At a recent cybersecurity conference held in Jo’burg. The Governor of Reserve Bank of South Africa Lesetja Kganyago announced the bank’s change of mind and openness to blockchain and cryptocurrency.
In a total contradiction of the bank’s position two years ago [PDF], Kganyago said, “As a central bank, we are open to innovations despite the different opinions of regulators on matters such as cryptocurrencies. We are will to consider the merits and risks of blockchain technology and other distributed ledgers.”
South Africa Reserve Bank is now exploring this new technology and is keen on finding innovations that can come from it. A big U-turn considering the fact that barely two years ago, the bank issued a statement that fell short of banning cryptocurrencies. In the well-crafted statement, the bank discouraged people from using the ‘risky’ currencies.
The Reserve Bank was basically echoing what many big financial institutions (read U.S. authorities) position on bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies. It has dawned on the bank, that cryptocurrencies are here, and they are here to stay. The bank might as well look on ways to leverage on this new technology; and now it is doing just that.
The warming up to cryptocurrency by the South Africa Reserve Bank comes hot on the heels of Absa Bank joining the R3 Blockchain Consortium. The bank is gearing up to developing the first distributed ledger-based banking solution for the continent.
The Barclays Africa Group generally, has been doing experiments with the blockchain technology for some time now. Last year, the Group launched a blockchain supply chain challenge with participants from across the continent. It was Markit Opportunity from Kenya that won the challenge. Markit is an e-commerce site matching buyers and sellers; a social entrepreneurship venture seeking to empower farmers and farm produce buyers with information.
The Bank also was also one of the sponsors that made the Blockchain and Bitcoin Africa Conference held in Jo’burg South Africa on March 3rd to 4th.