I vividly remember the first time I encountered the concept of CryptoCurrency.
Trawling through one useless You Tube documentary after another hoping to find something exhilarating, unconventional, thought provoking… I eventually obtained more than I bargained for and spent the entire afternoon plummeting down the rabbit hole that is CryptoCurrency, blockchain, smart contracts - all known largely by the uneducated then as a Criminal Vector rather than the Killer of Corruption.
‘But what does this all mean for someone like me?” I thought. ‘I have no need to purchase drugs or illegally sourced weaponry and I am certainly not plotting a coup.’’ (Although, many South Africans may agree that with our then-president Jacob Zuma’s 783 pending criminal charges - the concept had its uses. I digress.)
Even though I was unable to fathom to extent to which it could transform businesses, government organisations, the lives of millions of people regardless of their social standing and ultimately, the world of finance as we know it - I realised very soon that CryptoCurrency should not fall on deaf ears, least of all my own.
Money laundering, scammers, corrupt politicians openly flaunting millions in assets while declaring a salary fit largely for the mundanely middle-class…It is hard to believe that these stereotypes would steer clear from leveraging the anonymity and ease of access provided for by CryptoCurrency.
As ardent advocates for the legacy left behind by great men such as Nelson Mandela, it is a quick flick-of-the-switch away for South Africans to focus on hedonistic headlines, however, let this not take away from the leaps and bounds made by several African pioneers in the industry.
Luno, Bankymoon, Golix and Civic are all but a few sterling examples of African companies founded by true believers in this Revolution’s working applications and its ability to serve beyond the empty promises of banks that ‘’guarantee’’ a boundless offering - the balloon of which such innovation has long popped in the minds of many consumers.
Unfortunately, this does not mean that banks have felt the pinch, or that CryptoCurrency has become ‘The People’s Currency’ - yet.
Many African banks continue to stand steadfast in their service offering with few in Europe and offshore collectively and aggressively taking steps towards a hybrid solution, let alone an entirely decentralised one, while trailblazers continue to push the limits of what could realistically be offered to those who have yet to access a cell phone.
While we can argue behind enemy lines that the target should be the Fat Cats seated snugly betwixt their bowls of interest and bursting bags of catnip, or rather, banking fees - ultimately, the only true concern for consumers in South Africa, at the very least, is tax. (Beyond having crypto ATM’s on every corner, but let’s not bite off more than we can chew for the moment.)
Evaluate, contemplate but for heaven’s sake: invest. The incredible thing about CryptoCurrency? You don’t have to be a Fat Cat to buy, own or sell it.
In a world filled with governments determined to regulate this force to be reckoned with, the most progressive of countries in Africa continue to test the waters, while Big Brother deliberates his next move.
The magnifying glass on South Africa in particular, we have seen government take the stance of working with Blockchain-based solutions providers to meet in the middle with regards to regulation rather than dismissing something so suited to serving our people entirely, without sentiment.
What is more, after a recent meeting of the African Union in Rwanda, a fast becoming renegade and South Africa’s current president, Cyril Ramaphosa, said he wasn’t sure what a single African currency will look like, but said a digital currency may precede a “real” single currency – as it is easier than having a “proper, full” currency.
Further North, in 2017, Nigeria experienced a recession that thoroughly bruised and battered its fiat currency, with Bitcoin trading emerging amongst the public as a way to surpass currency control impeding access to the dollar, originally implemented to curb the same. The Central Bank of Nigeria turned away, tail planted firmly between legs, due to their inability to moderate.
If the thought of your bank being rendered powerless by the masses doesn’t make you a little giddy, then perhaps now would be a good time for a cold shower.