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After being locked up since June, Tonya Couch—better known as “affluenza” mom—is back on the outside. And under her new bond conditions, Dallas News reports, Couch isn’t allowed to ingest “any medication at all,” even over-the-counter drugs and vitamins. Also, she must wear an ankle monitor, according to…
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The Ancient Greeks are celebrated for laying down the foundations of Western civilization, but according to a new book they also had another, hidden talent: predicting future tech.
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Cryptocurrency may be banned in Zimbabwe, but bitcoin is helping ordinary folk make payments bank-free. It makes for a great fit for the more than 10 million Zimbabweans who lack access to basic banking services. And it’s even more beneficial to the banked few, a distrusting lot, keen to protect their savings against bank failure, inflation or even political turmoil.
How Do You Feel About Paying Rent in Bitcoin?
How would you feel about paying rent in bitcoin (BTC)? Josh from Zimbabwe’s second largest city, Bulawayo, feels great about it. “I didn’t have cash at hand, so, my landlord who is open-minded about cryptocurrency said I could pay in bitcoin,” Josh told news.bitcoin.com.
The 23 year-old unemployed psychology graduate, who mines bitcoin at a small scale, zipped 0.02281BTC to his landlord, the equivalent of US$ 120 at the time.
Zimbabwe is faced with a two-fold problem: a shortage of foreign currency, and that of a surrogate currency called bond notes, initially billed as a panacea to the forex crunch. The Southern African country gave up its own currency in 2009, the same year bitcoin was born, after hyperinflation peaked at over 230 million percent, according to official estimates.
Some businesses, importers and informal traders particularly, often now offer discounts on cash purchases in US dollars – or bond notes – while charging more for mobile or card transactions.
Bitcoin a Silver Bullet
Now, as Zimbabwe struggles with a severe cash crisis that has forced people to spend hours queuing for money at banks, bitcoin is proving a silver bullet. Not only is the benchmark cryptocurrency helping people like Josh pay for apartment rentals and rates, but it is also making it easier for Zimbabweans to pay for goods and services that are charged in US dollar terms.
A few days ago, this writer used bitcoin to pay subscription for satellite TV – about 0.0042BTC or US$ 27 at the time, including fees, because I could not get or afford the US dollar equivalent. Around the same time, Stanbic, one of the few remaining local banks accepting deposits for pay television, announced it will no longer be processing such payments, citing a shortage of foreign currency.
The forex crunch means that people can’t pay for goods and services that are dollar denominated using the bond notes, a currency the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) claims is tied 1:1 against the US$ . It is not. The greenback is selling at a premium of 85 percent on the streets of Harare.
Cheaper Than Banks
Study263, a platform originally created to help Zimbabweans studying abroad pay fees with ease via cryptocurrency, has now gained thousands of users as people seek to circumvent the RBZ’s chokehold on foreign currency allocations.
“We don’t only use bitcoin but any other available cryptocurrency – they are cheaper, faster, and in Zimbabwe’s situation it (bitcoin) works now that card payments do not work out of the country anymore,” said Study263 co-founder Tinashe Jani.
Jani said his company had facilitated over 900 transactions with amounts ranging from $ 10-$ 10 000+ since starting operations a year ago. For pay television, Study263, which is based in South Africa, receives bitcoin into its wallet before converting that to Rand and making payment there, for a fee of between 2 to 3 percent. Connection is almost instant.
Banks like Stanbic were charging up to $ 10 for a similar service.
DSTV, Africa’s biggest satellite TV company, is South African-owned.
Jani said his company was getting requests for services they don’t provide such as “someone asking us to give Rand to their siblings who cannot have access to bitcoin in Zimbabwe or South Africa.”
For a fee of 3 percent of the amount transfered, Study263 obliges the request, he said. In Bulawayo, Josh is looking to continue making BTC-based rentals going forward after his first successful ‘test run’ with his landlord.
Cryptocurrencies like bitcoin, ethereum and liteoin are banned in Zimbabwe. The country had started to emerge as a critical part of the crypto market in Africa when the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe in May shut down two exchanges, Golix and Styx24, that were helping people buy and sell bitcoin and other digital coins from a central platform.
The RBZ accused the exchanges of violating Exchange Control laws, and of taking on banking activities, such as accepting deposits – something they weren’t allowed to do. When Golix tried to raise $ 32 million via a token sale in June, central bank governor John Mangudya described the process as a “pyramid scheme”. Today, Golix is contesting the ban in the High Court.
How are people in your area making use of bitcoin in everyday transactions? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.
Images courtesy of Shutterstock.
Verify and track bitcoin cash transactions on our BCH Block Explorer, the best of its kind anywhere in the world. Also, keep up with your holdings, BCH and other coins, on our market charts at Satoshi Pulse, another original and free service from Bitcoin.com.
The post Faced With Cash And Forex Shortages, Zimbabweans Turn To Bitcoin – Even When It’s Banned appeared first on Bitcoin News.
President Trump said he’s ready to impose tariffs on an additional $ 267 billion worth of Chinese goods on short notice, on top of proposed tariffs on $ 200 billion worth that his administration is putting the final touches on.
The implementation of tariffs on $ 200 billion worth of products from…
The Golix bitcoin ATM took on obvious importance when it was first introduced in the Zimbabwean capital Harare, early April. In a country without a currency of its own, where conventional automated teller machines (ATMs) have become useless due to a severe cash crisis, the bitcoin machine was seen as the new gateway to faster cash transfers and cash availability. Now, it is a ‘white elephant’ – unused and redundant. But Golix trudges on.
A Digital Cash Machine Without Cash
The ban on cryptocurrencies issued by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) in May of this year upset ambitious plans by Golix, the Southern African country’s biggest digital currency exchange, to mainstream virtual money, and to its bitcoin ATM – a novelty at the time – hardly four weeks after it had come online.
Today, the machine no longer dispenses cash, or facilitates any trades at all, even though it can still be seen in the Golix offices in central Harare. There is no point, after all, to have on display a little piece of furniture if there is uncertainty about the future of cryptocurrencies in the country.
Golix spokesperson, Nhlalwenhle Ngwenya, refused to comment about any operational issues, claiming such matters were still under litigation. The exchange is challenging the RBZ ban in the Zimbabwe High Court, a case still pending. But at the time the ATM was activated in April, Golix said:
After realizing that the public is still struggling to understand or in some cases access bitcoin, we felt that the bitcoin ATM would be a huge and necessary step towards engaging people on how they can use cryptocurrencies for their daily business.
Crowning Moment Shattered
The Bitcoin machine was, perhaps, the Harare-based trading platform’s crowning moment since it became Zimbabwe’s first digital currency exchange in September, 2015 with only a handful of trades. By the time of the ban in May, Golix had traded more than $ 20 million worth of bitcoin. Its reported revenue climbed 6,200 percent to $ 158,000 at the end of last year. About 50,000 people were actively trading bitcoin, bitcoin cash, litecoin, dash and ethereum on the platform in May, compared to a few dozen customers two years earlier. Things were looking pretty good until the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe announced an unexpected ban on cryptocurrencies.
Virtual money had long operated under a cloud of uncertainty, but the RBZ move at the time suggested they were entering a dark, unpredictable phase. They have. Often, investors look at digital currencies as an investment. But the RBZ’s chokehold on limited foreign currency means that some Zimbabweans had started to use cryptocurrencies to pay for goods and services abroad – like school fees, health bills or car imports. Golix was their intermediary. And the central bank didn’t like that. It accused Golix of mimicking banking activities by accepting deposits, something they weren’t allowed to do because, one – the exchange was not a bank, and two – it wasn’t licensed to do so. The RBZ pointed to Golix’s, or any other crypto exchange, ability to transfer cash across borders like a remittance company, without its approval and, obviously, control, as perhaps the highest form of mischief and anarchy.
Cut All Ties
On May 11, RBZ governor John Mangudya ordered banking institutions that were offering services to Golix and the other Zimbabwean exchange, Styx24, to cut all ties with the crypto exchanges within 60 days. The banks were a lot swifter in their responses and severed ties within days of the instruction. Panic ensued and there was a run on Golix deposits. A ban had taken effect, albeit through the backdoor.
This is the ban that has taken cryptocurrency investors in Zimbabwe away from centralized, stable exchanges to social media forums like Whatsapp and Facebook, where the risk of theft, loss and fraud is significantly higher – apparently anathema to the central bank’s intentions. A ban that has frustrated Golix’s maiden token sale of $ 32 million in July, an offer floated in defiance of the ban, was itself seen by pundits as having clearly spooked the RBZ into the prohibition in the first place.
Keen to conquer Africa, the Golix issue, which was released outside Zimbabwe and closed July 25, was under-subscribed by 35 percent. The idea (to defy the ban) was, ostensibly, to portray a-business-as-usual atmosphere to fresh-faced investors in South Africa, Kenya and Uganda, where the exchange had just opened an office and started to promote the Golix token, and also to prove a point to the conservative Zimbabwean financial regulators, who had made trading in Golix’s primary market virtually impossible, that the business could still flourish elsewhere.
Looking For a Way Out
Today, the Golix office in Harare is still open, manned by a threadbare staff, but only to manage its growing presence in Africa, and in anticipation of a favorable outcome of the case in the High Court, whose hearing date has yet to be set. The exchange continues to make noise about its new GLX token on social media, while sidelining issues around repaying Zimbabwean investors and the thousands of dollars it owes them, both in real cash and cryptocurrency, since its bank accounts were frozen with the ban in May.
Ngwenya, the exchange’s spokesperson, refused to discuss the matter, citing the pending court challenge. But some investors are starting to express concern: “I have had no explanation besides an email saying they (Golix) will provide updates… and they have been quiet since,” complained an investor, who had just $ 70 worth of bitcoin left on the platform at the time of the ban.
On paper, cryptocurrency withdrawals would have been the easiest thing to do because Golix keeps some of the coins in their hot wallet – a kind of live online purse that allows for instant cryptocurrency transfers. And those in the cold storage – the offline wallet, where the majority of crypto is stored, shouldn’t be difficult to transfer to investors. The RBZ ban affected fiat withdrawals, not crypto.
Do you think financial regulators in Africa will allow cryptocurrencies to flourish unhindered? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.
Images courtesy of Shutterstock.
OP-ed disclaimer: This is an Op-ed article. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own. Bitcoin.com does not endorse nor support views, opinions or conclusions drawn in this post. Bitcoin.com is not responsible for or liable for any content, accuracy or quality within the Op-ed article. Readers should do their own due diligence before taking any actions related to the content. Bitcoin.com is not responsible, directly or indirectly, for any damage or loss caused or alleged to be caused by or in connection with the use of or reliance on any information in this Op-ed article.
The post As Zimbabweans Struggle For Cash, Even The Country’s Only Bitcoin ATM Has Run Dry appeared first on Bitcoin News.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions hasn’t been on good terms with President Trump pretty much from the start of the administration. On Thursday, however, things to seem to have reached a new low between them, with the president taking fresh potshots, the attorney general responding, and two top Republicans suggesting that…