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Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Warms to Financial Innovation

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Financial Innovation

The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) is warming to the idea of emerging financial technologies as it joins the rest of the world in cautiously welcoming digital money. This was revealed when the RBZ governor, John Mangudya, presented the country’s monetary policy statement for the year 2020 on February 17.

The latest announcement is a continuation of the central bank’s rapprochement towards emerging financial innovations after a turbulent 2018 when it had run-ins with technology companies that sold or facilitated the sale of crypto tokens to the Zimbabwean public.

RBZ’s Change of Heart

The RBZ now agrees that technology and innovations have significantly altered the financial landscape and the way financial institutions offer services and products and that Zimbabwe needs to move with the times.

In his brief statement on the topic, the governor touched on the RBZ’s progress in establishing a regulatory sandbox that will allow innovators to connect to banks and other financial institutions.

Mangudya said:

“Further to the advice in the 2019 Mid Term Monetary Policy Statement, the Bank (RBZ) has embarked on several initiatives to establish the Fintech agenda. The Bank is in the process of finalizing a regulatory sandbox framework. The framework will outline the qualification, application and evaluation criterion for entities to be admitted into the sandbox. The operationalisation of the framework will thus promote competition and efficiencies through innovation.”

RBZ now says banking institutions must upgrade their information communication technologies (ICTs) to be system consistent with developments in the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’. Additionally, banks are expected to explore new technologies and business models to enable them to compete in the digital age.

Statement Vague on Critical Aspects

However, the statement does not address the question of whether fintech ventures, such as privately issued cryptocurrencies, remain banned or not. There is still confusion on whether it is cryptocurrency trading that is banned or if it is the selling of tokens to the public that is banned.

The RBZ, which lacks a consistent and coherent position on this subject, appears to be reading from the same script as many of its peers from the continent. Several African central banks have previously shown a determined opposition towards privately issued tokens and the underlying blockchain technology.

Nevertheless, as the ignorance levels concerning this innovation continue to drop, so too has been the opposition. In fact, many central banks believe they can join in this space by creating their own cryptocurrencies, called central bank digital currencies (CBDCs).

Some are at very advanced stages of issuing these while others are still at the studying stage. On the African continent, the Egyptian central bank had indicated its intention to launch its own CBDC as well as Ghana and Mauritius. 

The RBZ has announced an intention to issue its own CBDC but a mere statement was enough to spark excitement among the country’s blockchain industry players.

Cautious Welcome

Cryptocurrency Token SalesBitcoinAfrica.io asked Zimbabweans involved in the country’s small blockchain space for their reaction to this latest announcement by the RBZ.

We reached out to Mike Makazhe, a young entrepreneur who says he is working to create a cryptocurrency for Zimbabweans.

Makazhe said: “I think financial institutions need to improve. It’s true most of their services are outdated and Pecunia (his crypto project) can help bring this (expected) to life.”

Another influential figure in Zimbabwe’s blockchain space, who did not wish to be identified, was less sanguine about this latest announcement.

He said: “The only thing I think about it is they are taking a dribble. They are happy with a broken system because it works in their favour.”

According to him, the RBZ is just putting on a show but lacks the will to actually implement some of the fintech proposals contained in the monetary policy.

The same sentiments were echoed by another crypto enthusiast who commented on this development in one crypto chat group on social media. The individual also noted that there was a lot of emphasis on banks and less on the private players that fall outside the RBZ’s regulatory reach.

These were also the sentiments shared by other individuals in the crypto community. They cautiously welcome this announcement but say the RBZ should be judged on implementation not the intention.

Zimbabwean institutions like the RBZ are notorious for taking their time to adopt technologies and systems that improve efficiency but are quick to implement anything that improves collection of revenues or the scarce foreign currency.

For example, it has taken the RBZ several years to capacitate a credit reference bureau, a body that can potentially end the country’s problem of high levels of non-performing loans. Some fear the same approach will be used on fintechs and the country will lag behind as the rest of the continent move ahead to adopt this innovation.

Zimbabwe’s small fintech industry expects the RBZ to issue more statements that clarify the country’s position as the year progresses. 

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What Happened to “Bitconnect Guy” Carlos Matos?

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Carlos Matos

You might recognise Carlos Matos from the famous meme in which he screams “Bitconneeeeecct” with plenty of gusto. Matos was an “investor” in the now-defunct Bitconnect Coin.

Bitconnect was a cryptocurrency scam that went from obscure in 2016 at about US$ 0.17 to a high of $436 in 2017. It screamed of potential, becoming a top 20 cryptocurrency token. This couldn’t last, as the price came crashing to $0.40. Regulators came cracking down on the project, forcing its cessation in 2018.

Investor Frenzy in Bitconnect

If you logged in to the website, you’d find no whitepaper or clear team identification, but a promise of unusual profit. Through four phases of the project’s rollout, investors got a guarantee unlike any other in traditional investments such as stocks.

Phase one was the giveaway of 4.8 million Bitconnect coins to investors and the community. The second phase (first quarter of 2017) entailed the launch of BCC wallet and the desktop client to enable staking and mining BCC (Bitconnect coins). Phase three (second quarter of 2017) would be the launch of staking and mining. This meant 120% returns for investors per year! The fourth phase targeted introduction of the “Smart Card” and wider merchant adoption.

A Massive Cryptocurrency Scam

Bitconnect

Bitconnect is an excellent use case for newcomers to learn how crypto scams can operate.

  • Firstly, BitConnect had no traction until the lending platform was announced. For a profitable business, it’s mandatory to have a working product, a product-market fit and a clear revenue model, among other fundamental aspects of valuation. BitConnect had a new product with a supposed market (since adoption had to be pushed) and a complicated revenue model. It simply didn’t make business sense.
  • Secondly, BitConnect guaranteed profits of over 91% and promised returns of over 480% per year. No basis for the guarantee came out clearly from the promises of this once-in-a-lifetime deal with no financial risk. All investors needed to trust was an “undefeatable” trading bot – it couldn’t lose! Assumptions cemented in the flow of money from all over the world – US$2.6 billion – at the peak! For many, the profits were irresistible.
  • The third red flag was an extended capital holding period. This was explained away as a preference/ incentivisation toward staking. After all, it made more sense to profit more as you held your money longer in the system – but even traditional finance allows for clear/rapid cash out should you need your money. It’s yours, right?

The low daily return rate hooked on the old and young. Unsecured lending among traditional financial sector players had after all paved the way for the daily return concept not to seem too foreign. These numbers made far more sense if you put in more than US$ 10,000. You can see why Matos’ profit of $140,000 from an initial principal of $25,000 had many addicted to “the future of investing”. 2017’s cryptocurrency boom of bitcoin and other tokens further served to cement this thought with all manner of possibilities.

If the returns weren’t sufficient or attractive for you, Bitconnect provided a lucrative referral program with seven levels of earning commissions. It was an extra assurance of the profit structure. The bot would have to work overtime and compound profits to ensure everybody won. Put these together, and you have a catastrophe – a true castle in the clouds!

The Tragic Ending

The charade collapsed when the law came calling. 2018 saw victims of the scam lose 30%, then 90% of their value to the insider cashouts with the closure of the Bitconnect exchange.

The Ponzi scheme came full circle with its promoters and their aggressive propaganda disappearing from any reasonable trace. Other exchanges delisted BCC, but the damage had been done. Bitconnect cited excuses on bad press, the Texas State Securities Board Cease and Desist order and DDos (distributed denial of service) attacks, yet the truth was out in the open: scammers won.

Matos disappeared, only to resurface recently taking a lot about weight loss through intermittent fasting. He’s trying to build repute in a different field, which is definitely better than the scam that made him famous.

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What is Crypto Advocate John McAfee’s Net Worth?

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John McAfee

John McAfee has emerged as one of the most influential individuals in the cryptoverse. Learn about this one-of-a-kind crypto advocate, including how much his net worth is estimated to be.  

Who is John McAfee?

You’ve likely used or at least heard about the McAfee antivirus software. It ranks among the top cybersecurity tools to use in ensuring protection from attacks. 

John McAfee is the British-American entrepreneur and computer programmer who founded McAfee Associates in 1987. Prior, he worked at NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) and Lockheed. McAfee Associates produces enterprise security software, even though John resigned in 1994. He has founded other companies such as QuorumEx, Tribal Voice, Luxcore, and Everykey, among others.

A known political activist, his interests also stretch into cryptocurrency, smartphone apps, and yoga. 

Timely Cryptocurrency Boom

In 2017, the ICO (Initial Coin Offering) boom saw hundreds of companies release projects for funding from investors globally without limits on international securities regulations. Riding on the price boom of bitcoin and Ethereum, it was as though a separate economy was spurring overnight. Token prices went from zero to one in hours, with profits surging exponentially in hours or days.

One would call it a craze, but McAfee positioned his profile to benefit from the boom. 

Initially, those who opened up their projects for funding this way simply followed the promise of Bitcoin (financial system independence) and built on Ethereum. Legitimate companies and scammers alike put their proposals for the world to decide, therefore, the battle for legitimacy created high stakes. It wasn’t enough to have a good project; the team /company needed to show who endorsed them or their project.

This is the space in which McAfee could thrive as an industry titan trusted globally.

The Crypto Advocate

John McAfee Net Worth

Gage Skidmore from Surprise, AZ, United States of America, CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Imagine taking in about 8 BTC per tweet in a boom; that’s exactly what he did.

The highest prediction he made about the price of bitcoin was between $ 500,000 and 1 million per bitcoin. The admission he made later was that these predictions were to excite and draw new users on board.

An estimated 50 ICOs were promoted on his public Twitter profile. Each promotion cost $100,000. This would bring the number of bitcoin he owns to about 400 if we take an average number of 8 bitcoin according to the price fluctuations in 2017, but the total amount, along with the ownership of other cryptocurrencies remains undisclosed. Assuming a holding of 400 bitcoin at today’s price of US$ 32,478, McAfee’s 400 bitcoins would be worth 12.9 million dollars. 

John McAfee Net Worth: So, How Much Is It Now?

John McAfee lost a significant portion of his net worth due to the 2008 financial crisis that crippled economies around the world. From a valuation of $100 million, his assets hit a low of $4 million in 2009, according to the New York Times.

He certainly worked his way back into profitability through his subsequent ventures in QuorumEx, Future Tense Central, and his tenure at MGT Capital Investments.

MGT is supposedly his gateway into crypto because in 2016 its focus was shifted first from social gaming to cybersecurity. MGT also moved into mining bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to make money and increase its blockchain expertise. McAfee deemed this strategy vital for cybersecurity, holding it even into his subsequent resignation in 2018.

According to publicly available data, John McAfee’s net worth could range from US$ 7.2 to 20 million.

His run-ins with the law have had him living as a fugitive; for in 2019 he lived on his boat, running from U.S. authorities. He was arrested in October 2020 in Spain at the request of the U.S. Department of Justice for tax evasion charges. 

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Weekly Roundup: Swahili Blockchain Book Now Available, Binance P2P Volumes Hit $280 Million in Africa

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blockchain book

After experiencing raging swings this year, Bitcoin hit a new all-time high this week. On Monday, bitcoin recorded a price of $19,850, breaking the 2017 record. In other news, the Swahili blockchain book is now available for purchase, and Binance P2P trading in Africa is flourishing.

Read these and other stories in our news roundup this week.

Swahili Blockchain Book Now Available

Swahili Blockchain BookThe Swahili blockchain book is now available for purchase. The goal of this book, Jielimishe Kuhusu Blockchain, is to educate Swahili readers about blockchain technology. As a result, readers can contribute to regulatory conversations in their countries to help policymakers make the best decisions.

The Governor of the Central Bank of Tanzania (BoT), Professor Florens Luoga, is one of the first people to read the book. Sandra Chogo, the author, handed him the blockchain book during a conference held in the country.

According to Chogo, the Governor’s interest in the book could indicate that the regulator is warming up to the blockchain and cryptocurrencies. The book has already received a positive reception from the Tanzanian government.

Binance P2P Volumes Hit $280 Million in Africa

Binance P2P trading in Africa has grown significantly because the exchange is supporting six local currencies. So far, the exchange has processed a total volume of $280 million P2P trades in Africa.

In March 2020, Binance started supporting the Nigerian naira. Currently, African users can use Binance P2P to buy and sell BTC, USDT, DAI, BNB, ETH, and BUSD using the Kenyan shilling, the South African rand, the Nigerian naira, the Moroccan dirham, the Ghanaian cedi, and the Egyptian pound.

According to Binance, P2P traders on the platform are making an income between $30 and $350 each day.

“I solely rely on P2P trading as the main source of my income. With P2P trading, I can sufficiently meet my needs and bills. The best thing is that I can trade at my own time and any place,” said Robacoin, a P2P merchant.

P2P trading on the continent could continue the upward trend as more and more Africans turn to crypto to make an income and to remit money.

Nigeria Could Develop a Crypto and Blockchain Framework

Nigerian SEC to Regulate CryptoThe Securities and Exchange Commission in Nigeria classified digital assets as securities a few months ago. Now, the regulator and the Ministry of Finance are discussing the creation of a crypto and blockchain framework.

According to recent news, the two bodies want to create a regulatory environment for blockchain. Also, the Nigeria SEC is keen to facilitate the adoption of the technology.

“The general objective of regulation is not to hinder technology or stifle innovation, but to create standards that encourage ethical practices that ultimately make for a fair and efficient market,” the SEC Nigeria stated.

Furthermore, the country is hoping to obtain $10 billion in revenue from blockchain technology by 2030.

Sarafu Network Beneficiaries Soar 40,000

One of Africa’s community currencies project, Sarafu Network, now has 40,000 beneficiaries. The Grassroots Economics initiative is helping communities in rural Kenya to access basic needs like food. To date, users have traded more than 100 million community tokens. In October 2020, for instance, the beneficiaries traded more than 8 million Sarafu tokens for food. During a global pandemic and a declining economy, the Sarafu Network is helping the needy to stay afloat.

Grassroots Economics uses the power of the blockchain to create community inclusion currencies (CICs).

“In a typical community dependent on injections of the national currency – trade will often slow to a crawl and stop due to lack of a national currency as commodity prices increase. As we have seen in Kenya where Sarafu has been distributed to over 40,000 people, in communities with a Community Inclusion Currency trade can continue,” Grassroots Economics Founder Will Ruddick says.

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

Bitcoin Beginner's Handbook

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