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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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“Bitcoin Has Matured”: Meni Rosenfeld On Bitcoin In Israel

Chairman of the Israeli Bitcoin Association (IBA) Meni Rosenfeld said that “Bitcoin has matured” during an interview at the Blockchain & Bitcoin Conference in Israel. He discussed the progress of bitcoin in Israel, and his role in its progression.

Meni’s role in the IBA

Meni was questioned on his role as chair of the IBA, and the goals the association hopes to achieve. He described his role as entailing ”discussion with government to further appropriate regulation, handling the press, holding events, publishing educational material, nurturing the community, and acting as a hub to facilitate collaboration between different entities”.

He noted the goal of the IBA is to maximize the benefits for Israelis participating in the Bitcoin and blockchain economy. He acknowledged that the main barrier to promote further adoption is lack of regulatory clarity. Considering an estimated nearly 1% of Israelis have some form of Bitcoin holdings, this is a major focus of the association.

Bitcoin in Israel

Meni stressed that the 1% figure was speculative. The interview discussed the approximately 100 businesses in Israel that accept Bitcoin, acknowledging, however, that most of these don’t get a lot of Bitcoin-paying customers as most prefer to hoard their holdings.

As the local community of the IBA grew, Meni believed that there was less of an importance in interacting with other Bitcoin associations. He reasoned this because, as ”Bitcoin has matured… the challenges [Israel] are facing have become more unique”.

The impact of blockchain on the banking sector

The mantra on the Israeli banking circuit according to Meni is “blockchain, not Bitcoin”, though he claims this is espoused without a real understanding of its meaning. The banks have a reportedly hostile attitude towards cryptocurrencies, frequently refusing to allow transfers relating to Bitcoin trade. Meni suggested that this issue was worse in Israel than anywhere else in the world.

As the Israeli banks come to terms with the competition that cryptocurrencies pose, some of the banking services they offer are becoming less relevant. But as Meni noted, ”it is not clear if their aversion to Bitcoin is due to fear of competition, or due to legitimate (yet unfounded) concern for money laundering risks”.

The banks have not incorporated any Bitcoin-related services into their technological offerings.

The conference took place on 28 March 2018. Sixteen countries have previously hosted the Blockchain & Bitcoin Conferences since Smile-Expo began hosting them in 2014.

 

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