Category Archives: Middle East

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Afghans Look to Sovereign Crypto Bond to Raise $5.8 Billion for Economy

Afghanistan is planning to jumpstart its ailing economy with a blockchain-based sovereign crypto bond. The announcement to attempt a cryptocurrency solution to three decades of economic turmoil came at a meeting of the Boards of Governors of the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Washington recently.

According to the Central Bank of Afghanistan’s governor Khalil Sediq, the target figure is USD 5.8 billion in order to support the country’s critical mining, energy, and agriculture sectors, and with 25% of the country’s population currently unemployed and living under the poverty, critical measures are being assessed.

Afghanistan, as the of the world’s largest suppliers of lithium, could utilize Bitcoin with metals futures in bond form, according to the Afghan delegation, although IMF president Christine Lagarde believes such a bond will need thorough testing before it can be sold on markets.

Bitcoin has gained popularity in Afghanistan and its thought that cryptocurrency could find real leverage in the county if local money-sellers, called sarafis, were to start trading in digital currency. Afghans are generally untrusting of financial institutions and turn to sarafis, who deal with numerous fiat currencies across Afghanistan.

It appears that Afghanistan is not the only nation, considering some kind of a sovereign Bitcoin bond, as both Tunisia and Uzbekistan, both also represented by delegates at the Spring IMF and World bank forum, have also expressed interest in similar solutions.

Uzbek Ambassador to the United States Javlon Vakhabov sees an Uzbek bitcoin bond being linked to the country’s cotton futures market, much along the lines of Afghanistan’s plan for lithium futures. Uzbekistan has recently legalized crypto trading in the country and has announced some initial regulations for both trading and mining. The new decree, “On measures to organize the activities of crypto-exchanges in Uzbekistan”, states any company providing for the purchasing of or sale of crypto assets on a platform will be recognized as a legal exchange.

 

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Chinese Miners Struggle for Easy Ride in Iran

Things aren’t turning out to be smooth for Chinese Bitcoin miners heading into Iran to profit from cheaper electricity rates.

Long before China hinted it may consider halting Bitcoin mining projects, the exodus began and Iran recently became a hotspot for miners along with parts of South East Asia such as Vietnam and Cambodia. China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) is now looking to siphon off a number of industries which include cryptocurrency mining as part of a state cleanup.

The Iranian venture for many of those Chinese miners deciding to make the move has gone sour, and reports coming back from Iran highlight some of the issues which have made the Middle East less attractive than was at first perceived.

One issue has been getting the equipment across the Iranian border. One miner Liu Feng reported that the chance of losing equipment at the border has become common, with Iranian customs confiscating at least 40,000 crypto mining rigs to date. Some rigs can be sneaked through if presented as non-mining processors for those lucky enough to be able to strike up a deal with customs officials. Feng explains the reason for the confiscations:

“Because of [Iran’s] huge electricity subsidy, the government has added this energy-hungry device (bitcoin miner) to the list of 2,000 banned shipments to come in.”

The same mining enthusiast, Lui Feng also had problems pricing his electricity supply with a local supplier after his supply tariff was doubled just two months into operation. A subsequent set up resulted in angry locals complaining about the noise emitted from his rigs, resulting in miners being confiscated.

Despite these hurdles, Chinese Bitcoin miners are still optimistic that it can get better for them in Iran. With the Iranian government now accepting crypto mining as a legal activity, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani is behind a new cloud computing industrial park. Also, there are rumors that Tehran may get behind the import of Bitcoin mining hardware.

Currently, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps are still detaining or confiscating machines at border points with tough import rules still in place.

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Hamas Bid for Bitcoin Donations Struggles to Get Off Ground

Hamas Bid for Bitcoin Donations Struggles to Get Off Ground

The fundamentalist Palestinian organization Hamas is to continue its call for cryptocurrency donations which has only resulted in a meager few thousand dollars since its call for funding two months ago.

Hamas, the de-facto ruling authority of the Gaza Strip in Palestine, is regarded by several countries, including the US and the EU, as a terrorist organization. Russia, Turkey, and China are among those major world powers who do not subscribe to the definition.

The original Hamas request for Bitcoin funds in February was made as a result of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to freeze millions of dollars in Qatari aid – including USD 15 million a month to pay the salaries of Hamas civil servants. Gazan journalist and lecturer Hussam Al-Dajany has reiterated the need for support in another call for funding this week but this time claiming this “just Palestinian cause… can indirectly participate in the liberation of the Al Aqsa Mosque”.

Former CIA analyst Yaya Fanusie has suggested that Hamas has made some progress in setting up its donations project despite having struggled to raise the funds it needs and says that the Hamas website is currently “generating unique (bitcoin) addresses for each site visitor”. He adds:

“This method will make it harder for authorities to identify and track donations, and shows that Hamas is more careful about cryptocurrency operational security.”

Despite these moves, Hamas has numerous hurdles to overcome in raising cryptocurrency funding. Coinbase and other major exchanges have been put on alert to ensure that known Hamas addresses are not used for transactions, although this in itself won’t be simple as fresh addresses are likely to be created by Hamas to confuse the exchanges.

Bitcoin does have traceability issues though, which is certain to make the Hamas call for funds challenging. The creation of a unique address on the Hamas website will shield the recipient, but won’t anonymize the sender. This is sure to make potential donors wary, as it appears to have done so far.

 

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Africa and the Middle East: Crypto and Blockchain News Roundup 24th to 30th March, 2019

Africa

Africa and the Middle East

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

African Union

Crypto in Africa: Adoption in Medical, Education, Trading Industries: Africa has been making considerable strides in adopting crypto technology and implementing innovations in the financial markets. Prime examples of the intent would be Zimbabwe’s crypto school that will be launched by SUNFund, a local incubator.

In that same vein of thought, IBM announced that it is working in its lab in Haifa to utilise blockchain system and stem the flow of counterfeit medicines. South Africa is also not going to be left behind, as a SA based crypto exchange’s Hybrid Stock Exchange (HYBSE) platform went live last week. The platform is part of the Data Interchange Module (DIM) and will offer an online marketplace for global issuers and users to provide tradable tokenised equity.

Community-Led Pan-African Blockchain Standards Org Publishes Draft ICO Guidelines: The African Digital Asset Framework (ADAF) has just published its first version of guidance for initial coin offerings (ICO) on 25 March.  

ADAF is a project that looks to establish compliance-focused, cross-border blockchain standards for Africa, and it just has revealed its first guideline in an official blog post titled “Consumer Protection Guidelines on Token Generation Events, version 0.1.” The document was created by an open source community comprising of 17 companies and aims to generate set of standards for consumers, business owners, and policymakers to regulate evaluation or participation in token generation events for utility-token based ecosystems.

Israel

Malware Affects an Israeli Cryptocurrency Company: The cybersecurity firm Palo Alto Network’s research division, Unit 42, has recently published a report stating how it has detected a serious malware that has been targeting two Israeli cryptocurrency trading companies. Known as “Cardinal RAT malware” or Remote Access Trojan, it was first discovered in 2017 which allows full remote control of the device, collects the target data and then wipes itself from the device.

Palo Alto also revealed that this Trojan had repeatedly targeted Israel’s fintech and cryptocurrency trading firms since 2017 which includes at least two large scale attacks. The report also adds that the attacker can access the victim’s personal data, clean cookies capture screenshots, execute commands, retrieve passwords, and even update settings.

Turkey

Turkey Is Leading Europe in Cryptocurrency Possession: Although the Turkish Lira seems to be going downhill, the economy is apparently not entirely bust as the country appears to transition and focus on building crypto assets instead.  In a survey conducted by ING Bank, Turkey had the highest percentage of individuals who own cryptocurrencies, with a total of 18%.

The second country on the list was Romania with 12%, and then came Poland with 11% and Spain with 10% respectively. Apart from the impressive numbers by Turkey, the European continent also showed significant improvement as it recorded a 9% increase in total demand.

UAE

Crypto in the UAE Booms, Generates Over USD 210 Million in Investments in January and February ICOs: According to a recent report, the United Arab Emirates stands tall as the number one country in terms of total capital generated by Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs). Only in the first two months of 2019, UAE successfully raised a baffling sum of USD 210 million. The next in the list are the United Kingdom and Singapore, but they stand nowhere even close to UAE.  

In January 2019, UAE successfully raised USD 142 million, a whopping 41% of all funds raised worldwide for the month. Interestingly, UAE’S figure was raised by only one ICO, the Genesis Crypto Blockchain Investment Bank, that aims to establish a fully regulated bank that is also accommodative of cryptocurrencies. Other countries on the top 10 list include Canada, Netherlands, Latvia, Belize, Cayman Islands, and Australia.

Iran

Iran Turns to Crypto to Enable Easier Spending by Tourists: Amidst the latest wave of sanctions by the US, the Iranian rial has plummeted to a record low in several decades, losing about 60% of its total value. But while the Iranian economy grapples with the challenges, the government has been looking to alleviate the crisis with the help of cryptocurrencies and blockchain technologies and has launched many high profile projects.

For instance, the Iranian tourism sector led by the Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization (CHTO) has been encouraging tourists to use cryptocurrency when possible. Similarly, the Iranian Electronic Tourism Association has announced they are even discussing a proposal to create a state-run digital currency for the tourism sector.

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Real Estate Giant Emaar Group Plans Community Token

Real Estate Giant Emaar Group Plans Community Token

Real estate giant Emaar Properties plans to develop a community token for its customer base and partners by the end of this year.

Emaar is opening its multibillion-dollar business to billions of internet users whereby its community token will act as a utility token for its loyalty and referral reward system. This will allow its customers across its service chain — to include real estate, malls, hospitality, entertainment, facilities management, and online shopping to leverage the incentive model of the emerging technology of the blockchain.

Chairman of Emaar Properties Mohamed Alabbar implied that this development will in a way improve user experience as they continue to leverage frontier digital technologies to offset their prowess in landscape development. He said:

“We continuously strive to expand our reach, strengthen our growth and extend the Emaar experience. We have embraced the digital world even as we continue to build the most advanced and innovative physical structures and we use both to delight and benefit our customers and stakeholders globally.”

Emaar has a significant market presence in the Middle East and North Africa region, having delivered over 51,800 residential units in Dubai and other global markets since 2002, and the Burj Khalifa which is asserted to be a global icon alongside the world’s largest shopping mall, the Dubai Mall. The crypto token feat is important to the company as Alabbar has said “the Emaar community token marks a significant leap in our digital transformation journey”, more so it is also considering an initial coin offering in Europe within 12 months of the launch of the platform.

As per the press release, Swiss-based blockchain company Lykke AG, a firm focused on bringing financial technology to the masses has been contracted to build Emaar’s platform on the Ethereum blockchain, suggesting the token will be ERC-20 compliant. Lykke AG seems to have developed many useful technologies focused on adoption, founder and CEO Richard Olsen expressed his enthusiasm towards the initiative taken by Emaar. He remarked: “We are thrilled to leverage our experience and expertise to support Emaar’s mission to bring value and utility to millions of users globally.”

Blockchain’s utility continues to spread beyond the fintech industry and finds more practicality in various sectors of the economy. In the real estate market, cryptocurrency is increasingly being used as a means of payment for properties, with a long list of real estate market operators world over-relying on the blockchain’s digital asset class to facilitate payments. The practice which dates back to late 2017 has seen more frequent use in recent times.

Last month, Bitcoin News reported luxury apartments put on sale with Bitcoin suggested for settlement. Meanwhile, the first blockchain-based real estate transaction may have been completed in Switzerland as a report finds an approximate USD 2.98 million used in the purchase of a restaurant and 18 apartments.

A recent report revealed that the Turkish real estate market is now open to Bitcoin, with houses now available with as little as 9 bitcoins.

 

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Africa and the Middle East: Crypto and Blockchain News Roundup 3rd to 9th March, 2019

Africa

Africa and the Middle East

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

South Africa

Bank in South Africa Develops a New Blockchain Financial System: In a bid to reduce economic trade and foreign exchange problems, South Africa’s Standard Bank has developed a private blockchain and permission blockchain system which will be launched on behalf of its corporate clients. Standard Bank and its partner in Uganda, Static Ban, will use the system along with 3rd parties directly involved with the banks.

The system aims to accelerate settlement processing as well as increase transparency of transactions since the involved parties will be able to view the documents in real time. The system is built using the Hyperledger Fabric, and will also be connected to SASB’s foreign currency-trading app, Shyft. The solution is projected to go live in the second half of 2019.

Bahrain

Bahrain Pressure Could Legalize Crypto Market in India: Due to the negative legislations by Reserve Bank of India on crypto businesses, Indian Bitcoin dealers have been using only peer-to-peer transfers to convert cryptocurrencies. But pressure from other market competitors, in particular from Bahrain whose recent invitation to Indian crypto companies to relocate to their country might take away investment worth billions of dollars out of India, forcing the country to rethink its policies.

Bahrain completed its regulatory draft for cryptocurrencies two months ago and now has also finished the legislation. The Central Bank of Bahrain (CBB) has also been pushing for the optimal ecosystem to encourage crypto growth and innovation, and initiatives like open banking, crypto asset trade regulation, regulation on robo advisory, and streamlined remittance collection make Bahrain a very enticing prospect.

UAE

UAE Bullish for Crypto, Records USD 210M Investment in January and February 2019: While ICOs have generally been going down across the globe, UAE shows no signs of stopping as it was the #1 country in terms of funds raised by ICOs. This amounted to a whopping USD 210M in January and February 2019 alone, overtaking Singapore and the UK.

The UAE raised USD 42M in January 2019, which is about 41% of ICOs’ amount worldwide. And they were well ahead of the second-best Estonia, who raised over USD 64M. The total amount raised was about USD 347M, with the top 5 countries constituting about 63% of the funds. UAE’s success can be attributed to a single ICO — the Genesis Crypto Blockchain Investment Bank — which alone raised over USD 142M.

Turkey

Turkish Telecom Giant Turkcell Introduces Blockchain ID Management Product: Turkcell, an Istanbul-based telecommunication services provider, has announced the launch of a blockchain-based service for ID management which offers the users control over their personal information while ensuring privacy under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) requirements.

The data will be stored on blockchain and thus will eliminate any additional identity verification requirements. The solution also includes a blockchain-based donation collection option that leverages the ID management tool to verify the donation eligibility for people in need.

Israel

Israel Securities Authority Recommends Crypto Regulation: Israel Securities Authority (ISA) wants to move the crypto business operations forward with regulations, as revealed in its final report on the cryptocurrency industry.

The report includes the findings of the crypto regulatory committee, which recommends implementing security laws on the sector concerning issuance and trading of the cryptocurrencies. The committee also claimed that this supervision would help in the progress of cryptocurrency, courtesy the significant connection between the regulator and the industry.

Israeli Company Partners With the Marshall Islands to Launch a Digital Currency: The Marshall Islands, a small nation with over 55000 population, is preparing to release their own digital currency this year, called “SOV.”

The development of SOV has been undergoing since 2017 in collaboration with Neema, an Israel-based company. Although an exciting prospect, the officials admitted that a definitive date for the launch couldn’t be given because of many pitfalls in the technological and logistical side of issuing the SOV using blockchain in addition to the concerns of United States financial regulators.

Largest Israeli Blockchain Company Facing Extensive Layoffs: The reverberations of the crypto market crash have also been felt in the Israeli Blockchain market, which has forced the First Digital Assets Group to restructure and sanction massive layoffs.

The changes will involve shutting down of its research company, One Alpha, and the merger of the remaining four companies – Knox, Stamina, Titan, and K1– into one parent company. The group still reiterated their faith in the technology and insisted that they will now be investing in new blockchain solutions with a focus on the liquidity functions of the company.

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Enterprise Blockchain in Energy Sector May Profit Gulf

According to Middle East news outlet Albawaba, energy players in the mainstream are gearing up to embrace blockchain technology. Dr Adham Sleiman, vice president at Booz Allen Hamilton, Middle East and North Africa, suggested that the world is preparing for a 50% share of its energy coming from renewable energy sources.

That option seems rather convenient for most setups, and enterprise blockchain is one of the frontiers pushing for adoption in the traditional energy market, with the sector described as one of the most suited industry to accommodate blockchain technology.

Migrating to a renewable energy dependent state has its own challenges such as institutional, governance, supply, demand, technical, as well as commercial challenges. However, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), consisting of six member states, expect electricity demands to increase, hence the prospects for renewable energy.

Blockchain comes into play when discussing its distributed and decentralized qualities, given that the changing scape of the traditional energy systems is becoming more decentralized. The change has been ascribed to the role played by distributed energy resources (DER). Sleiman said:

“DER are changing the landscape; we are moving towards a more decentralized grid, where utilities no longer fully control the system,” adding that “utilities now need to look beyond energy delivery.”

He further suggested that “blockchain applications can help with enabling P2P energy trading”.

The overall change in the energy industry may take another decade before blockchain has fully permeated the sector, as Sleiman opines, “this is a major disruptive change that the energy sector may face within the next 10 years.” However, the journey has begun with many blockchain-based startups and mainstream energy giants forming partnerships to explore the possible use of blockchain and smart contracts in the energy system.

In late January, the Danish State energy firm was already looking into blockchain solutions such as IOTA’s Tangle for an efficient supply chain. In Spain, Iberdrola another big energy company was reportedly looking into blockchain to track electricity power across the country.

 

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Africa and the Middle East: Crypto and Blockchain News Roundup 23rd February to 2nd March 2019

Africa

Africa and the Middle East

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

South Africa

Foreign Investment in South Africa’s Crypto Sector Grows: The crypto-sector investment is growing in South Africa as companies in this lucrative industry race to get a share of the pie. Recently, Bittrex, one of the largest cryptocurrency exchanges in the world announced a USD 1.5 million seed funding for a new platform in the country.

VALR, a new exchange attracted the sizeable investment from Bittrex and marks a new trend towards diversification of crypto trading in the country which will attract further investment from around the world.

Kenya

Communities Looking to Crypto for Improved Cash Flow: Small, remote communities in Kenya are now using bitcoin for an improved cash flow experience despite the uncertainty clouding cryptocurrencies.

The East African nation famous for its tea production is expected to increase crypto adoption as it will help solve several chronic cash-related problems rampant due to poor management. Despite regulatory pressures from the government and the Central Bank, the popularity of cashless economy including cryptocurrencies has seen an all-time high in recent months which is evident from the activity on popular platforms like Remitano and LocalBitcoins.com.

Turkey

Turkey Has the Largest Number of Cryptocurrency Owners in Europe: Turkey has become the biggest crypto ownership country in the Middle East and Europe combined. According to a recent survey conducted in the country, almost 18% of all Turks declared that they owned cryptocurrencies. This is the highest rate in all of Europe despite several progressive crypto nations in the continent with much more lenient laws when it comes to cryptocurrencies.

On average, only 9% of the European responders declared that they owned cryptocurrencies. Second most number of cryptocurrency owners is in Romania, another one of the smaller countries while Luxembourg, Belgium, and France only had 4%, 5% and 6% with some of the worst numbers in the continent. The reason behind the high number of cryptocurrency users in Turkey is because of its recent fiscal problems that arose from US sanctions, resulting in the drop of Lira exchange rate by 25% before recovering again. The local cryptocurrency trading volume went up several times in the country in the backdrop of these sanctions as people began buying bitcoin to circumnavigate the effects of Lira inflation.

United Arab Emirates

UAE Firm Denies Accepting Cryptocurrency for Real Estate Deals: Emaar Properties, a real estate tycoon in Dubai that built the Burj Khalifa tower has denied that they are now accepting bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies for real estate purchase/development services.

According to a company spokesperson:

“Emaar does not accept payment in digital currency. Emaar only accepts payment in government-issued currency, primarily in U.A.E. dirham and U.S. dollar.”

While the company has refuted cryptocurrency payments, once the sector goes mainstream, it is likely that the bigger companies will be more open to it in the future.

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Africa and the Middle East: Crypto and Blockchain News Roundup 16th to 22nd February 2019

Africa

Africa and the Middle East

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

African Union

Africa May Become a Hub for Cryptocurrencies, Notes Media Report: African nations are positively endorsing crypto sector, claims media report. Even though Africa has the least number of internet users (only 36% having internet access), a number of crypto startups have appeared across the continent recently.

In the previous week, a coffee company based in South Africa declared that it has been using blockchain technology to monitor its coffee supply from Uganda.

Moreover, in order to resolve long-standing disputes related to land registration, Kenya and Rwanda have decided to use blockchain technology. Similarly, in Congo, Ford and IBM signed a contract to track mining of cobalt to avoid human right abuses.

South Africa

South Africa Is Leading Other Countries in Crypto Sector, Says Global Digital Report: South Africa has been ranked as the top country to provide a supportive environment for owning cryptocurrency, noted Global Digital Report.

Although South Africa currently lacks a stringent regulatory framework, it managed to beat leading crypto supportive countries such as Japan, Malta, and Bahrain.

The said report is based on the data collected over a period of six months during 2018. People aged between 16 and 64 were asked to fill survey forms. The report was compiled in collaboration with digital media firms Hootsuite and We Are Social.

Limited Regulations to Be Imposed on Cryptocurrencies Suggest Public Comments on Sarb’s Consultation Paper: On 15 February, public comments on the South African Reserve Bank’s (SARB) crypto related consultation paper closed.

According to the media reports, several limited regulations on crypto related activities have been proposed in the said paper. However, proposals did not suggest a bank-like licensing process for cryptocurrencies.

SARB maintained that it is looking to regulate the buying and selling of digital assets. Moreover, trading platforms have been advised by the government to track transactions that may be linked to terrorist activities.

Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe Can Support Its Economy by Utilizing Cryptocurrencies, Claims Media Report: Zimbabwe can follow the example of Switzerland to strengthen its economy by turning towards cryptocurrencies, suggests media report.

Last year, Mthuli Ncube, newly appointed Finance minister at that time, claimed that he was considering digital assets as an option to overcome Zimbabwean economic challenges. He appreciated Switzerland central bank’s stance on virtual currencies. Later, he tried to urge the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) to invest in the crypto sector. Moreover, he requested RBZ to develop an understanding of blockchain technology.

However, RBZ is not looking to pay any heed to those suggestions at the moment. Meanwhile, neighboring countries such as South Africa are playing a decisive role in blockchain development and strengthening their respective economies.

Turkey

Hackers Used Chat Feature of Pubg for Communication, Claims Turkish Police: Chat feature of an online video game, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG), was utilized by hackers for communication, stated Turkish police investigating a USD 2.5 million crypto hack.

The police conducted raids across eight Istanbul provinces and detained 24 suspects. Out of those 24 people, 22 were referred to the Istanbul Courthouse in Çağlayan. The court ordered the conditional release of 16 suspects while six were arrested. By now, only 10% of the stolen amount (1.35 million lira) has been recovered by the police.

UAE

Sharjah Aims to Implement Blockchain for Issuing Fraud-Free Waste Permits: Sharjah is set to launch blockchain based waste permit portal, reported Emirates News Agency (WAM).

According to the report, the Hamriyah Free Zone Authority (HFZA) will develop a waste permit portal in collaboration with Bee’ah (an environmental, recycling and waste management company).

By utilizing blockchain technology, costs for customers applying for permits within HFZA will be lowered. Moreover, permit-issuing time will be reduced to only a few hours. It is expected that blockchain integration will eliminate fraud risks.

Bahrain

Bahrain’s Central Bank Looking to Launch Sandbox for Crypto Sector: A regulatory sandbox will be launched by Bahrain’s central bank in order to allow crypto firms to operate, reported Bloomberg.

The prospective framework pursued by the bank is still in consultation process. The aim of the sandbox is to allow smooth operations of crypto-related businesses in the country until regulations are finalized. Reportedly, 28 companies have been selected for the sandbox.

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Bahrain’s Central Bank Launches Blockchain Sandbox

Bahrain

The Central Bank of Bahrain has launched a regulatory sandbox to allow blockchain and crypto companies to operate in the country.

Previously, in December 2018, it was reported that draft proposals have been issued by the central bank to potentially license and regulate virtual assets and services. However, the prospective framework is still in the consultation process. Therefore, in the meantime, the new sandbox approach will allow companies in the sector to work without fear of regulatory backlash. It will remain functional for nine months and should be considered as a trial, noted the report.

While talking to the media, the business manager of Bahrain’s Economic Development Board, Dalal Buhejji said that sandbox will allow crypto and blockchain companies to test their products on a limited number of users. Firms will be permitted to perform a limited number of transactions. However, the main objective of this initiative is to facilitate the entrance of new companies to the market. According to the report, 28 companies have been selected for the sandbox so far.

The move is part of Bahrain’s efforts to diversify its economy and reduce dependence on oil. Back in 2014, crude oil prices suddenly decreased and put pressure on the Gulf nation’s economy. Now, the country is trying to offset mounting debt by attracting blockchain talent. Although its allies promised to provide USD 10 billion in aid to support its economy, Bahrain is looking to strength itself by turning towards crypto related businesses.

In October 2017, the CEO of Bahrain’s Economic Development Board admitted that blockchain technology was a golden opportunity. Since then, the government has positively endorsed blockchain. In November 2018, a Blockchain Academy was launched by Bahrain’s Institute of Banking and Finance in order to provide training regarding blockchain strategy, development and implementation as well.

 

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