collaborative systems. Blockchain Nigeria User Group, now transitioning into a DAO, is a sub-set of Organization of Blockchain Technology Users (OBTU), http://blockchainusers.org, a duly incorporated Trust with CAC, and an association desiring Self-Regulatory Organisation (SRO) status for the Blockchain Technology Industry in Nigeria and across Africa.

BNUG is a strong advocate for Blockchain Technology and works with all levels of government policymakers and regulators such as SEC Nigeria, NITDA, NDIC, CBN, and other stakeholders to support businesses, develop talents and drive career opportunities in Blockchain Technology. Thus promoting a sustainable community that enhances consumer safety and industry competitiveness.

Disclaimer: This is a press release. Readers should do their own due diligence before taking any actions related to any company, product, or service mentioned in this article. BitcoinAfrica.io is not responsible, directly or indirectly, for any loss or damage caused by or in connection with the use of or reliance on any content, product, or service mentioned in this post. 

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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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