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Africa and the Middle East: Crypto and Blockchain News Roundup, 13th to 19th April 2018

Africa and the Middle East

Welcome to our weekly roundup of all important blockchain and cryptocurrency news from around the world. Follow the latest developments in the cryptocurrency space continent by continent, country by country.

 

South Africa

Tax authority may be wrong about crypto: Tax Authority in South Africa, SARS, has announced that cryptocurrencies cannot be considered as currency for tax purposes but will be taxed on assumption that they are “intangible assets”. The move is not welcomed by cryptocurrency traders as intangible assets are subject to “capital gains” taxes and “currencies” are not subject to capital gains at all.

Startup UBU targets poverty: A South African cryptocurrency payment project called Project UBU is aiming to get as many users as possible. The project aims to provide participants with 100 UBU coins per day (equivalent to a few dollars) to individuals living below the poverty line. This program will thus create the world’s first welfare cryptocurrency that is transparent enough for those at the bottom of the economic pyramid.

 

Kenya

Central bank warns against cryptocurrency: The Central bank of Kenya (CBK), through its governor, has once again warned against trading in cryptocurrencies. Its governor, Patrick Njoroge, appeared before a parliamentary committee on finance and gave statements in response to a question from one of the lawmakers.

He said that it was not the first time that the CBK has warned against trading in cryptocurrencies. Back in December 2015, the bank also gave out stern warnings against virtual cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. However, the governor is at the same time interested in trying out blockchain as a technology.

IBM deploys blockchain-based microfinancing service for food kiosk owners: IBM announced on 18 April that its researchers will soon roll out a new blockchain-based microfinance solution in Kenya later this week in partnership with Twiga foods. Twiga Foods is a B2B coordination platform for kiosks and food stalls in Africa and had previously expressed interest in using innovative financial service offerings to its customers.

According to IBM researcher Isaac Marcus:

“We analyzed purchase records from a mobile device and then apply machine learning algorithms to predict creditworthiness, in turn giving lenders the confidence they need to provide microloans to small businesses. Once the credit score is determined, we used a blockchain, based on the Hyperledger Fabric, to manage the entire lending process from application to receiving offers to accepting the terms of repayment.”

 

Zimbabwe

Bitcoin trading gains ground with new crypto exchange and ATM: Cryptocurrency trading is becoming a popular trading option in Zimbabwe with the addition of a new exchange and ATM in the country. Exchange Golix was already operating in the country for some time and now the competition has increased with Styx24 also accepting applications for cryptocurrency trading.

The cryptocurrency scene is a welcome respite for Zimbabweans that are facing hyperinflation with the government recently printing 100 trillion dollar bills that can only buy basic items. It is a widely held consensus that the fiat system has destroyed the economy and people are now looking at cryptocurrencies to help quell this hyperinflation.

 

Israel

Tightening crypto regulation: The Israeli financial watchdog Israel Securities Authority (ISA) is tightening control over cryptocurrency asset companies registered in the capital Tel Aviv’s stock exchange.

The companies have been given documents that are seen as tightening of crypto-related developments in the country. According to the government agency, the move was done to protect investors from the volatility and risk that comes with investment in cryptocurrencies. As of now, all cryptocurrency setups that deal, hold, invest or mine are being told to keep away from the public.

 

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Briton Extradited from Morocco over Alleged $36 Million Bitcoin Fraud

British national Renwick Haddow, 49, has been charged with two counts of wire fraud and extradited from Morocco to the US.

The US Department of Justice charges are connected to two fraudulent startups allegedly defrauding investors of more than USD 36 million.

Haddow was originally charged in the US in June 2017 and arrested in Morroco the following month. Geoffrey Berman, the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and William Sweeney Jr, assistant director-in-charge of the FBI’s New York office, reported that Haddow had been extradited from Morocco and is scheduled to appear in a New York court on Friday.

According to Attorney Berman, “Haddow made material misrepresentations… about the management, operations and historical performances of the companies.”

One of the startups under investigation, the ‘Bitcoin Store’, was supposedly led by CEO ‘Gordon Phillips’, who was said to have received a master of science degree in finance from Yale and to have previously been head of global currency and options at HSBC. The FBI investigation showed that neither Yale nor HSBC had any records for Phillips.

According to Haddow, the Bitcoin Store had generated sales of USD 7.6 million whereas the firm’s bank account showed a balance of only USD 500, according to the investigation.

The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) originally filed charges against Haddow last year for misleading investors. It reported that the Briton had claimed to have had an “experienced team of leading investment professionals” behind the company. The Department of Justice confirmed that “he alone was the brains behind the bitcoins store” and that the “experienced team” was Haddow’s own fabrication.

The Moroccan ministry of justice originally held Haddow to investigate the Bitcoin Shop, Bar Works, and a third startup, In Crowd Equity. He faces jail of up to 20 years for each of the charges.

Morocco’s foreign exchange authority has stated that the use of cryptocurrencies within the country can lead to penalties under existing rules, although the Moroccan exchange regulator, along with the Central Bank of Morocco, state that they will continue to regularly monitor the development of cryptocurrencies around the world.

 

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Africa: Crypto and Blockchain News Roundup, 6th to 13th April 2018

Africa

Welcome to our weekly roundup of all important blockchain and cryptocurrency news from around the world. Follow the latest developments in the cryptocurrency space continent by continent, country by country.

African Union

Cryptocurrencies can be Africa’s solution to payment issues: Africa is one of the most resourceful continents in the world but its constant issues with money and financial systems leave much to be desired. Double-digit inflation in some parts of the continent has weakened national currencies so much that there are always monetary issues. Digital currencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum can be a genuine solution to Africa’s currency woes. Small loans and digital payments are needed in the country where many people are not considered “bankable” and are denied useful financial services such as bank loans.

South Africa

South Africa’s central bank to oversee cryptocurrency: The South African Reserve Bank (SARB) has announced that it is moving towards overseeing of cryptocurrency and fintech startups in the country. SARB said that it is taking measures to add investors and eliminating risk on the platform.

The bank has constituted an investigative unit that is promoting growth and innovation while at the same time proposing useful regulations to help people secure their cryptocurrencies and decentralized companies. The Self Regulatory Organization (SRO) will be a non-state regulatory body that aims at further developments in the industry and not just regulations for the sake of regulations.

“The objective of the bank is to gain a practical understanding of DLTs (distributed ledger technologies) through the development of a PoC in collaboration with banking industry… to replicate interbank clearing and settlement on a DLT which will allow the SARB and industry to jointly assess the potential benefits and risks of DLTs”, it said.

Taxpayers told to declare capital gains or losses on cryptocurrencies: South African Revenue Service has called on taxpayers to declare earnings in cryptocurrencies because they are liable for capital gains taxes. The agency said that the onus is entirely on them to declare these gains as part of their taxable income. Crypto-related losses or gains can occur through mining and trading, which is worrisome for the former because Bitcoin’s profitability has already taken a hit in recent times.

South African campuses embrace cryptocurrencies: Despite the recent Bitcoin price slump, campuses in South Africa are welcoming cryptocurrency investments and technology. In response to surging demand, Vega, an independent education institute has introduced a comprehensive cryptocurrency short course at the tertiary level in South Africa.

The move by Vega follows an international trend in universities where cryptocurrency and blockchain courses are oversubscribed at universities including Berkeley, Cornell and MIT.

Shevon Lurie, managing director at Vega said, “The course will run over three weeks with two highly engaging sessions per week at Vega’s Johannesburg campus only, covering everything from the history of some of the world’s leading cryptocurrencies to buying, trading and using Bitcoin.”

Nigeria

Nigeria urged to stop crackdown on cryptocurrencies: The biggest African economy is in the midst of a crackdown on cryptocurrencies across the spectrum. The Central Bank of Nigeria has warned that cryptocurrency traders and investors are not protected by the law in the country and not regulated by the government either. Futurist Thomas Fry has urged the Nigerian government to soften its stance because digital currencies are more “efficient” and transparent.

Nigerian central bank claims no country will submit its legal tender to cryptocurrencies: The Nigerian government and central bank have said that no country in the world is going to issue legal tender to cryptocurrencies. Strangely, the move comes after the Nigerian Central Bank inaugurated the Association of Financial Services Innovators (FSI), a regulatory sandbox that will be used to test and deploy financial technologies in the country.

 

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South Africa’s Central Bank to Oversee Cryptocurrency

‘The South African Central Reserve Bank (SARB) has announced moves towards the overseeing of cryptocurrency and fintech developments in the country.

SARB has taken these measures in order to add for investors and eliminate risk. Although it doesn’t currently regulate cryptocurrency transactions, the bank has stated that the introduction of an investigative unit, rather than premature regulation, is one way of promoting growth and innovation.

The new unit will be a non-state self-regulatory body aimed at overseeing further developments in the industry. The new self-regulatory organization (SRO) would establish its own “rules, directives and standards”. SARB’s director of banking practice, Bridget King, claims that there is a risk that early legislation could curb progress as the technology is moving so fast. She feels that it would be better to simply supervise to prevent legislation becoming quickly outdated and unworkable. King suggested “…if laws are drafted based on existing technology… by the time legislation is enacted, the legislation will be obsolete…”.

The unit’s Project Khoka plans to examine the use of Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) as a method for processing secure payments. SARB will launch a proof of concept (PoC) to replicate interbank clearing. For this purpose, the bank has announced that it plans to use Quoruman Ethereum blockchain-based system.

“The objective of the bank is to gain a practical understanding of DLTs through the development of a PoC in collaboration with banking industry… to replicate interbank clearing and settlement on a DLT which will allow the SARB and industry to jointly assess the potential benefits and risks of DLTs”, it said.

Another issue in South Africa has been cryptocurrency tax evasion. Yesterday, the country joined many others now requiring citizens to declare their cryptocurrency earnings for the purpose of paying income tax. The South African Tax Office (SARS) made the announcement on 6 April, but made it clear that it still doesn’t consider cryptocurrencies as legal tender.

Anyone being paid for goods or services in South Africa will now have to declare these earnings as they would ordinary income. Traders profiting from cryptocurrency sales will be liable for capital gains tax. This follows the announcement made last year that SARS wished to prosecute non-declaration of earnings through cryptocurrency trading.

 

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Africa: Crypto and Blockchain News Roundup, 27th March to 5th April 2018

Africa

Welcome to our weekly roundup of all important blockchain and cryptocurrency news from around the world. Follow the latest developments in the cryptocurrency space continent by continent, country by country.

Africa’s crypto boom to grow: Africa is often sidelined in cryptocurrency news but there is a big cryptocurrency boom taking place in Africa and will only grow in the future, according to Finance Magnates. Kenya, South Africa and Nigeria are at the forefront of this revolution and other countries are getting in as well. Most of the new startups are related to fintech and aim to attract investment for the continent’s huge natural resources.

Launch of African cryptocurrency in the pipeline: Plans to launch a unified African cryptocurrency are in the pipeline. The currency is right now being referred to as Africa Master Coin and is being designed to capitalize and enable more foreign direct investment into the mineral- and natural resources-rich continent. The launch of this unified cryptocurrency was seen as a major push forward towards creating a uniform, transparent system of the African Union and gained support from South African president Cyril Ramaphosa, a powerful figure in the Union. Trepace Holding has claimed that it is already partnering with a South Korean company to create the central African Foundation. The currency could be launched as early as the second half of this year.

African farmers might get crypto loans from fintech startups: A group of fintech startups have launched an initiative to enable African farmers to access a crypto-based lending facility across the continent. More than USD 10 million will be raised to meet the needs of more than 50,000 farmers across the continent, according to Global Trade Review reports. Blockchain financial services platform, Wala, FinComEco, a crop marketing solution provider and Dala, a commodities trader are big on this idea. This is a first-of-its-kind partnership to cater for the credit needs of African farmers.

Stefania Barbaglio, head of public relations at Block Commodities was of the opinion:

“It’s very difficult for smallholder farmers to get fertilizers. With blockchain, we reduce the cost for the farmer to buy fertilizer at present consumer interest rates in the region, which are between 25% and 80%, and which they must pay monthly. We will charge around 12%, which will only be charged once the farmer has sold his goods.”

Africa adapting to the coin economy: According to latest reports, the coin economy is going to thrive in African countries in the future. While national governments are eyeing cryptocurrencies suspiciously, it hasn’t stopped the cryptocurrency scene from the attention of African companies as well. Bitland is providing land registry services in the country and Project UBU is providing a blockchain-powered cryptocurrency to power low-income homes in South Africa. The future looks great according to crypto analysts.

South Africa

South Africa’s central bank to set up cryptocurrency self-regulation organization: Cryptocurrency is increasingly coming under the regulatory radar of South Africa’s Reserve Bank (SARB). SARB is reportedly setting up an investigative unit to monitor developments in the cryptocurrency space and will help design future regulations as well, according to latest news from the third largest African economy.

Kenya

Cryptocurrency controversy: Kenya is one of the largest Bitcoin holders per capita in the world, according to a report by Citibank. But the same passion for the alternative currency is not shared by the government as the boss of Kenya’s central bank has cautioned against trading cryptocurrencies because they are unregulated and unstable amid concerns from the private banking sectors. The banking community in the African nation is also divided with one banker Joshua Oigara, CEO of Kenya’s largest bank, open to the “bright future of cryptocurrencies”.

Inflated electricity bills are funding Bitcoin mining: According to reports from Kenya, months after the public protested against inflated electricity bills, news has arrived that these inflated bills were in fact not a mistake but an elaborate scheme to use electricity to mine cryptocurrencies and pin it on to the public. Credible sources have informed that 100,000 mining rigs were imported from Loof Lirpa in Eastern Europe into the country in one month last year. These mining rigs then became part of a mining network that is now being financed at electricity consumers’ cost. The matter may have flown under the radar due to general elections but Kenyans are reacting loudly to this covert mining operations.

 

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Weekly Crypto and Blockchain News Roundup: Africa, 19 to 26 March 2018

Africa

Welcome to our weekly roundup of all important blockchain and cryptocurrency news from around the world. Follow the latest developments in the cryptocurrency space continent by continent, country by country.

African Union Meets in Rwanda – African Union leader Ramaphosa has proposed Africa’s own cryptocurrency following Venezuela’s state coin. At a recent African Union meeting in Rwanda, where delegations of 44 nations participated, the idea was floated to sign a deal to establish an African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and a new currency similar to Euro but only digital. There are initial discussions going on regarding the new currency but it is unlikely that a consensus can be achieved in the near future.

Uganda

Africa’s young crypto enthusiasts are flocking to embrace Bitcoin and are incentivizing other people to get into the blockchain space. This is especially the case in Uganda where tech-savvy Africans are using Bitcoin for trading and long-term investments.

Bitcoin is also a new source of income for many of these new entrants in the blockchain space as the centralized economy is creating problems. The attitude of Uganda’s central bank is not encouraging for local traders as they have been warned against investing in Bitcoin as it “is taking a risk in the financial space where there is neither investor protection nor regulatory purview.”.

Kenya, Nigeria and Namibia

Kenya and Nigeria have voiced similar concerns while Namibia has banned cryptocurrencies altogether. But, overall the African countries are diverse with some taking an anti-Bitcoin stance while other more liberal economies looking to open new possibilities with the right kind of guidance and regulations. In the words of blockchain analyst Stephen Kaboyo, “it is not wise to dismiss cryptocurrencies at this stage”. Crypto enthusiasts are overall unfazed by the volatility of the market.

South Africa

Scam – In South Africa, a USD 50 million cryptocurrency scam was unearthed. A company named BTCGlobal was implicated in it and tens of thousands of African investors lost their investment, either fully or partly.

South Africans rode the cryptocurrency wave in the tens of thousands and many of them invested in BTCGlobal but it was uncovered to be a scam when CEO Steven Twain disappeared and site stopped payouts. Its guaranteed 14% weekly returns was a definite sign of scam but did not raise alarms for newcomers from the country.

CryptoKitties, that cute little game run entirely on the Ethereum blockchain, was received popularly by South Africans.

Hardware – Graphics card shortages in South Africa still abound as crypto miners are buying all the high-end GPUs, creating a demand and supply gap. NiceHash is one of the services that provided these GPUs to the public. Six card rigs are around 50,000 South African Rands (ZAR) – approximately USD 4,300 – mark right now and the goal was to buy as much hardware as they can. Some local businessmen even bought more than eight of these totalling  ZAR 300,000 (USD 26,000) . Such costly investments are not advisable, especially when possessing little or no understanding of cryptocurrencies.

Egypt

A report by the University of Toronto purports that the Egyptian government is secretly mining cryptocurrencies on its citizens’ computers. This follows a series of apparent moves by the incumbent Egyptian government to hijack computing resources and to “put them into good use”. According to the researchers, “this type of intrusion by a nation-state” is “the stuff of legends”.

A scheme called Adhose is being held responsible for the mining malware. The research found a staggering number of computers affected by Adhose in the African country. The infrastructure that is being used to enable this illegal mining effort also doubles up as a censorship tool.

The Egyptian government is in full crackdown mood against its citizens following the disruption of its electoral process. It blocks access to new sites like Aljazeera and NGOs like Human Rights Watch.

 

The post Weekly Crypto and Blockchain News Roundup: Africa, 19 to 26 March 2018 appeared first on BitcoinNews.com.

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The Growing Market For Bitcoin In Africa

The popularity of Bitcoin in Africa continues to grow, enabled by the presence of cryptocurrency exchange platforms. There are benefits to cryptocurrency ownership unique to the continent of Africa, many devolving from the widespread unstable economic conditions.

Owning and trading in cryptocurrencies is a trend on the rise in countries across the globe. The markets in the USA and Asia typically gain media traction, while the phenomena in Africa is left largely uncovered. While a large number of recognized exchanges don’t offer services in Africa, some recognize the significant marketplace that includes many Africans who do not have access to formal bank accounts.

One such platform is Paxful, which finds itself so popular in the region because of the multitude of ways cryptocurrencies can be purchased. The most popular way to buy currencies on the platform is in fact through iTunes gift cards. Africa holds two of the top three spots for countries using the Paxful platform, with the USA in the top spot followed by Nigeria, then Ghana. Paxful sees USD 40 million a month in buying and selling volume of Bitcoin in Africa.

What Bitcoin offers the region

In a continent racked by a history of economic insecurity, cryptocurrencies offer a way to hold assets safe from potential hyperinflation, with the possibility of substantial financial gains. The past two years have seen the Nigerian Naira (NGN) lose 90% of its value when compared to the USD and EUR, contrasting with the value of Bitcoin that increased 1,000% in 2017.

Nigeria applies limits of USD 100 per day on online purchases, so cryptocurrencies have become a popular way to circumvent these policies. However, the government of Nigeria is determinedly refuting the credibility of cryptocurrency usage, recently informing citizens to only patronize banking institutions that display the official governmental inscription in banking entrances and halls.

As well as the ability to avoid burdensome regulation, Bitcoin offers the chance for the African population to invest in ventures on an international scale. Through public token generation events or initial coin offerings, those living in Africa can invest in fintech start-ups using Bitcoin, for potentially huge gains. Rather than cutting off the region from cryptocurrency use such as the government of Nigeria is attempting, promotion of the industry could potentially benefit the local economy through profits reaped by local traders.

Globalization has arguably transpired at the cost of the African nation, which primarily exports raw materials rather than manufactured goods that hold the larger profit margin. Cryptocurrency is an opportunity for the citizens of Africa to enter the global marketplace, investing in entrepreneurial ventures on a scale previously inaccessible.

Although cryptocurrency isn’t a solution to all of Africa’s economic instabilities, it is a marketplace full of innovations that have the potential to diversify and better the economy of the continent.

 

 

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Emily Spaven – Kipochi Links Bitcoin With M-PESA

Emily Spaven – Kipochi Links Bitcoin With M-PESA:

Finance author Emily Spaven (@EmilySpaven) describes the launch of Kipochi (@KipochiPay), a Bitcoin wallet that provides interchange to and from M-PESA.  Excerpts:

“Kipochi has launched a product that allows people in Africa to send and receive bitcoins, plus convert them to and from the Kenyan currency M-Pesa.”

“Kipochi works on all mobile phones as it has SMS, USSD and HTML5 frontends, so there is no requirement for users to have the most up-to-date handsets.”

“Pelle Braendgaard, co-founder of Kipochi [said that] M-Pesa has been around in Kenya for years now, so mobile money is a part of everyday life in the country, which means it will be easy for Kenyans to accept digital currency as the choice for international payments.”

“Kipochi’s goal is to make it easier for people in these [communities of expatriates from Kenya and foreigners living and working in Kenya] to send and receive funds through the bitcoin network.”

“LocalBitcoins.com has also recently turned its attention to M-Pesa, making this option available to traders in Kenya and Tanzania.”

“‘The [tens of thousands of] M-Pesa agents are the target market of LocalBitcoins.com as well,’” [explained  founder Jeremias Kangas].”

 – http://bit.ly/15bcWnr
 – http://www.Kipochi.com
 – http://bit.ly/132zNi5 (Further discussion of Kipochi)

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