Visionary or suicidal?

CAR adopts bitcoin: ‘Snub to neo-colonialist currencies or economic mirage?’

By Damien Glez

Posted on April 29, 2022 11:22

 © By Damien Glez
By Damien Glez

Bangui has announced that bitcoin will now be one of the country’s official currencies, alongside the CFA franc. This is both a political and economic decision.

It’s a long way from monetary sovereignty to the cusp of prosperity, especially when your money – the CFA france – is shared by neighbouring countries and your economic situation is flourishing much less than theirs. Add to that a Pan-African controversy over the pegging of that currency to that of a former colonist, and the temptation of a ‘magical’ diversification of currencies looms.

Rich in diamonds, gold and uranium, the CAR willingly occupies the bottom of the rankings, particularly those of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). It shares the CFA franc with five other countries of the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (CEMAC), all of which can claim more enviable economic performance.

Touadéra, ‘satisfied and enthusiastic’

The CAR has therefore decided not to put all its fiduciary eggs in the same monetary basket. Given that Zimbabwe’s financial dithering led to the majority of local transactions being conducted in US dollars, Bangui has now embraced a cryptographic system that does not even require a central bank. On 27 April, the country announced that bitcoin was becoming an official currency, alongside the CFA franc. The National Assembly voted ‘unanimously’ to allow the use of crypto-currencies, and President Faustin-Archange Touadéra was ‘satisfied’ and ‘enthusiastic’ when he signed the bill into law.

The CAR can now pride itself on being the first African nation to follow in the footsteps of El Salvador, which was the first country in the world to adopt bitcoin as a benchmark currency. The Central African presidency has hailed this decision as “visionary.” Bold? No doubt. Risky? Perhaps. Ever since cryptocurrency appeared on the scene, the IMF has felt that making it an official currency would be dangerous for “financial stability, financial integrity and consumer protection”. Still, African nations don’t exactly have a favourable view of the IMF.

Is this a snub to neo-colonialist currencies or an economic mirage? On a continent where many people do not have a bank account, there is a strong temptation to adopt digital currency and blockchain technology.

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