Cryptocurrency is here to stay, buckle up
Skeptics who were initially shaken after Facebook’s announcement in June that it was part of a consortium building Libra ...
The last few weeks have been laced with a cocktail of bad publicity for cryptocurrency that have partly succeeded in making the idea seem like a poisoned chalice. Scams and cons have characterized the news everytime it is mentioned.
However, from the quiet beginnings of Bitcoin to the level it is at, garnering all this much attention, one thing can't be ignored - the fact that it is here to stay and like any new technological disruption, resistance is part and parcel of the process. That has come with the misinformation that is being exploited by a few unintentionally creating this bad for business atmosphere.
But that also illustrates the kind of faith the masses have on decentralized finance. Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa are a step ahead of the rest of Africa with this cryptocurrency wave given their sizeable holdings trading activities. Do they facilitate buying and selling? Partly yes. Japanese car dealer Beforward accepts Bitcoin for transactions.
Skeptics who were initially shaken after Facebook's announcement in June that it was part of a consortium building Libra - their home-grown cryptocurrency - gained their voices once again when signs showed it was crumbling fast.
Mastercard, Visa, Stripe, eBay, PayPal and Mercado Pago withdrew from the Libra Association citing pressure from governments and regulators who argue that the project is a threat to existing financial systems, but most importantly, protect their businesses from harsh regulatory consequences in effect.
The biggest worry is numbers - Facebook has over two billion users out of the seven billion on planet earth and that by far should make it the biggest bank in the world and the most used payment system. That would kill the usefulness of banks and their current and future digital services.
Also, traditional remittance services like Money gram, Western Union, WorldRemit will be forced to adapt to the new wave or die off natural and get consigned to the archives.
Similarly, that will be the fate of mobile money which has lived and grown off the idea of convenience, but Libra and cryptocurrencies generally will enable instant micro-payments which is not the case with Mobile Money owing to its mechanics.
Now, Libra is going to be on Blockchain and the big concern that is amplified by every negative story about cryptocurrency is regulation.
It throws the issue of territorial sovereignty with which the central banks issue and protect currencies from threats into question and Libra will take all that power from Central banks across the world. And without regulation, the risks include abuse by criminals as the signs and symptoms already show.
The government need to focus on the opportunities this will present. And it calls for investment in research in the areas of technological security, risk assessment and its legality all of which policymakers dodge with a passion.
The difference here is that with cryptos unlike other payment modes is that there are no middle men/agents and the transaction is on the internet so you can transact form anywhere in the world. Therefore, Blockchain is indeed a double-edged technology that can support or be used to suppress businesses and security. In Uganda, currently the cryptos available are OneCoin, Hard Cash, BitCoin, Swiss Coin and Billion Coin.
Last week, I attended the Sub-Saharan Africa Regional Economic Outlook where Patrick Mweheire, the Managing Director of Stanbic Bank Uganda said Cryptocurrency is getting too much airtime yet its total global value is about $1trillion - the value of Apple. And is risky. He argued that investing in cattle makes economic sense instead.
Last year during the first ever Blockchain Conference in the region, President Museveni and the governor of Bank of Uganda, Emmanuel Mutebile apparently couldn't agree on whether to disregard or buy into the idea of adopting cryptocurrency.
Mutebile disagreed and expressed pessimism arguing that no crypto can manage a well-managed national or regional currency. But Museveni expressed optimism asking him not to be dismissive of the new technology because it can help things move faster.
The writer is a Motoring and Technology writer with the New Vision