Category Archives: Middle East

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US Financial Crimes Agency Condemns Iran for Use of Crypto to Avoid Sanctions

A US financial crimes regulator has condemned the use of cryptocurrencies by Iran as a way of bypassing economic sanctions, encouraging institutions and US-based exchanges to avoid dealing with the nation.

The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) has urged domestic cryptocurrency exchanges to be aware of Iranians using cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin, to circumvent US economic sanctions against the country.

FinCEN’s advisory report published Friday estimates that since 2013, Iran has hosted USD 3.8 million in Bitcoin transactions, with this coming in domestic peer-to-peer (P2P) and exchange transactions alongside third-party countries such as the US. The report advises institutions to use the technology available to monitor open blockchains and investigate ledgers to see if any transactions originate or terminate in Iran.

Despite the relatively low levels of cryptocurrency adoption in the middle eastern nation, Iran’s utilization of cryptocurrency is described as “illicit and malign” in its attempts to ”exploit” the financial system and provide a method of avoiding sanctions.

US-based exchanges were warned of their obligations under the Bank Secrecy Act that require ”appropriate systems” for preventing the facilitation of transactions that may oppose sanction requirements.

Sanctions against Iran were reinstated under President Donald Trump earlier this year when he withdrew the US from the Iran nuclear deal.

Last month, Bitcoin News caught up with IranbyBit, a travel startup that offers its services in Bitcoin, indeed as a way to avoid financial restrictions.

As founder Setare Shabanipour sees it, the more foreigners visit the country, the more likely it is that cynical perceptions of the country will dissipate: ”They can decide for themselves about the country and this can lead to a change of attitude toward Iranians in global communities and markets.”

While US sanctions against Iran are an attempt to target the government in a negative capacity, it cannot be helped that they also harm the whole economy and individual people themselves. Both asset freezes and trade embargoes have taken a serious toll on the Iranian economy and the people.

Shabanipour believes that by promoting Iran as a travel destination, she can help provide part of a solution: “It is inevitable that cultural bridges will form among foreign and local cultures. Such a flourishing market will result in attracting investment and building up more tourism infrastructures in Iran.”

 

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Africa and the Middle East: Crypto and Blockchain News Roundup, 5th to 11th October 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

Crypto regulation rising in many AU countries: Cryptocurrency regulation is being pursued more and more rigorously by the African governments in recent times as they set to curtail the powers of decentralization and borderless options advocated by cryptocurrencies.

Zimbabwe is an interesting case study as the official policy flip-flopped between deregulating and over-regulating the industry. Kenya is also considering placing more regulations on the industry. Other countries like Uganda, Nigeria, Rwanda and Ghana have shown openness in cryptocurrency adoption but they are also planning regulation in the near future.

South Africa

Crypto investors urged to be responsible: With the increase in the number of cryptocurrency investors in South Africa, the investor community is being urged to be responsible by international family office Stonehage Fleming.

Eran Brill, Director of Stonehage’s Investment Management division in South Africa has urged all the investors to give their beneficiaries a full picture of their holdings because in the event of their death, they will have a hard time accessing these assets. He also outlined several ways in which this can be achieved without comprising the security of the wallets and exchange accounts.

Nigeria

Firm launches anti-fraud blockchain: A london-based firm has launched an anti-fraudulent blockchain network partnership with KAD ICT Hub based in Kaduna in Nigeria.

The main purposes of the partnership are microfinance and financial inclusion for tens of millions of Nigerians who do not have access to basic banking services. The move is part of a bigger initiative called Africa Blockchain Lab that was opened back in August 2018.

The anti-fraud network uses Confirm’s AMLT network to investigate suspicious cryptocurrency addresses. The anti-fraud option is important for Africa because many investors and public are inexperienced in cryptocurrency and financial matters.

Zimbabwe

WhatsApp trading hitting record levels: While governments are taking hard measures against cryptocurrencies, cryptocurrency trading in African countries like Zimbabwe are hitting new highs thanks to unconventional means of trading like the popular messaging app WhatsApp.

Zimbabwe is one of the unfortunate countries suffering from hyperinflation and many citizens are turning to cryptocurrencies to help circumnavigate the rampant inflation in the country. A recent insight into the cryptocurrency trading scene based on WhatsApp reveals trading agents using groups and private chats to connect sellers and buyers of Bitcoin. They charge a 5% commission for each trade for their services.

WhatsApp circles saw increased trading after the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe banned two of the biggest cryptocurrency exchanges operating in the country: Golix and Styx24.

Israel

Government may lower crypto taxes: The Israeli government may just lower cryptocurrency taxation in the country by 50% after months of hostility towards cryptocurrencies.

The announcement was made by the deputy director general for Israel Tax Authority Roland Am-Shalem and it said that it will not insist in calculating FIFO for taxation of cryptocurrencies.

This is finally some good news for cryptocurrency traders in Israel who have suffered due to lack of official recognition of cryptocurrencies in recent times.

United Arab Emirates

Government announces securities status for crypto, plans ICO legalization by 2019: The UAE government is working to legalize initial coin offerings (ICOs) by 2019 and has declared cryptocurrencies to be a form of securities. The latest pro-crypto move is to increase blockchain-related investment in the country and attract DLT-based businesses.

According to the country’s Securities and Commodities Authority (SCA), Obaid Said Al-Zaabi, head of the top regulator said:

“The board of the Emirates Securities & Commodities Authority has approved considering ICOs as securities. As per our plan, we should have regulations on the ground in the first half of 2019.”

However, the utility-security conundrum of cryptocurrencies has not been addressed fully as of yet.

 

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Northern Syria’s Rojava Seeks Increased Autonomy via Crypto, Blockchain

The Democratic Federation of Northern Syria (DFNS), commonly identified as Rojava, is looking to adopt cryptocurrency and blockchain technology in a bid to further its struggle for self-determination and sovereignty.

Rojava gained de facto autonomy from Syria in 2012 during the early stages of the Syrian Civil War when government forces withdrew from three areas that now form the DFNS. Although the autonomous region is not recognized by any international state or organization, it has been self-governing has been acknowledged by many.

The war continues to this day and tensions between Rojava and Syria remain high. This has resulted in economic sanctions on Rojava from its neighbors Syria, Turkey, Iraq and Iran. The cost of conducting international business is high due to these sanctions, especially as Rojava is using the Syrian pound (SYP), the fiat currency of a country which it has been at war with for years.

There is obvious discontent in Rojava that the SYP is operational, not least because of the cost of its fight for independence. A leader of Rojava’s Technological Development Program, Erselan Serdem, says, “We do not like to depend on the Syrian government money, which is state money, we want to trade our own cryptocurrency.”

Compounding the matter is SYP’s devaluation, from SYP 47 to a US dollar when the war broke out in 2011, to SYP 515 per USD as of 11 October 2018. Both Rojava and Syria have faced severe economic disruption due to this inflation. Rojava reportedly spends significant sums of money processing fiat currency and locals have to use large amounts of cash to secure trades.

A remedy in crypto

Amir Taaki, a Bitcoin developer who was famously involved in the Syrian Civil War, suggests that local currency exchanges be supplied with Bitcoin, and residents of Rojava be supplied with mobile phones and wallet software. He believes this would free them from using the constantly deflating SYP and provide a means to circumvent sanctions. Taaki says, “The cost of making a transaction with Istanbul is currently 10!. We believe that with cryptocurrency we can make this 2% globally, not just with Istanbul”.

Providing everyone with mobile phones might be overly ambitious, and Taaki suggests paper notes pegged to crypto might be an ideal solution. He says, “Not everybody has mobile phones, so we see research into paper currency as an important project.”

Aside from using Bitcoin as an overall national currency in Rojava, there is some potential for local cryptocurrencies to be developed. Rojava’s economy and society functions on cooperatives such as farming, healthcare, and media and arts. Taaki thinks local cryptos can be developed for these cooperatives, saying, “The cooperatives can trade with each other based on currencies that are pegged to a basket of goods, or just free floating in the market.”

Blockchain technology itself is also on Rojava’s radar, to create a transparent and secure democratic system. Serdem says, “With technologies like blockchain we can have a system, like a network, between all the communes we’re going to create in the future. With the base of the blockchain we can create a process of self administration. We can distribute all the roles in the society.”

 

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UAE Plans ICOs for Corporate Fundraising as Oil Price Slumps

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is going ahead with its plans to use initial coin offerings (ICOs) for fundraising local startups in the new year to help boost financing in capital markets.

If successful, the UAE could become one of just a few countries in the world to implement a regulatory framework around ICOs and cryptocurrencies. To create this environment, the UAE has stated that domestic companies will be legally able to fundraise using ICOs next year, alongside traditional IPOs. To facilitate this, legislation will deem ICOs as securities in a draft to be enacted early in 2019.

Last year Abu Dhabi issued guidelines on cryptocurrencies and ICOs, regulating the latter as “securities”. Cryptocurrencies are considered commodities by the government of Abu Dhabi but are not legal tender. The move to introduce ICOs was confirmed by UAE securities market watchdog chief Omar Saif al-Zaabi who commented:

“The board of the Emirates Securities & Commodities Authority [ESCA] has approved considering ICOs as securities. As per our plan, we should have regulations on the ground in the first half of 2019.”

IPO performance has been significantly weakened over the past two years by a number of economic factors, including low oil prices and a weak equity market in the Gulf as a whole. In order to stem the tide, a new law is being brought into legislation which now will permit family-owned businesses to sell a majority of even 100% stakes in their companies with IPOs. Also, in a radical move for the region, it is suggested that there should be a mandated 20% of women on company boards, in the hope to attract more female investors.

The ESCA has sought help from overseas to implement their new plans and draft the new ICO regulations; its next task will be to develop crypto platforms to support the launches with support from both the Abu Dhabi and Dubai stock markets.

In other news from the Gulf, it was announced yesterday that Dubai residents will soon be able to pay for school fees, bills and some retail purchases using emCash, a state-developed blockchain crypto, which the government hopes will have wider applications in the future. A spokesperson for the state-backed subsidiary, emCredit, stated:

“To be the world’s first city to offer blockchain-based payment solutions to our residents is an exciting moment for Dubai… Deploying cutting-edge technology such as blockchain is a key priority and is delivering benefits to our citizens in the form of convenience and securities to customers and merchants across Dubai.”

The project was initiated by Dubai Department of Economic Development.

 

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Africa and the Middle East: Crypto and Blockchain News Roundup, 28th September to 4th October 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.

Uganda

Ugandan prince partners with blockchain wallet company: Prince Kudra of the Ugandan territory of Buganda is reportedly partnering with cryptocurrency wallet company CleanPath Emerging Markets (CPEM) and the Ugandan Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development to create a new payment infrastructure project in the country.

The project will be launched through South African startup Wala and its native token DALA will fuel the system. Energy customers are expected to pay, borrow, receive and transact using the decentralized system using DALA tokens.

Kenya

Nairobi professor advises government to move to tokenized economy: A Nairobi-based associate professor has advised the government to tokenize the entire economy.

Dr Bitange Ndemo is one of the strongest advocates of blockchain technology in the country. He told local newspaper The Star:

“We must begin to tokenize the economy by giving incentives to young people to do things which they are paid through tokens that can be converted to fiat currency.”

Ndemo is a doctorate in Industrial Economics from University of Sheffield and and also an MBA from St Thomas, Minnesota. He has also worked with the government as secretary of the Ministry of Information before eventually quitting to work in the academic field.

Turkey

Istanbul to host Blockchain Economy Summit: The first Blockchain Economy Istanbul Summit will take place in Turkey this year from 20 February 2019. The meeting will be the biggest of its kind in the region and various issues related to blockchain and cryptocurrency will be discussed.

Turkey is becoming a popular destination of cryptocurrency and blockchain projects because of its focus on alternative technologies. Over 5,000 attendees are expected to attend the event from over 20 countries. In addition, some 10,000 people are believed to be planning to attend.

Israel

Israel securities regulator to use blockchain for secure internal messaging: The Israeli Securities Authority (ISA) has announced that it has implemented a decentralized ledger technology to secure its internal messaging systems.

The government agency does sensitive work and is involved in regulatory efforts for capital markets and securities. The new blockchain system has been named Yael, according to the Times of Israel, and was done to ensure the credibility of information in the body’s jurisdiction.

The ISA said: “The technology verifies the messages’ authenticity, prevents fraud, and prevents them from being edited or deleted. Additionally, the system prevents the option of denying that a message was received from the ISA.”

Blockchain company Taldor has been employed to complete the integration of the messaging service by the agency. Israel is one the most forward-thinking countries in the world in blockchain technology but it is facing issues in adopting cryptocurrencies as the government is in a fix regarding its adoption.

United Arab Emirates

UAE to regulate crypto as securities: The Chairman of the Securities and Commodities Authority (SCA) Sultan Bin Saeel Al Mansouri has recently said that the SCA has approved a plan to recognize the legality of cryptocurrencies by designating them as securities. The SCA is also in the process of proposing a framework to regulate cryptocurrencies in the country including ICOs, exchanges and other blockchain projects.

While the move was welcomed by the crypto community, there is still some confusion regarding the matter as the agency had previously indicated that it will not regulate or recognize ICOs.

 

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UN Women and WFP Unite with Blockchain Project for Syrian Refugees

As an extension of the World Food Programme’s (WFP) Building Blocks project for Syrian refugees in Jordan, blockchain will now be utilized to support both the Zaatari and Azray refugee camps.

Since last year, the United Nation’s World Food Programme (WFP) has distributed cryptocurrency-based food vouchers to more than 100,000 Syrian refugees living in Jordan, bypassing bureaucracy and getting aid to where it’s needed. The new project initiated by the WFP and UN Women was announced last month and will support the UN Women’s “cash for work” program currently running at both camps.

The “cash for work” program has been organized by host countries enabling Syrian refugees to support local communities and offering them the opportunity to put something back into their new homeland. Typically paid tasks include collecting waste, assisting with projects building homes, roads, and local schools, and in some cases working in education and the health industry as assistants. In areas which have seen destruction due to conflict and have since been liberated, refugees may be asked to assist with repairing infrastructure.

Cash transfers as part of the scheme have traditionally been made available to refugees via banking services, but with the new scheme, those women who assist in the UN Women cash program will be able to access their funds directly without a third party with accounts securely stored on a blockchain network.

Women will able to pay for goods at participating supermarkets in Jordan by using one of a network of eye-scanners at their local supermarket, linking their cash to the Building Blocks program which was introduced for refugees at the Azraq camp in 2017. UN Women is also trying to increase financial literacy rates among women by offering seminars at their “Oases”, encouraging recipients to examine their Building Blocks accounts online. Oases are safe spaces for women and children to congregate in the camps, where they can meet others and learn. They are usually funded through overseas aid and the host nation.

UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka explained the thinking behind its plans for women refugees in Jordan:

“We know that women in crisis situations and displacement settings tend to have lower digital literacy than men, and often lack access to the technology and connectivity that are so critical in today’s world.”

Ngcuka adds that such projects are designed to accelerate, as she put it, “progress towards women’s economic empowerment on a large scale”.

Humanitarian organizations have pointed out that women are disproportionately affected by such crises and consequently are often forced to become the primary breadwinners while taking care of their children and families as an extra burden.

Robert Opp, Director of Innovation at WFP, points out that it is a desire for “social good” which is driving the current use of blockchain technology by the organization:

“Blockchain technology allows us to step up the fight against hunger. Through blockchain, we aim to cut payment costs, better protect beneficiary data, control financial risks, and respond more rapidly in the wake of emergencies… using blockchain can be a qualitative leap, not only for WFP, but for the entire humanitarian community.”

 

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UNLOCK Conference, Global Meeting for Blockchain & Crypto in Dubai on 15-16 January 2019

The 2nd edition of the UNLOCK Conference will be held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE) on 15-16 January 2019 at the Ritz Carlton Hotel. This will be a global meeting of the most powerful players in the crypto and blockchain fields, and BitcoinNews.com is proud to announce a media partnership with the event.

The UNLOCK Conference will cover a full gauntlet of crypto and blockchain applications, including gaming, e-commerce and retail, health, real-estate, banking, equities and securities, food industry, energy, logistics, and transportation. Dubai is an optimal location for the UNLOCK Conference since it is on the cutting-edge of blockchain and crypto with 20 blockchain case studies underway and the goal of having 50% of Dubai’s government services on the blockchain by 2021. Dubai is a powerhouse in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region and among the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), an alliance of nations on the Arabian Peninsula which border the Persian Gulf.

It is expected that the MENA and GCC will be a hotbed for crypto and blockchain long-term, with numerous startups expected in the regions in the coming years. This makes the UNLOCK Conference in Dubai critically important for planning the future of blockchain and crypto in the MENA and GCC. Dubai’s neighbor, Bahrain, is already experimenting with FinTech sandboxes for the launch of crypto exchanges and startups.

The themes of the 2019 UNLOCK Conference include initial coin offerings (ICOs), cryptocurrencies, the future of crypto exchanges in an increasingly regulated world, scalability and interoperability of blockchain, governments and blockchain, investing in blockchain, utilization of blockchain for supply chains and trade, tokenization of everything in a futuristic digital economy, artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain, blockchain anonymity, blockchain payments, blockchain in the transportation and energy industries, blockchain for telecommunications, blockchain for cloud services, and identity verification on blockchains.

The registration for the UNLOCK Conference 2019 is open, and the early bird special of USD 800 per ticket is running until 15 October 2018. After that registrations will cost USD 1,000 until 28 December 2018, followed by the late registration period where tickets will cost USD 1,500. UNLOCK Conference is running a special where 4+ attendees registered in the same group nets a 20% discount.

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Africa and the Middle East: Crypto and Blockchain News Roundup, 21st to 27th September 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

SWIFT usage drops 5% from 2013-2017: The appeal of the US dollar as the currency of choice for the money transfers is decreasing in Africa as the dollar’s usage dropped from 50% in 2013 to 45.1% in 2017. The reason behind the drop in demand is attributed not to cryptocurrencies right now but more to the adaptation of local currencies and mobile payments.

The diminishing usage of SWIFT code for money transfer is opening up new possibilities in the continent and cryptocurrencies will undoubtedly play a big part in the dismantling of the current SWIFT system in the near future. Africa will have almost 725 million subscribers by the end of 2020 and thus, a mobile generation is expected to look to alternative solutions for currency transfer and management. British pound sterling and other global currencies are also showing a negative trend in the continent.

South Africa

South Africa leading the way for Bitcoin ATMs: South Africa is leading the way in getting more and more Bitcoin ATMs in the African continent. The first cryptocurrency ATM opened in Johannesburg in the country that operated Bitcoin, Dash and other top cryptocurrencies. More ATMs are now being installed across the country.

It is estimated that there are 3,000 ATMs in the world but in Africa, these are limited to a handful of countries including South Africa, Kenya, Djibouti, Zimbabwe and others. There is tremendous potential for growth in the continent.

Zimbabwe

Finance minister wants Switzerland’s approach in the country: Zimbabwe’s new finance minister is known for his pro-crypto stance and has now called on the country to embrace cryptocurrencies, citing the example of Switzerland.

Mthuli Ncube is the newly appointed finance minister of the Western African country and he has recently urged the Central Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) to follow the example of the Swiss Central Bank on cryptocurrencies.

He said:

“Zimbabwe should be investing in understanding innovations and often central banks are too slow in investing in these technologies. But there are other countries which are moving faster. If you look at the Swiss central bank they are investing in and understanding Bitcoin.”

He has also promised to push the central bank to establish a cryptocurrency division in the country. While Zimbabwe is already one of the most open-minded countries when it comes to cryptocurrencies, the appointment of a progressive finance minister and his new policies will help the country become a crypto hub in the continent.

Israel

Israel not keeping up with regional crypto trends: While Bitcoin continues to get more and popular, Israel is still lagging behind other tech-savvy nations in embracing cryptocurrencies.

Israel continues to be an innovative country but the lack of cryptocurrency and blockchain focus is affecting its standing as other countries are landing the initial coin offerings (ICOs) by the dozens while the Israeli government has banned them. Experts are suggesting that Israel should become more open to cryptocurrency adoption to not miss out in the latest tech trend.

Turkey

Finance minister embraces ICO hype and offers possibility of adopting Petro: The finance minister of Turkey, Berat Alybayrak, has embraced the ICO hype and has said that the country is looking into the crypto world to boost the ailing economy. Foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu also reportedly recognized the creation of Petro cryptocurrency of Venezuela and seemed keen on using it.

While Turkey is embroiled in a foreign currency crisis, its dependence on the SWIFT system established by the US and the use of US dollar as the primary international currency is all too evident as Turkey reels off from the effect of recent US sanctions.

Many believe that the cryptocurrencies offer a way out for ending the dependency on the hegemony of the USD, but banking on unproven systems like Petro’s is largely seen as a negative.

United Arab Emirates

Dubai announces first blockchain payment settlement and reconciliation platform: Dubai has launched the first platform for payment reconciliation and settlement purposes that is based on blockchain technology.

The system will eventually be used by Dubai Police, the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA), and the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) according to the plan. The system is already in pilot version and is being deployed by the Knowledge and Human Development Authority, or the KHDA, and the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority, DEWA.

 

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Still Early Days for Crypto in the State of Israel

Israel has been slow to embrace cryptocurrency as an element of an expanding fintech industry in the country, particularly given its geographical position on the fringes of Europe.

Recently, the rate of startup investment and blockchain research has begun to gain some pace, as the country looks to the US and Europe and their enthusiastic embracing of new technologies, such as blockchain and cryptocurrency.

Some onlookers have suggested that Israel should seize fintech opportunities with more enthusiasm and chase the game, making the country an international financial centre for ICOs. A recent delegation of Swiss representatives and government officials from the banking sector indicates that the country may be reluctant to be left behind in the next industrial revolution.

In a recent trip to Jerusalem, Switzerland’s Minister of Finance Ueli Maurer and State Secretary for International Financial Matters Joerg Gasser headed a delegation which discussed terms for entering the Israeli banking market, both sides agreeing that they would cooperate with each other in areas of financial technology regulation and cryptocurrencies.

Bitmain’s recent step to triple the size of its Israeli development center located in Ra’anana, adding 40 programmers, engineers, and marketing experts to the pre-existing team of 15 people, is an indication that the Israeli government has been allowing the industry to grow, if not actually proactive in its growth.

There is still partially a distrust of Bitcoin due to the digital currency’s nosedive in December 2017, leaving the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange and investors frustrated. The exchange subsequently removed all Bitcoin-related companies and introduced restrictions prohibiting trading or listing rights.

Israeli regulators have been further frustrated by stockbrokers adding “blockchain” to their stock market listings in order to inflate their stock prices. Many investors fear that over-regulation by regulators could drive these companies overseas if the government tightens its current stock market rules which remain restrictive towards crypto.

There have been frequent cases many of Israel’s banks refusing to accept cryptocurrency-related money, and on two occasions banks were forced to accept the money after being taken to court. Earlier in the year, Israel’s largest bank, Bank Hapoalim, was found to have unlawfully blocked a money transfer of USD 195,000 coming from a European cryptocurrency exchange platform, citing unsubstantiated claims of suspected money laundering and terrorist financing.

However, Bitcoin is a fact of life in the country, and the government has acknowledged it as a taxable asset with investors purchasing gold and real estate with the flagship cryptocurrency, cherishing its anonymity.

Israel still remains on the cusp of cryptocurrency adoption but has a way to go before the government is truly convinced. The recent Swiss visit is a promising development.

 

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IranbyBit: Bitcoin-Powered Tourism Fueling Iranian Economy

An Iranian travel startup is tackling the country’s economic sanctions and consequent financial exclusion by offering visitors to the country an opportunity to pay for their travel experience with Bitcoin.

Speaking to Bitcoin News, IranbyBit‘s founder Setare Shabanipour discussed the importance of having the option to pay with Bitcoin, and how the business is helping to grow both the tourism sector in Iran and international levels of Bitcoin adoption.

Why does Iran need a Bitcoin travel option?

Iran has been subject to economic sanctions from the US, the European Union and the United Nation Security Council in various capacities since the Iranian Revolution in 1979. Through the years, the sanctions have taken the forms of asset freezes and trade embargos, which have taken a serious toll on the country’s economy and people.

It is difficult to send and receive money from other countries while based in Iran, creating a major issue for attracting outsiders to visit the country. Shabanipour explained that tourists are not able to use credit cards, Visa or Mastercard; ”Travelers need to exchange their money to the Iranian local currency and carry cash with themselves which is a troublesome and an unpleasant experience,” she said. It also makes it difficult for international travelers to book their accommodation and events such as local tours before they enter the country. 

IranbyBit

The premise of the Bitcoin travel body is to give travelers the opportunity to pay for these things with cryptocurrency, making booking a trip to Iran as simple as it is for any major country. ”At IranbyBit we seized the opportunity that Bitcoin provides,” Shabanipour told Bitcoin News. 

Doing its part for Iranian tourism and the economy

Iran cannot quite be called a top holiday destination right now but Shabanipour believes that by enabling foreign travelers to use Bitcoin to plan their trips, more tourists will be attracted to the country. She has high hopes about where IranbyBit can take the tourism sector: ”The more foreigners visit Iran, they can decide for themselves about the country and this can lead to a change of attitude toward Iranians in global communities and markets. Also, this can result in attracting more investors and their investments toward Iranian businesses.”

The Iranian economy could certainly use the boost that Shabanipour hopes tourism can bring after decades of financial exclusion because of international sanctions, and the cultural benefits of having foreign travelers experience the country could help break down the prejudices that Iranians face on the global stage. ”It is inevitable that cultural bridges will form among foreign and local cultures. Such a flourishing market will result in attracting investment and building up more tourism infrastructures in Iran,” Shabanipour predicted.

As she describes it, financial inclusion goes beyond just being able to purchase things in Iran in the way that now Bitcoin allows. Rather, it also means opening up Iran as a safe, fun, accessible destination for the rest of the world to experience, and she hopes to do this in a sustainable way.

”Iranbybit provides travelers and local communities the chance to communicate with each other and understand different cultures. We support the economy of local communities and pursue flourishing rural markets. We also recognize an increase in tourist demand for the countryside instead of cities, hence, a flourishing countryside decreases the rate of migrations of Iranians to big cities. Natural resources can be used as a source of income and they will be treated as treasures and preserved appropriately.”

 

Left to Right: Founder Kokab ”Setare” Shabanipour, Web Administrator Saeed Nasiri, Bitcoin Research and Development Manager Ziya Sadr, System Software Developer Nima Behkar

 

Calling for Bitcoin adoption

IranbyBit supports and uses Bitcoin because they appreciate that it removes the barriers in their way of entering the global market, and they have called for other Iranian business to do the same in order to promote economic growth. Because IranbyBit’s revenue is all coming from Bitcoin, they hope they are helping to support widescale Bitcoin adoption and development of a future economy where the reliance on fiat currency is minimal.

Shabanipour says that in Iran, Bitcoin use is a grey area; while it is not regulated by the government, the work IranbyBit do does not break any laws. Even if this changes, they truly believe in Bitcoin as a payment system and would hope to still find a legal way to accept it. ”The general opinion about Bitcoin in Iran is very positive but even if that changes, we are still going to use and support it.”

The Middle Eastern nation has a very active Bitcoin community and IranbyBit is proud to be a part of spreading the message and encouraging other business to also accept cryptocurrency for payments.

In terms of blockchain, IranbyBit does not see a useful way of integrating the technology into their business right now: ”Our main focus is on utilizing Bitcoin for our business and we don’t think that blockchain as a technology is relevant in this area. Up to now, it’s hard to imagine real-world use cases for blockchain but maybe it can have some in the future. There are very active people in this community in Iran and blockchain is possibly one of their areas of interest.”

Bitcoin getting Iranians excited

According to Shabanipour, potential customers that IranbyBit has spoken to have been very enthused about this new opportunity and plan to use their services to book their future travels in Iran. Several people they spoke with have already had experiences traveling by Bitcoin, and have given them a lot of positive feedback.

The body offers Ecolodges for those who are seeking nature-based accommodation, and Shabanipour says that it is the people who are the most adventurous travelers that are attracted to their services over anyone else.

IranbyBit uses a commission-based revenue model based on seasonal travel popularity. The agency provides substantial information on its website for each accommodation and service available for booking with Bitcoin payments, including local sim cards and tourist debit cards to help people access money and local communications.

Right now, just the first release of the website has been launched which can service over one hundred tourists. ”We have more than 20 accommodations with complete details ready to serve tourists from anywhere in the world. Once the MVP is released, IranbyBit will take its first step in the global tourism market,” Shabanipour detailed. 

To learn more about IranbyBit or use the body to book your trip to Iran, visit the website or follow them on Twitter.

 

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Image Courtesy: IranbyBit/Setare Shabanipour

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