Robert Ndlovu

ZIMBABWE does not have its own currency and we last had one in 2008, which people stopped using because of hyperinflation. Could this factor mean that Zimbabwe is ready for bitcoin payments? Too bad, established banks and central banks may not be comfortable with this. Our banks can only facilitate your international transfer if you have funds in your Nostro account.

In Zimbabwe all the banks have underfunded Nostro accounts and people cannot make cross-border payments. Well thanks to crypto-currencies — the problem of forex becomes trivial. Only recently pharmacies hiked their prices by 70 percent claiming that they have to source hard cash from the black market. Crypto-currencies have no central location or control and they are pretty anonymous. But to the user they are offer best value for money.

Transactions are less than 1c and some even free. If you have not started using bitcoins and you are in Zimbabwe you could be in for a rude awakening. 10 years ago very few people had a smartphone and Whatsapp. Today it is the “defacto” communications mode. As long as the country faces crippling liquidity crisis the bitcoin will emerge stronger. Let us look at some simple scenarios where bitcoins are making life easier for locals.

Importing a car from Japan

Until recently buying a car online from Japan was pretty easy and straight forward as long as you had your bank card with a healthy balance. But now local banks have either suspended use of credit/debit cards to make international payments. Those who still offer the service have a cap of between $ 50 to $ 100 per transaction. Now imagine that you are trying to import a car priced at $ 1 500. How many online transactions will that be? What is really frustrating is that even if you have your own hard US Dollars to pay for your car, you will face challenges in trying to send that money to the company in Japan. If you deposit that money into your local bank account, you can kiss the forex equivalent good bye. It was only recently that BAZ announced that individuals had no need of hard cash but companies. But then such arrogance and public exhibition of ignorance of what is happening around finance technology might turn out to be bank’s undoing.

In other words they are telling the banking public to go to hell if I may use the term. But what they do not realise is that not all of us are buffoons. They can keep their cash and we will use crypto currencies that do not attract any levy charges. A buyer based in Victoria Falls opens a bitcoin wallet online and loads it with bitcoins. After that she can make the equivalent bitcoin (BTC) payment to the auto trader based in Japan. Simple.

Buying an air ticket

Online travel agents like, accept bitcoins as settlement for air tickets. There is no middle man involved. Same process. You choose your flight, make a booking and pay using BTC. You must note that BTC payments are non repudiable. This means they cannot be reversed. Ensure you have all correct details before making any transaction.

Paying for online courses and exams

Following my first article on bitcoins I received an email from a student based in Harare who wanted to pay for his ACCA exams in the UK but could not do so via the legacy banking system as there is a liquidity challenge in Zimbabwe. He hinted that ACCA accepted BTC and wanted help to that end and help he did get and he will be sitting for his exams as scheduled. More and more institutions are accepting bitcoins as a mode of payment. Banks will be in trouble the writing is on the wall. I could go on the list is endless. Think of cross border traders. Fuel importers and everything in between including gambling using BTC.

The challenge we have is that crypto currencies are not well understood. As a result those who do not understand this technology are quick to say that it is fake or it does not work. I use bitcons almost daily. It reminds me of a time when I sounded like a fool to most people 20 years ago when I was saying soon we will be using mobile phones to browse the internet. In fact the mobile operator that I approached then thought I was high on some weed. But the then MD had read about it elsewhere and knew what I was talking about. Same thing 10 years ago, my own uncle did not believe that one could make calls for FREE over the internet.

Today I am telling you that digital currency is real and here to stay. Governments and central banks are naturally concerned about use of digital currencies and understandably so. The fact that they cannot regulate its use is worrying enough for them. Also there are bad guys out there who use bitcoins anonymously and as a result they can engage in illegal activities like buying illicit drugs, weapons and stolen items from the dark internet. This is a genuine concern for any civilised society.

The fact that bitcoins are not regulated and can be anonymous does not give you a passport to commit crime. Also governments are concerned about money laundering. Money laundering is the process of making illegally gained proceeds (dirty money) appear legal or clean. The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe is in a trapped between a rock and a hard place. It is common knowledge that we have challenges when it comes to foreign currency to meet our imports. So as long as this situation exists where we import more than we export we will be in a fix for a very long time. So it would make sense for RBZ to engage stakeholders involved in digital currency. Because use of suppression laws will not work, I don’t blame them. They are struggling to understand what this is and not. So engagement of stake holders should be a top priority by RBZ to avoid embarrassment.

To this end we try to educate and create awareness to locals about the power of digital currencies ZimBitCoin conducts seminars and workshops on crypto-currencies.

Should you as an individual or organisation be interested in this, feel free to drop a line and we can make arrangements. But in the meantime do you own research and learn what crypto-currencies can do in your life. Are you a business or organisation struggling to access foreign currency to meet your import bills? Your problems could be over. Bitcoin technology is a destructive technology and waits for no one. No amount of legislation can stop it. It is technically “unstoppable”. Bitcoin is good for Zimbabwe as it takes off pressure from Nostro accounts. No brainer. Join the revolution jump into the band wagon. Walala wasala! (071) 400 4000 (Whatsapp + Calls).

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