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Africa and the Middle East: Crypto and Blockchain News Roundup 12th to 18th January 2019

Africa

Africa and the Middle East

Welcome to another weekly blockchain news roundup from around the world. Here we present to you all the latest Bitcoin news continent by continent and country by country.

South Africa

South Africa’s Central Bank Proposes Rules for Crypto Companies: South African Reserve Bank (SARB), as it attempts to protect customers and investors from the vulnerabilities in the current system, has issued new regulations which compel crypto exchanges and wallet services to register with regulators.

Amid the concerns that the regulatory measures might suffocate the market, the central bank insisted they will be “walking a middle line … to attain only limited regulation.” The changes are expected to start with a registration scheme for crypto asset service providers, followed by a review of the existing laws on assets to include crypto assets, and finally the creation of a regulatory body to implement the decisions.

South Africa’s ANC Election Manifesto Cites Blockchain as Game Changer:  As the political landscape in South Africa gets hot ahead of the general elections in May, the ruling party – African National Congress’ (ANC)’s President Cyril Ramaphosa revealed their manifesto that termed advancement of blockchain and crypto tech as a top priority.

And it does appear that there is more meat to this rather than just political lip service as the Government already has developed a new assets regulatory working group to maximize the potential of cryptocurrency. Similarly, another factfinder project — Project Koha, underway in collaboration with multiple financial institutes, and the SA Reserve Bank has also reported positive results when it comes to high volumes blockchain payments.

Congo

Ford Will Fight Child Labor in Africa Using Blockchain: According to Reuters, the American car manufacturing giant Ford has teamed up with the likes of IBM, LG Chem, and Huayou Cobalt to design a common blockchain platform that tracks down cobalt coming from Congo that is ultimately used in Ford’s lithium-ion batteries.

The project looks to cut down the rampant child labor at the cobalt mines in Congo, where minors are worked against their will often in life-threatening conditions, as it will try to detect and track down such instances and completely ban and boycott suppliers who are involved or connected with these heinous crimes.

Israel

Israel’s Top Cargo Shipping Firm Zim Opens Blockchain Platform to All Clients:  Zim, Israel’s largest cargo shipping company, has announced the launch of its blockchain platform for all clients using electronic bills of lading (eB/Ls).

After completing a year-long pilot of its blockchain-powered eB/Ls platform, the firm claims that blockchain can replace the existing paper-based processes and dramatically improve the workflow. To prove this, two recent transactions were conducted in less than two hours each using the blockchain-based platform, whereas they used to take multiple days or even weeks earlier.

Bahrain

University of Bahrain Will Issue Diplomas on the Blockchain Employing Blockcerts: The University of Bahrain has announced the issuance of diplomas on the blockchain in a bid to encourage the development and adoption of the technology in the country.

The institute, using the Blockcerts open standard, has developed the diploma program in collaboration with Learning Machine, a startup that provides a system to issue verifiable official records through the blockchain-anchored format. Last year, the Government of Bahrain stressed the importance of the blockchain technology, and termed it as “a true mark of progress.”  This particular initiative is also part of that ideology, as it aims to offer an overall digitization strategy for mobile learners.

United Arab Emirates

UAE Telecom Operator du Announces Blockchain Solution For Fake Drugs: UAE-based telecom operator du has revealed its latest weapon in the war against fake drugs, as it announced the launch of a Blockchain Platform as a Service (BPaaS) at the Unlock Blockchain Conference in Dubai. The patient-centric safety blockchain solution allows users to verify the origin and metadata of the medicines, and after the data is entered onto the distributed ledger, there is no possibility for manipulation.

This allows complete accountability for pharmaceutical products and increases transparency in the distribution system. Developed in collaboration with MedTech solutions provider Dhonor HealthTech, it will enable easy identification and removal of fake drugs from the supply chain.

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South African Central Bank to Impose “Limited Regulations” on Crypto Exchanges

South African

South Africa’s central bank has stated that it will propose rules and regulations for cryptocurrency exchanges and wallet providers. At the initial stage, it will be mandatory for all exchanges to register with regulators.

The South African Reserve Bank (SARB) published a consultation paper on Wednesday in which it maintained that the unregulated status of crypto asset sellers is making consumers vulnerable. It says, in order to protect both consumers and investors, regulatory action is urgently required.

However, the bank noted that it is aware of the consequences of regulatory mistakes. It aims at choosing a moderate version of regulations, which it termed as “limited regulations”. These regulations will be somewhere in-between a complete ban and doing nothing.

SARB added that it is planning to place some particular requirements on service providers. However, it will not set predefined conditions for formal authorization to provide crypto-related services. Moreover, the bank suggests a “useful starting point”, whereby at the initial stage the regulations can be introduced by asking crypto exchanges to register with the regulatory body.

Meanwhile, the regulatory body will evaluate the current laws and regulations and assess whether amendments or new regulations are required for crypto-related businesses. It explained that this registration phase will lead to formal authorization and licensing of South African crypto exchanges. Furthermore, SARB maintained that crypto assets cannot be recognized as electronic money and remain without legal tender status.

In addition, any unusual cash transactions of SAR 25,000 (USD 1,820) and above, will be required to be reported by registered crypto exchanges to the regulatory authority.

The above-mentioned consultation paper will be available for public comments until 15 February. The registration process is expected to be initiated by March 2019.

 

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IBM’s Blockchain Platform Expands Supply Chain Solutions to Track Mined Metal

IBM

IBM will use the Hyperledger Fabric blockchain platform to track supply chains for the metal mining industry. The company recently announced two separate projects for its abovementioned aim.

One of the two projects will seek to supervise the shipping of metals from a Mexico-based mine. IBM will work with Canadian company called MineHub Technologies, which tracks metal ore movement from Goldcorp’s Penasquito Mine based in Mexico. The blockchain system will allow the company to record the data regarding the ore it mines. Along with that, a certification that the metal was obtained using ethical and sustainable ways will also be provided, claims IBM.

The other project will be used for tracking cobalt being transported to a Ford Motor Company plant from a mine based in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The company aims at tracking the movement of an initial cobalt batch (1.5 ton) which will leave next month from a mine in Congo. This cobalt will be sent to China for refining and later, the package will go to a battery plant in South Korea, before finally arriving at the Ford plant in the US. The whole supply chain process that is five months long will be recorded using Hyperledger technology.

The project involves not only IBM and Ford but also Huayou Cobalt from China, LG Chem from South Korea and RCS Global. All the participants are expected to use the blockchain built by IBM on HyperLedger Fabric in order to record each step of the package’s supply chain.

RCS Global’s involvement is in one enthical aspect of the entire operation. Some mining companies in Congo have been accused by human rights groups such as Amnesty International of using child labor. RCS Global representatives inspect mines and physically tag shipments leaving the mines with barcodes. If there is any violation of ethical laws, the company immediately informs the receiving industry. In such a case, the industry is advised not to use such a shipment. Now, the management is expected to use blockchain technology for recording the supply chain to make it more transparent and immutable.

 

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South Africa’s ANC Election Manifesto Cites Blockchain as Game Changer

South Africa's ANC Election Manifesto Cites Blockchain as Game Changer

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa has revealed the ruling African National Congress (ANC) manifesto ahead of May’s elections which features the advancement of blockchain as an important tool for change.

After a ten-year period of chaotic government in South Africa under the Zuma government, a man now under pressure and facing trial for corruption, the country is looking at Ramaphosa and ANC for meaningful change, honesty and transparency.

At his latest speech in the Moses Mabida stadium in the coastal city of Durban, the president was described as delivering a speech more akin to that of a company CEO than a politician. He said that change was coming in South Africa via new technologies as part of the 4th industrial revolution. Blockchains, data analytics, and the internet of things would be the focus in a new South African government.

It appears that this is already underway with the government’s new assets regulatory working group currently investigating the potential of cryptocurrency and blockchain. The SA Reserve Bank (SARB) is in on the act, and the latest factfinder, Project Koha, has been put together by representatives from the Financial Intelligence Centre, Financial Sector Conduct Authority, and Treasury and the SA Revenue Service.

The SA reserve bank has recently detailed positive results from trialing the settlement of high volumes of payments via the blockchain. The implementation of blockchain in South Africa’s local banking and finance industries has accelerated over recent years and if Ramaphosa has his way, this will be the shape of things to come on the nation’s economic and financial landscape.

 

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Africa and the Middle East: Crypto and Blockchain News Roundup 5th to 11th January 2019

Africa

Africa and the Middle East

Welcome to another weekly blockchain news roundup from around the world. Here, we present to you all the latest Bitcoin news, continent by continent and country by country.

South Africa

South Africa Deliberating Tax with the Crypto Task Force: The South African government has set the wheels into motion to create a crypto task force and include all the cryptocurrency activities into the tax net.

The group consists of representatives from the Financial Sector Conduct Authority, Financial Intelligence Centre, the SA Revenue Service (SARS), Treasury, and the Reserve Bank as they aim to develop a unified intergovernmental regulatory framework while ensuring that losses on cryptocurrencies are only offset against profits from the same system, a phenomenon known as ring-fencing.

Kidnappers Demand Bitcoin Ransom for Missing Nine-Year-Old: As the saga unfolds following the disappearance of a 9-year-old girl known as Linathi Titshala, possible kidnappers have recently sent an anonymous message demanding a ransom of 5 BTC ($19,200) for the girl’s return.

The message was sent to the anti-crime group Western Cape Gangwatch, who said to have tried to trace the email’s source via the Bitcoin address but failed since it was probably created at an internet cafe with an untraceable IP address.

Nigeria

Nigeria’s Electoral Commission to Conduct Pilot Test of Electronic Results Transmission: After the earlier success of electronic results transmission back in 2015 during the off-season elections, Nigeria’s Electoral Commission (INEC) has recently announced a pilot run of the system ahead of 2019 general elections.

Although Nigeria’s current Electoral Act doesn’t allow any provision for its adoption, the officials hope that the success of the test run will compel lawmakers to press for a much-needed change in the legislation.

Kenya

Cryptocurrency Regulation Battle Intense in Africa, Regulators Pin Down Suspicious Cryptocurrency Projects: Capital Markets Authority of Kenya (CMA) has recently warned the users of Kenya’s up-and-coming crypto tokens company KeniCoin about possible fraudulent activities. KeniCoin was launched in July 2018 and promised its users 10% monthly ROI.

CMA published the report in the wake of the ongoing investigations of KeniCoin’s parent company ‘Wiseman Talent Ventures’ and has already highlighted drastic discrepancies in the information on the KeniCoin website and the interviews given to the authorities.

Israel

Gold Reserves to Bitcoin Reserves: Nick Szabo on Crypto in 2019: History of currencies, scope of Bitcoin as a mode of payment, and predictions on the future developments; the first Israel Bitcoin Summit at Tel Aviv University had it all as the early pioneer Nick Szabo, and Bitcoin’s probable founder, Satoshi Nakamoto graced the event with their presence.

Among all the presentations, the highlights included Szabo’s claims that all central banks may soon be inclined to supplement their gold reserves with cryptocurrency. He also remarked that 2019 could see the adoption of the Lightning Network, which would allow two users to make payments to each other almost instantaneously.

Turkey

Interest-free payment platform developed in Turkey: Turkish Blockchain payment platform, MenaPay, has announced that it will launch the first-ever Islamic finance based payment methods to accommodate their large Muslim userbase. This will allow the residents of MENA region to utilize the safety of blockchain technology and leverage MenaPay Platform’s payment transparency while abiding by the religious obligations.

MenaPay has already made headway into the market thanks to its QR code payment system which allows all transactions to be executed within 5 seconds, and this move puts them on the path to becoming the largest cashless service in the MENA region.

UAE

UAE Wants 50% of Government Business on Blockchain by 2021: UAE Government has announced the launch of two new initiatives under the title “the AI and Blockchain Guide initiative.”

The program aims to allow the federal government to develop a standardized system to define and regulate blockchain technology and AI while streamlining the way to implement the technologies across all the smart cities in the seven emirates. The initiative will also focus on training and educating all relevant authorities on these technologies and integrate them in all sectors of the economy.

UAE’s Etisalat Picks Startups for Ai and Blockchain Scale-Up Program: Dubai-based telecommunication giant Etisalat recently announced that it had chosen four startups for the development of AI and blockchain technologies for its “Future Now” scale-up program.

The program offers the participants to access Etisalat’s digital resources, expertise, and office space and develop joint applications for the company’s client base. Among the companies chosen were China’s Yitu Technology, UAE’s Com IoT Technologies, Hong Kong’s 300cubits, and USA’s Tradefin.

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ConsenSys to Assist in Blockchain Training for Young Black Women

ConsenSys to Launch Blockchain Training for Young Black Women

ConsenSys has teamed up with Black Girls Code, a non-profit organization providing tech training to young women of color between the ages of 7 and 17.

The partnership will establish the first blockchain training program of its kind in the US which will branch into US states and beyond. The program will be available in Oakland, California, Atlanta, Georgia and in New York City, with plans to run in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The program will be a comprehensive entry in the blockchain system for young participants, including lessons in cryptocurrencies and the fundamentals of the blockchain. Students will be thrown in at the deep end with a hands-on approach, requiring that they participate and contribute to blockchain developer conferences around the globe, enabling them to turn theory into practice. Black Girls Code CEO Kimberly Bryant commented that:

“The ConsenSys team has consistently impressed me with their commitment to creating pathways for access and inclusion within the blockchain ecosystem and their passion for introducing these tools to the next generation of coders.”

Black Girls Code has even developed its own token, and since August of last year, 60 young black women involved in the program have been introduced to the workings of cryptocurrency and blockchain, with a view to increasing these numbers into hundreds in 2019.

The organization has huge targets and has stated that it wishes to train a million girls by the year 2040, becoming a high-tech version of the Girl Guides. One aim is to ensure that minority groups in fintech have a space to grow and flourish encouraging innovative outside investments into such groups.

 

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Africa and the Middle East: Crypto and Blockchain News Roundup 29 December 2018 – 4 January 19

Africa

Africa and the Middle East

Welcome to another weekly blockchain news roundup from around the world. Here, we present to you all the latest Bitcoin news, continent by continent and country by country.

South Africa

Cryptocurrency Regulatory Working Group Formed by the Government: In an effort to be more decisive and inclusive in cryptocurrency regulation, the South African government has announced the formation of a local working group task with the responsibility of formulating regulations and getting input from the industry.

According to a letter by Tito Mboweni, the Finance Minister of the country, the Cryptocurrency Asset Working Group will not just focus on cryptocurrencies but all other facets of the industry including blockchain technology and its wide range of applications.

According to the Minister:

“It is anticipated that, following broad industry comment and participation, the crypto assets regulatory working group will be ready to release a final research paper on the subject during the course of 2019.”

It remains to be seen what will be the constitution of this latest working group.

Nigeria

Investors Training Nigerians on Cryptocurrency Trading Profitability: To encourage more investment and trading in the sector, cryptocurrency trading experts are tutoring an emerging generation of traders in the country to become more profitable in trading cryptocurrencies.

Ian Balina, an acclaimed bitcoin trader and investor said that trading can be a profitable investment for youngsters if they can understand more about its working. Faith Titus, the co-founder of Blockchain Nigeria User Group believes that it is necessary for one to be educated in order to succeed in the sector. Toyosi Abolarin, the Lead Project Manager at Venture Garden Group endorsed the government’s efforts to regulate the industry fairly and believed it will boost trading.

Zimbabwe

Reserve Bank Declares Cryptocurrencies a Threat to the Nation: The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe is continuing its anti-cryptocurrency stance by declaring cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin a threat to the nation.

Governor  Dr. John Mangudya made these comments in an official statement, saying that all cryptocurrency investments have no legal protection and they are prone to embezzlement as well as being used in Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism.

While the government has taken a hardline stance in the country, many Zimbabweans are turning to cryptocurrencies to avoid the crippling hyperinflation prevalent in the country. This is also the reason why cryptocurrencies are being traded at a heavy premium in the country.

Israel

Israel Blockchain Industry Survives Despite Tough Year: The Israeli Blockchain industry has had a tough year as dozens of new projects were scrapped because of lack of regulatory approval and fears of government crackdown which hasn’t materialized yet. Despite the tough year, many blockchain projects have survived and are looking to build on their survival with a little help from the government if needed.

Sirin Labs rolled out the first blockchain smartphone in the country and may look to build on its initial success despite the high price tag of the phone. There are other exchanges and new startups that made money in the course of 2018, but in the end, due to the price tank of Bitcoin and regulatory challenges, the kind of growth expected in the industry didn’t happen. Still, innovators are looking at 2019 with hope.

Turkey

Countries Looking to Abandon US Dollar May See Cryptocurrencies as an Alternative: Several notable economies in the world including Turkey, Russia, China, etc are looking to undercut the dominance of the US Dollar in the market by adopting alternative ways of payments, with cryptocurrencies being eyed as a possible alternative.

While China is beefing up gold reserves for this purpose, Turkey has had a bad experience because of its dependence on the greenback with the local currency Lira losing as much as 25% at one time because of an ongoing diplomatic tussle with the US. P2P cryptocurrency trading platform LocalBitcoins.com noticed a considerable spike in trading volumes during the tense period. With cryptocurrencies gaining popularity in the country, the government may also look to adopt them from a strategic point of view.

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Cameroon Separatists Raise Funds Through ICO

A Cameroon separatist movement has taken the unexpected steps to raise funds through an ICO in order to promote its political causes.

Ambazonia, also known as Amba Land, is a self-declared state consisting of the Anglophone portions of Cameroon which previously comprised Southern Cameroons. In 2017, the Southern Cameroons Ambazonia Consortium United Front (SCACUF) unilaterally declared Ambazonia to be independent, while the Cameroonian government stated that the declaration has no legal weight. The ensuing protests and violence are referred to as the Anglophone Crisis.

Ambazonia’s latest step has been to launch AMBACoin which closed its pre-sale on the 27th December falling short of its 100 million token sale target. The project was organized by a rebel group fighting for Ambazonia’s recognition from the Cameroon Government stating:

“All sales of the AmbaCoin will be directed to fund the Ambazonian Cause, to assist Refugees & Internally Displaced Persons, to rebuild homes destroyed by occupying military forces, and to defend communities from the repressive regime of La Republique Du Cameroun.”

The group had claimed that once they get to power, they would, as the official government of the region “buy back all AmbaCoin in circulation at the price purchased plus 34% interest.”

The unresolved conflict has resulted in more than 500 civilian deaths and almost 500,000 people had to flee their homes. Although the situation regarding Ambazonia is ongoing, the unofficial breakaway state does have a president and a national anthem. It has now added its own national cryptocurrency to these attributes.

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South African Government Takes Step Towards Regulating Crypto

South African Government Takes Step Towards Regulating Crypto

The South African government has open-mindedness towards developing the blockchain industry in the country. A regulatory working group has been reportedly set up to study cryptocurrency and the underlying blockchain technology, as reported by local media news outlet BusinessLive.

Representatives from the Financial Intelligence Centre, Financial Sector Conduct Authority, Treasury, the Reserve Bank, and the SA Revenue Service (Sars) were selected to make up the working group.

According to the news outlet, finance minister Tito Mboweni was quoted saying that the aim was to develop “a cohesive governmental response to cryptocurrencies and a unified intergovernmental regulatory framework,” adding that a “final research paper on the subject [will be released] during the course of 2019.”

While the current income tax return forms do not take into account profits from cryptocurrency related trades, Sars applies normal income tax rules to cryptocurrencies for those who have declared their asset holdings related to cryptocurrencies. More so, efforts had been earlier coordinated to ensure that cryptocurrency investors do not evade tax payments. This has been difficult due to the anonymous nature of exchanging cryptocurrencies on blockchain-based platforms.

The source further clarified that Mboweni noted that “Sars is unable to accurately trace the number of declarations pertaining to capital profits on cryptocurrencies,” this platform may as well provide an opportunity to draw out a comprehensive tax-inclusive model for crypto-related transactions. In line with the tax inclusion of digital asset class, he said:

“However, work is underway within Sars to consider the amendment of the tax forms for the 2019 tax season in order to cater for the description of other assets (which will include cryptocurrencies) by means of a specific description field on the form.”

Mboweni was also quoted saying that the Taxation Amendment Bill of 2018 which also include a clause for cryptocurrencies to be treated for Income Tax and VAT, and the amendment would allow losses on cryptocurrencies can be offset against profits from cryptocurrencies only.

Taking steps towards regulating the blockchain and cryptocurrency industry can mean a lot of goodwill for the South Africans, as a good number of them are already exposed to the industry and some of them wished they had gotten in early onto the crypto-train. Comparatively, other African nations are still either indecisive or discouraging their citizens from taking part in anything cryptocurrency related.

 

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Africa and the Middle East: Crypto and Blockchain News Roundup 22 – 28 December 2018

Africa

Africa and the Middle East

Welcome to another weekly blockchain news roundup from around the world. Here, we present to you all the latest Bitcoin news, continent by continent and country by country.

African Union

Paxful Reports Increase in Cryptocurrency Usage in Africa: African countries including Ghana and Nigeria are reporting a considerable increase in cryptocurrency trading activities according to data from Paxful with both of these countries ranked among the top ten in the world for crypto adoption. In some parts of the continent, the crypto adoption increased two-folds with increased enthusiasm among the younger sections of the population.

It is expected that next year will be bigger and better for the cryptocurrency scene in the continent where microfinance has a big future and many people are underbanked with no access to mobile accounts.

Nigeria

Experts Believe Cryptocurrencies can Boost Economy in the Country: Experts based in Africa’s biggest economy believe that cryptocurrencies have the ability to transform the economic landscape of the country. They made their views known in a recent Luno Conference in the country that hosted some of the top professionals in the sector.

According to Lucky Uwakwe, the CEO of Blockchain Solutions Limited, cryptocurrency awareness was increasing in the region and he thought the country should step up in the market because cryptocurrencies are the future. Nigerian blockchain expert Owenize Odia believes that the right regulation is needed in the country to help cement trust and lend authenticity to the sector.

Dash to Increase Merchant and Exchange Integrations: Digital currency Dash is making new inroads in Nigeria as the privacy and crowdsourcing-centric cryptocurrency has added two new merchants and is offering discounts for paying with the cryptocurrency through these merchants.

The two stores are Qualymart and CryptoStorez, both Nigerian e-commerce solutions. Qualymart is offering a whopping 20% discount on Dash payments while Cryptostorez offers 5%.

Turkey

Bitcoin’s Popularity is Growing: Bitcoin’s trading volumes have soared up to 37% in Turkey since October this year despite the eventual lifting of sanctions after a diplomatic deadlock ended in recent months. The increased usage of LocalBitcoins.com and other P2P cryptocurrency trading platforms mean that people are interested in the new digital class and are willing to invest in it to circumnavigate the effects of inflation in the country.

The millennial population is the one most prone to investing in the new sector.

United Arab Emirates

Government Looking to Introduce New Crypto Regulations by early 2019: The government of UAE is looking to introduce comprehensive cryptocurrency regulation in the country by the first half of 2019, according to local media reports. The new regulations will introduce common sense regulations for the industry and will look to make the country the most dominant player in the Arab world and even across the globe.

According to Hans Fraikin, the CEO of Libra Project:

“The UAE is perfectly positioned to be a global leader in the ICO space. If they succeed as planned, they will be at the forefront of this new burgeoning global securities sector.”

ICOs are also expected to be allowed in the regulation and will result in major coin-related businesses coming to UAE’s shores.

Iran

American Government Looking to Counter Iran’s Efforts of Using Cryptocurrencies: The US is stepping up its efforts to enforce further sanctions on Iran by blacklisting its new cryptocurrency projects and suspicious wallets. A new bill presented in the House of Representatives by Mike Gallagher (Wisconsin) aims to prevent Iran from creating a new cryptocurrency.

The Blocking Iran Illicit Finance Act will enable the US administration of Donald Trump to take further action on enforcing sanctions.

According to the proposed bill:

All transactions related to, provision of financing for, and other dealings in Iranian digital currency by a United States person or within the United States are prohibited.”

The US unilaterally withdrew from a Nuclear deal with Iran and has since come out on the offensive against the Middle Eastern country whose population is opening up to cryptocurrencies as a way to circumnavigate the imposed sanctions and their economic effects.

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