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38% of South Africans Polled Regret Missing Early Bitcoin Uptake

A recent poll in South Africa on awareness and attitudes towards cryptocurrency has shown that 38% of respondents wished that they had invested in digital currency before, writes Cointelegraph.

The poll was conducted by Pan-African financial services company Old Mutual Limited. The annual Savings and Investment Monitor survey for South Africa revealed that in general, South Africans were currently largely positive about cryptocurrencies.

Along with 38% of people responding positively to the statement “I wish I had invested in [crypto] before”, another statement, “You can make a lot of money with them”, received a huge 71% agreement from the public.

The statement “They are bad news, like a pyramid scheme” seemed to resonate with 43% of respondents, while 53% had no idea how digital currencies actually worked.

Overall, and clearly important for the development of cryptocurrency in the region, according to the poll, more South Africans were unaware of the industry than those who were, with a 60/40 split.

As Bitcoin News reported recently, South Africa is developing its cryptocurrency space. The South African Reserve Bank has recently taken steps to introduce a new non-state self-regulatory body (SRO) aimed at overseeing further developments in the industry. Further to that, the SARB has announced that it wants to build a proof-of-concept wholesale payment system for interbank settlement using a South African rand token on DLT.

Europeans, according to recent statistics, are reported to be far more familiar with cryptocurrencies and take up in some countries such as Switzerland and the UK is significant. A recent ING survey suggested that 66% of Europeans were familiar with crypto and 33%, when prompted, saw it as the future of online spending. The awareness rate was found to be lower in the US with only 57% of respondents having heard of cryptocurrencies.

 

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South African Online Trading Platform Purple Group Opens up to Cryptocurrency

Purple Group Limited, a company listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE), has announced that it will add Bitcoin and Ethereum to its trading platform, writes Live Bitcoin News.

Users will now be able to buy the two major cryptocurrencies or open short positions using South African rand. Commentators have suggested that the move was unexpected given that the online trading platform has been successful over time without choosing to deal in cryptocurrencies.

Despite the recent downtrend in crypto markets, clients of Purple Group have reportedly expressed an interest in trading in both Bitcoin and Ethereum over the past few months, leading to the firm deciding to make the digital currencies available.

Cryptocurrencies remain of great interest to existing financial service providers, and this latest move reflects the current trend towards cryptocurrency in South Africa this year, with other banks now looking at their options and considering their next moves. The First National Bank itself is exploring is in a similar position, although major banks becoming involved in crypto trading is still far from becoming a reality at present.

South Africa offers relatively easy crypto trading of Bitcoin and Ethereum with local exchanges offering a variety of services with even international brokerage houses offering access to a range of cryptocurrencies.

It’s been suggested that shorting cryptocurrencies, as Purple Group are planning to do, may lead to further market volatility, with Bitcoin futures supposedly adding to Bitcoin’s drop in value in 2018, although this supposition hasn’t actually been tested.

Purple Group trading specialist Barry Dumas suggests that crypto markets will stabilize given clients’ growing familiarity with the market. In April of this year, the South African Central Reserve Bank announced moves towards overseeing cryptocurrency and fintech developments in the country, suggesting rather than taking prohibitive regulatory measures, it would introduce an investigative unit which would promote growth and innovation.

 

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Africa and the Middle East: Crypto and Blockchain News Roundup, 5th to 12th July 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.

African Union

Single digital currency discussed in Transform Africa summit: The latest summit Transform Africa once again discussed the idea of a single African digital currency, according to CNBC Africa.

This year’s event in Kigali attracted political, economic and industry leaders from across the continent and many topics were in discussion. However, much of the conversation revolved around the use of blockchain technology, cryptocurrencies and a possible African economic union that would enhance connectivity.

South Africa

South Africans still believe in crypto despite major price decline: According to a recent survey by Savings and Investment Monitor 2018, many South Africans interested in cryptocurrencies still believe that investing in cryptocurrencies will reap benefits and profits for them.

The report involved more than 1,000 face-to-face interactions lasting one month from 26 April to 26 May 2018. While a majority of the respondents were not knowledgeable about cryptocurrencies, the 4% who knew about the cryptocurrency space were optimistic about the future growth of the cryptocurrency space.

More than 71% of the respondents said that it was possible to make money from cryptocurrencies despite major price tanks since the start of the calendar year.

Bitcoin ransom rumors arise in kidnapping case: Rumors regarding cryptocurrency-based ransom have started circulating around a recent kidnapping in Cape Town according to latest reports from local TV sources.

News24 reported that a local man Liyaqat Parker was kidnapped from his business in Parow and rumors have started circulating in the neighborhood that there was a cryptocurrency-based ransom involved. The police have declined to comment on the matter.

A spokesperson for the Cape Town Police said:

“This case is also investigated by our provincial detectives. Please bear with us as we cannot divulge details of the investigation that has yet to be presented before a court of law.”

Nigeria

Entrepreneurs choosing crypto over national currency: An increasing number of Nigerian entrepreneurs are using cryptocurrencies rather than the national currency Naira.

Cryptocurrencies are increasingly drawing battle lines with local fiat currencies in a battle for relevance as they present P2P transactions, lower fees, an alternative to inflation and fast transaction times. The Naira has been losing its value for some time just like many other local currencies across the continent. To offset this huge inflation issue, Nigerians are increasingly turning towards cryptocurrencies as a safer bet. Retailers, importers and engineers are using cryptocurrencies to make and receive payments.

Dash continues expansion in Nigeria: Use of cryptocurrency Dash is growing rapidly in Nigeria. Dash Africa’s mobile refill project called Bitrefill.com has released mobile data showing that an increasing number of Nigerian users are using cryptocurrencies like Dash to buy mobile minutes across the country.

Nigeria, the biggest economy in Africa, was obviously the forerunner in the stats as the Dash’s service got 111 orders from 59 unique numbers with a total purchase of over EUR 191. Nigeria had even bigger purchase limits than Germany. Dash is now working to increase the wider appeal of cryptocurrencies and is offering a 10% discount if users use the Dash-based service.

Zimbabwe

Reserve bank studying blockchain implementation: The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe is pursuing its acquired interest in blockchain technology according to local media outlet NewsDay.

The current RBZ governor John Mangudya said that the bank is looking to embrace the technology citing similar moves by banks in China, US, UK and South Africa who have been studying blockchain technology and its uses.

He said:

“I did not say cryptocurrencies because it is lower than blockchain. Blockchain encompasses all the cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin… and we are saying we are putting in motion studies, ways and means of investigating that blockchain technology.”

Israel

Crypto platform hacked, resulting in $24 million losses: Bancor, an Israeli crypto company, saw the biggest hack in the past several weeks as more than USD 23.5 million worth of cryptocurrencies were stolen from its wallets.

The combined Swiss-Israeli company raised over USD 150 million last year in an ICO and the services it was offering included a built-in exchange service. The company said in a statement that “a wallet used to upgrade some smart contracts was compromised”.

Bancor has subsequently frozen its native BNT token and is communicating with a number of exchanges to stop the liquidation of the stolen coins.

 

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ACTAI Global’s 4th Annual Blockchain Summit: Saving the Planet (A Bit at a Time)

As reported by Bitcoin News this week, Sir Richard Branston is hosting this year’s ACTAI Global’s Fourth Annual Blockchain Summit in Marrakesh, with sustainability on the agenda.

Reputedly some of the brightest minds in the blockchain space are assembled at the Kasbah Tamadot in Marrakesh to discuss how to use blockchain to impact issues that will change lives, according to Forbes.

With the Atlas mountains as a backdrop, Bill Tai of the Bitfury Group and the man who conceptualized the Blockchain Summit four years ago sees the location as totally appropriate. Bitfury’s CEO Valery Vavilov said:

“These regions are cradles of innovation, home to communities with the ambition and perspective to solve some of the oldest (and newest) challenges facing our world today… Working together, we have one goal — to bring global leaders from every sector to the table to speak openly about our greatest challenges and take meaningful steps to fix them.”

Vavilov explained that he saw blockchain as very much part of that scenario. A panel titled ‘Saving the Planet (A Bit at a Time)’ presented sustainable chains to solve one of the region’s burning issues: how to achieve transparency so consumers can base purchasing choices on accurate facts about a given product.

Gigi Brisson, founder and CEO of Ocean Elders explained the problem with the current status quo:

“As a consumer, I can see who fished that fish, where they got it, if it was reported, if it was legal. As a consumer, I can start supporting those companies and those people I want to support… I can support the products and companies that I feel good about. It’s the transparency that is missing.”

Another sustainability topic discussed at the desert setting was renewable energy and carbon credit trading with Power Ledger advisor Maria Atkinson explaining that buildings represent a massive greenhouse gas footprint with 40% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. One proposed solution to this problem was to connect buildings power supplies via the blockchain and enable trading between buildings.

Carbon crediting was also discussed and how blockchain could be used to track the credits efficiently. Similar projects are underway in California’s biggest multi-story car park in amalgamation with Silicon Valley Power.

While at the summit, Tai also announced his initiative called Barking Dog to assist national governments with land recognition.

Ingenious ways to tackle carbon crediting are out there. In Australia, feral camels have become an environmental problem according to The Telegraph. States have decided to tackle two problems in one; too many camels and too many emissions.

The animals supposedly belch out a ton of methane annually, so NorthWest Carbon, a carbon trading company, has allocated carbon credits for widespread camel culling to take place. The company has argued that the plan to cull the camels and feed them to crocodiles would benefit the Outback while helping to save the planet.

 

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Live At The Kasbah: Richard Branston Hosts Marrakesh Blockchain Summit

British business entrepreneur and founder of Virgin is now to host a major blockchain summit at his home in Marrakesh, writes Forbes.

The summit is normally held at Branston’s personal offshore home on Necker Island in the British Virgin Islands. However, it was devastated by last year’s Category Five storms which tore through the island, destroying numerous private residences.

In view of this, an alternative location needed to be found for the high-profile conference, which was responsible for the forming of the Blockchain Alliance which now includes 36 government agencies and the Global Blockchain Business Council, with members from 35 countries.

This year, the founder of the annual event, investor Bill Tai, announced that the event would be held at Branston’s Kasbah Tamadot in Marrakesh, Morocco, with eminent guests Google co-founder Sergey Brin and Kenya cabinet secretary Joseph Mucheru, along with 30 speakers. Building blockchain in Africa is reported to be the central focus of this year’s conference.

Tai commented:

“The whole continent is a bit of an unknown to a lot of folks because they just don’t get much exposure to it, I think getting a lot of people together that are knowledgeable, with reach, and high profile, that collectively can form a view about what are the opportunities at hand can both serve philanthropic and commercial interests.”

Blockchain in Africa is developing slowly but surely. Ghana-based Bitland and Kenya-based Land Layby are working to use blockchain to create formally-recognized infrastructures for proving land ownership, and the technology is increasingly being used in logistics to track goods from growth to table. Many small businesses are getting much-needed support from NGOs and private companies integrating blockchain projects into a range of sectors across the continent.

Tai has his own project in mind which he says he is due to announce, called Barking Dog. The project is reportedly designed to help governments without land titling in place to use blockchain to assure citizens and governments of their rights to land and, once established, to tokenize the assets.

The World Economic Forum estimates that 90% of Africa’s land is “completely” undocumented and Tia maintains blockchain could become a major factor in effecting the necessary changes to the status quo.

 

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Nigeria’s Poor Turn to Crypto Bounty Hunting

Bounty hunting platforms are showing that cryptocurrencies are offering a way out of poverty for some, writes Coindesk.

A bounty is a simple task or job created by a coin developer that you carry out to earn coins or tokens, usually before and during an initial coin offering (ICO). The main areas are typically Tweeting about the project, posting on Facebook, creating blog posts, designing a logo for the coin, or participating in a forum with the logo signature. These are essential jobs for the coin developer to promote their coin during the ICO stage to fund their ambitions.

As Bitcoin News reported recently, such work is offering opportunities to some that wouldn’t have considered becoming involved in the cryptocurrency industry, illustrated by women in Afghanistan now learning to write code for a bounty posting network for Ether payments.

Such sites are becoming far more visible on the net and for some, in dire circumstances, the opportunity to work for these has become a lifeline, joining companies such as Bounty0x, which now has 30,000 active bounty hunters.

Nigerian ‘Crypto Shaolin’ is one of those who has profited from the opportunity to create a new life for himself through the cryptocurrency space. He claims his life has improved, despite the recent downturn in market prices.

Shaolin’s was a soft drink seller following tourists to Africa with his box of iced soft drinks until he came upon a tourist who suggested there might be a better way of getting ahead. The rest for him is history.

Bounty0x CMO Pascal Thellmann explains:

“People in low-income countries are often excluded from global freelancing marketplaces due to a lack of formal education and banking requirements… hunters… can complete micro-tasks like retweeting a tweet or writing a review for a product, in exchange for a couple dollars in crypto.”

However, opportunities are not simply limited to working for companies such as Bounty0x, as Nigerian writer Ayobami Abiola illustrates. He claims he’s making far more money now writing by completing “bounties like article writing, posting on Reddit, Facebook like and share, Bitcoin Talk [forum] comments and joining Telegram groups for many projects”.

Crypto Shaolin is happy. He claims he’s now made USD 1,000 by collecting bounties in 2018 alone, which may not sound like a significant sum, but it’s reported to be double what most Nigerians earn in a year, with the number of Nigerians in extreme poverty increased by six people every minute.

 

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Dip in South African Economy Sees Rand Down and Rise in Bitcoin Trading

The South African economy is struggling with the Rand at a six-month low, but bitcoin continues to gain popularity with investors, writes bitcoinist.com.

In April of this year, the South African Central Reserve Bank (SARB) announced moves towards overseeing cryptocurrency and fintech developments in the country, suggesting rather than taking prohibitive regulatory measures, it would introduce an investigative unit which would promote growth and innovation. The South African Revenue Service also announced a new framework for cryptocurrency taxes.

As a result, cryptocurrency adoption has started growing in the region. AsiaCrypto puts Bitcoin’s continued popularity in South Africa down to the fact that some of the country’s larger asset holders are moving into crypto. “Bitcoin” is now reported to be the trending term on SA Google search.

Other factors according to AsiaCrypto is that South Africa actually benefited from the recent dip in crypto prices during 2018, as this has enabled the creation of new startup businesses. The struggling economy has also aided Bitcoin’s rise in popularity as massive selloffs in the financial market due to the Rand losing value has pushed some investors towards alternative markets, with cryptocurrency becoming a viable choice.

A recent survey conducted in South Africa maintained that one in four respondents confirmed they plan to invest in cryptocurrency in the future, and another 15% said that they would invest in mining equipment. Although, warnings of electricity hikes of up to 50% in the near future may well dampen the enthusiasm of prospective bitcoin miners.

Apart from a recent ATM being installed in Johannesburg, the cryptocurrency community has access to exchanges such as Luno and Paxful who are reportedly doing a healthy trade in Bitcoin with other pairs available. Also, the platform Coindirect enables users to buy and sell Litecoin, Bitcoin Cash, and Ripple.

A new trading platform is scheduled to be opened later this year by asset management company Sygnia.

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Crunch Time for Crypto in Kenya as Legal Status Deadline Looms

Kenya’s Treasury Secretary Henry Rotich reportedly has two weeks make a decision regarding cryptocurrencies’ future as legal tender, according to Coingape.

Since 2015, the status of digital currencies in the African nation has been tenuous, with both the central bank and the government taking a prohibitive stance, the latter sending circulars to banks to warn them of the dangers of becoming involved with cryptocurrencies. The outcome of years of indecision regarding cryptocurrency legislation has unintentionally created a vibrant market, largely ignored by the government… until now. The circular warns banks to keep away:

“The purpose of this circular therefore is to caution all institutions against dealing in virtual currencies or transacting with entities that are engaged in virtual currencies. You are advised not to open accounts for any person dealing in virtual currencies such as Bitcoin. Failure to comply with this directive will lead to appropriate remedial action from the Central Bank.”

It wasn’t until May of this year until any concrete measures were proposed in order to legislate the space with the idea of a special unit. The Capital Markets Authority (CMA) in Nairobi, Kenya proposed the creation of a unit to handle cryptocurrency related issues, which would include the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) although it remains unclear what, if anything, has materialized from the proposal.

Despite the announcement, it appears that Kenya has met with strong resistance from banks to legalizing digital currencies despite positive positions taken by legislators regarding blockchain technology.

The Kenyan Parliament now wants Secretary Rotich to explain why trade in Bitcoin and other virtual currencies have continued to take place without legislation over time. The Finance and National Planning Committee’s Chair Joseph Limo recently called for explanations.

“We are surprised to hear that even the CBK is not aware that there is a lounge at Kenyatta University, an ATM in town, and a hotel in Nyeri which trade in Bitcoins. There is a bigger problem in Kenya since people are trading billions in virtual space yet the Treasury has not licensed and taxed it…”, said Limo.

Rotich explained to MPs that discussions were ongoing globally regarding minimizing risks due to cryptocurrency misuse and money laundering, while Kenya’s government was still considering its own options. He stressed the instability of digital currencies, speaking of maintaining a “delicate balance between supporting innovation and killing it”, also adding he wasn’t aware of exchanges operating locally.

The black market in cryptocurrencies is actually vibrant in the country despite the Treasury Secretary’s claims. As Michael Kimani, Chairman of the Blockchain Association of Kenya, explains, lack of legislation has led to this market which many locals profit from because of Kenya’s somewhat simple definition of what it regards as “currency”.

Under the Central Bank of Kenya Act, Chapter 491:

  1. “Currency” is defined as the currency of Kenya or foreign currency;
  2. “Currency of Kenya” means banks, notes and coins issued by the Bank under section 22(1); and
  3. “Foreign currency” means bank notes or coins which are or have at any time been legal tender in any territory outside Kenya.

The loophole for cryptocurrencies in Kenya is that there is no existing definition which would enable them to find a place in law under the central bank’s guidelines. Kimani clarifies the governments’ problem:

“Virtual currencies fall of short of these antiquated definitions of currencies. They are digital representations of value that are not issued by a central bank, public authority and not necessarily pegged to units of domestic or foreign currencies. Often, they are denominated in their own units of account and have no physical paper equivalent.”

 

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Bitcoin Tech Supporting and Educating Small Farmers Worldwide

Bitcoin’s underlying technology blockchain is beginning to have an impact in supporting farmers and smallholders around the world, writes the BBC.

The Olam Farming Information System (OFIS), not to be confused with the EU body The Organic Farming Information System (OFIS), is an organization which offers transparency for small farmers in 21 countries around the world.

With 100,000 small hold farmers now registered with OFIS across Asia, Africa, and South America, the organization has developed a system which allows easy access and information sorting for the user to get to know more about the farming communities who supply their ingredients.

By using blockchain technology, OFIS collects the relevant data in order to recommend how individual farmers can increase their yields and track their products and trade online. A good illustration of how the project supports the small farmer selling such crops as cocoa, coffee, and rubber, while also often living at subsistence level, is Muhammed Adams, a cocoa farmer from a remote region of Ghana.

Adams from Sefwi Madina had been growing his crops in the same way for the past 25 years until he was able to tap into the OFIS system which has not only enabled him to triple his output but also helped to reduce his reliance on chemical pesticides.

Now, by using apps for text messaging and digital payments, smallholders are for the first time able to use banking services and microloans. Adams can now use the apps blockchain tech to deal directly with advisers, learning that chemicals aren’t the only solution to dealing with diseased crops.

As OFIS states on its website, support for such farmers has been exhaustive in the past as field staff have had to painstakingly collect data using pen and paper, limiting use and scalability, but not now with new mobile technology.

Christian Ferri, chief executive of BlockStar, a blockchain investment adviser, says “there are endless possibilities“, but the technologies required might be beyond the reach of some farmers, adding that “the good news is that I believe we will see the cost of these technologies decrease as adoption spreads”.

Blockchain-related technologies are not simply limited to farmers in developing countries. In the highly developed UK farming community, digital mobile technologies can support small farmers there too, such as Rowie Meers, who runs Purton House Organics, in Swindon discovered.

“Supermarkets are continuously driving prices down, causing many smaller farms to go out of business,” said Meers.

She is now linked directly to the farmers that supply her through mobile tech, thus achieving 70% of the retail price, twice the amount she would expect from supermarkets.

 

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South African Central Bank Ethereum Blockchain Tests Successful

The South African Reserve Bank (SARB) has just completed a multi-bank testing of bank-to-bank transfers using blockchain.

South Africa’s central bank has been testing the Ethereum based platform Quorum in collaboration with eight banks including SARB, Absa, Capitec, Discovery, Investec, FirstRand, Nedbank, and Standard Bank.

The program, called Project Khoka spread over 14 weeks, conducted tests which replicated transactions normally handled by the South African Multiple Gross Operation Settlement System (SAMOS), rather than handling actual transactions.  The project was aimed at proving that a DLT based program might be able to replicate SAMOS which can handle 70,000 daily transfers in two hours.

Project Khoka successfully used public cloud servers offered by Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services to add power needed for the transaction verifications.  SARB was happy with the outcome of the tests and claimed that the Quorum blockchain handled the transfers with “scalability, resilience, confidentiality, and finality.” The SARB post-test report stated:

“Both the process, as well as the outcome of the project, contribute to the SARB’s goals. The decision was made to assess the use case for DLT in wholesale payments and interbank settlement and thus build on and extend the work done in other parts of the world.”

SARB suggested that more testing would be required before DLT is suitable for such interbank settlements as exhibited in the trial, and if proven satisfactory for bank use would most probably be utilized as a backup system, rather than actually replacing its current system, according to Francois E. Groepe, SARB’s Deputy Governor.

Banks are increasingly testing DLT for interbank settlements around the world, some aiming to use blockchain in order to update outmoded systems. Recently the Bank of England announced that it was rebuilding its Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGS) system to work with DLT. The announcement came after BoE Governor Mark Carney commented that private business and platforms need to be able to work with the bank’s own RTGS system.

RTGS is a system generally used to transfer large volumes of funds between banks.

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