Since their appearance in 2009 with the invention of the famous anonymous Satoshi Nakamoto, cryptocurrencies have seduced more than one. Their presence in the global financial circuit has become essential and no one can ignore them anymore. Even the biggest conservative bankers who swear by traditional money can’t help it anymore. Against all odds, these new digital assets have made their way to Africa, a continent that is reputed to be less technologically advanced. In the year 2022, an African country went so far as to adopt bitcoin as its official currency. A second in the world. During this same year, one of the largest meetings of players in the crypto ecosystem was organized on the continent. Faced with this unstoppable adoption of cryptos by local populations, will African central banks relent?
African governments fierce about cryptocurrencies
Since its all-time high in November 2021 at $69,000, bitcoin and all of its altcoins have attracted the interest of many investors and institutions. Since then, the number of users has continued to grow and the black continent does not want to miss the appointment. Many users find in them a safe haven against growing inflation hitting the continent. Although the majority of central banks on this continent are reluctant to deal with cryptos, their adoption does not wait. African populations, mostly young, are increasingly appropriating Satoshi Nakamoto’s invention.
However, in many African countries, the legal status of bitcoin and all cryptocurrencies is not clearly defined. While countries like Egypt formally prohibit the use of crypto-assets, in other countries it is neither completely legal nor illegal. But, despite their ban and ambiguous legal status, the adoption of cryptocurrencies seems unstoppable. Indeed, African populations find in this new class of assets a financial system capable of freeing them from the banking exclusion of which they are victims. As for Egypt, everything is clear: the use of cryptocurrencies or even the simple possession of cryptos is prohibited by law.
In Egypt religion gets involved, bitcoin is “Haram”
With a predominantly Muslim population, Egypt has banned bitcoin religiously, morally, and legally. the Dar al-Ifta al-Misriyyahthe country’s top Islamic advisory body, issued a religious edict in 2018 classifying bitcoin transactions as ” haraam that is, prohibited by Islamic law.
The reasons for this measure are mainly religious and economic. According to Grand Mufti of Egypt Shawki Allam, the highest religious authority in the country, bitcoin is like a game of chance, something considered a great sin in the Muslim religion. Furthermore, Shawki Allam considers that the decentralization of bitcoin and its high volatility could ruin the savings of Egyptians and undermine the country’s ability to stabilize its own currency. Although not resulting from the law, this religious and moral opinion has serious consequences in a country almost 95% inhabited by Muslims practitioners and where Islam is the state religion.
In September 2020, a new banking law was passed in the country. She echoed the opinion of the religious authority by prohibiting in its article 206 “theissue, trade and even the promotion of cryptocurrencies “. Although not binding, this law gives legal credence to the moral appeal launched two years earlier by the country’s religious authorities.
In Algeria, users defy the ban despite a tense report
Algeria is one of those African countries engaged in a real showdown with cryptocurrency users. Since December 2018, the Algerian authorities have implemented a finance law that criminalizes the use of cryptocurrencies in the country. Indeed, Algerian law prohibits and punishes buying, selling, using and holding any so-called virtual currency “. The Algerian legislator qualifies as virtual currency, “ any asset used by Internet users through the web in the absence of physical support such as coins, banknotes, payments by check or bank card “.
Furthermore, the sections 197 and 198 of the Algerian Penal Code punishes with life imprisonment, any person who participates in ” the issue, distribution, sale and introduction on national territory of currencies, securities, warrants or non-legal obligations “. However, Algerians are defying the ban and many young people are investing in cryptos. To believe Nassim Bellour, already in 2017 there were more than 60,000 users for around 300,000 transactions per day. And since then, these numbers have steadily increased.
Is Morocco finally ready to regulate cryptos?
The Moroccan was at the top of the list of countries very hostile to cryptocurrencies. The law of the kingdom, more specifically, article 339 of the Moroccan Penal Code punishes with one to five years in prison and a fine of 500 to 20,000 dirhams ” the manufacture, issue, distribution, sale or introduction on the territory of the Kingdom of monetary signs intended to supplement or replace currencies that are legal tender “. To clarify everything, theNational Foreign Exchange Office recalled that bitcoin was not legal tender in the country. And that carrying out transactions in virtual currency was made a punishable offence.
However, the old Cherifian empire is still not hermetically closed to technological progress. Quite the contrary! Even if the Penal Code of the constitutional monarchy is hostile to electronic currencies, the Moroccan authorities are investing in the promotion of blockchains for professional use.
Despite the ban, cryptocurrencies have gained traction in the country. The country had over 1.15 million crypto holders in 2022. As a result, the government felt compelled to ponder a bill for the regulation of cryptoassets. L’information had been announced by the Minister of Economy and Finance, Nadia Fettah Alaoui. This was during his visit to the country’s parliament on Monday, January 10, 2022.
According to the minister, since 2021, Morocco has been studying the possibility of developing a legal framework to regulate the use of cryptocurrency. This will be done in collaboration with Bank Al-Maghrib (BAM) and international partners. Today, everything indicates that the bill is ready. The Governor of the Moroccan Central Bank, Abdellatif Jouahiri, explained that the project will be available soon. And to add that the various stakeholders will be consulted.
Kenya not backing down despite popular adoption
At a press conference on the occasion of the announcement of the country’s monetary policies, Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) Governor Patrick Njoroge spoke about bitcoin and all other cryptocurrencies at the same time. He clearly recalled that the Kenyan institution remains skeptical about the use of cryptocurrencies. The Central Bank of Kenya is not at its first position against bitcoin. Already in 2015, the CBK had published a circular prohibiting commercial banks from cooperating with ecosystem players. The circular named the individuals and companies using their bank accounts to buy cryptocurrencies.
Since then, many banks have repeatedly blocked the transactions of customers wishing to buy cryptocurrencies. We can read in this extract from the circular: As per Central Bank of Kenya Circular No. 14 of 2015, virtual currencies such as bitcoin are not legal tender in Kenya […] NCBA Bank does not approve cryptocurrency transactions made using your card and does not transact with institutions that deal in virtual currencies […] protect your finances by not buying, holding or trading virtual currencies ».
The Kenyan bank seems to be on a crusade against cryptocurrencies
The media release of the boss of the BCK sufficiently demonstrates that the financial institution does not want to see bitcoin continue its massive adoption in the country. Wasted effort. Despite this ban, cryptocurrencies continue on their merry way. It should be remembered, Kenya is one of the African countries with a regulatory framework for taxing cryptocurrencies. The Governor of the Central Bank of Kenya has always shown enthusiasm for blockchain technology. He seems open to the idea of seeing his institution develop, in the not-distant future, its own digital currency.
These criticisms of bitcoin prove how difficult it is for banks to admit that they can no longer maintain complete control over people’s assets. The proof is that Kenya currently ranks high in adoption bitcoin in Africa. This despite all attempts to cut off the taps to users for years. Nigeria used the launch of eNaira, its CBDC, to step up its attacks on bitcoin. But the hunt for bitcoin users produced a positive result. They all rushed to the Pear to Pear exchanges that bitcoin uses to do without intermediaries.
After the CAR, will Tanzania launch its own cryptocurrency?
The Central African Republic was second in the world to adopt bitcoin as its official currency after El Salvador. Indeed, on April 21, 2022, the deputies had unanimously adopted the bill on the use of cryptocurrencies. Despite the threats and warnings given by the IMF against this decision, the CAR is clearly determined to emancipate itself from the international monetary system and the CFA franc. The country has, at the same time, launched its own cryptocurrency, the SANGO Corner.
In the region, there is a strong possibility that Tanzania will officially launch its own crypto. Since June 2022, the Tanzanian president has been pushing the country’s central bank to take a closer look at these digital currencies. Samia Suluhu Hassan’s arguments focused on the growing importance of cryptocurrencies in global finance. The country’s Central Bank recently recalled its plan to launch a digital currency. However, she does not intend to go there in a hurry to avoid any economic risk.
Despite restrictions and often unclear legal frameworks, we are seeing massive adoption of cryptocurrencies on the continent. From the above, everything suggests that African central banks understand that cryptos are inevitable. The adoption of bitcoin as legal tender in the CAR certainly has a lot to do with it. With the current mass adoption, African states understand the need to regularize the use of cryptocurrencies. This seems urgent, especially since the majority of the population is a victim of financial exclusion from the traditional system. Can we hope that another African country will follow the footsteps of the RCA?
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