Bitcoin in CAR: Bangui’s moment of truth at the BEAC

By Omer Mbadi, in Yaoundé
Posted on Thursday, 21 July 2022 17:20

Songo Island, a project focused on cryptocurrencies led by the Central African Republic. ©Sango.org

The extraordinary sessions of the BEAC and CEMAC devoted to the consequences of the adoption of bitcoin by the Central African Republic (CAR), long postponed by Bangui, are being held 20-21 July in Douala.

Has reality caught up with Hervé Ndoba? This week, the CAR’s finance and budget minister is chairing an extraordinary session of the Bank of Central African States’ (BEAC) board of directors in Douala with only one item on the agenda: his country’s adoption of a law governing cryptocurrencies on 22 April of this year.

21 July is the day Bangui is putting 210m “Sango Coins” – the “national digital currency” – up for sale at $.10 each to raise $21m. On the same day, the money man will be facing his peers at the Communauté Économique et Monétaire de l’Afrique Centrale – CEMAC (the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa), which includes Gabon, Congo, Chad, Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea in addition to CAR, within the framework of the ministerial committee of the l’Union monétaire de l’Afrique centrale – UMAC – the Monetary Union of Central Africa.

Deadline

Ndoba had been dragging his feet, delaying the deadline. However, on 29 April, the governor of the regional central bank, Chad’s Abbas Mahamat Tolli, nailed him down as president of the two sub-regional economic bodies, demanding that they be convened in order to “examine the numerous implications of the law in question on monetary cooperation agreements”. In the wake of this, the central banker set up an internal working group to examine the issue.

On 14 July, the IMF extended CAR’s benchmark programme to September. It was approved in December 2021. “This extension will give Central African authorities more time to obtain assurances of financing from international partners. In addition, the extension will allow them to pursue ongoing efforts to harmonise the Central African law on crypto assets with regional commitments at the CEMAC zone level,” the IMF said in its statement.

Pressure tactics

Although he has distanced himself from his country’s cryptocurrency project, Ndoba is now being asked to explain himself and also convince the sub-regional authorities. It is not sure whether he will find allies around the table.

At the end of the BEAC’s monetary policy committee meeting last week, Chad’s Tolli urged community members to be cautious with cryptocurrencies, given their erratic behaviour in recent weeks, according to statements made to the press on 14 July. Louis Paul Motaze, the Cameroonian treasurer, echoes this circumspection and keeps reminding people that this activity is not yet legal.

Other countries have leverage and some analysts believe that the position of BEAC governor is at stake. The Central African Republic, which is to receive this prestigious post for the first time at the end of Tolli’s current mandate, according to the principle of rotation of community responsibilities, could be deprived of the post unless it comes to its senses. Will the pressure be enough to make Bangui bend?

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