Government and the National Bank of Rwanda (BNR) have maintained deliberate silence on whether to ban or leave cryptocurrencies for reasons beyond their control, a public forum heard Friday.
One of the challenges in trying to regulate the growing industry globally, the Rwanda central bank says, is born in the very logic of cryptocurrency – to disrupt the established follow of cash.
The technology is society’s fight-back to eliminate the need for centralized control of money.
There is no specific data on how many people in Rwanda or firms are involved in cryptocurrency arrangements. There is also a handful of people locally who have any idea about this new mode of money.
A forum on the technology was held on Friday organized by Rwanda Events Group – a private firm in partnership with the Ministry of ICT and Innovation.
The so called ‘FinTech Fridays’ forum is an initiative aimed at bringing together industry players to discuss global trends in Financial Technology and bring them to the local context.
The March 22 session at Marriott Hotel was dedicated to discussing Cryptocurrency in Government Services.
There is no simplified explanation as to what cryptocurrency is, which can easily be noticed by asking even the local elites.
A cryptocurrency, as par global industry monitoring firm coinmarketcap.com, is digital or virtual currency that uses cryptography for security. Cryptocurrency is said to be difficult to counterfeit because of this security feature.
As of April 2018, the firm had identified 1,500 Cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin, Ethereum and Ripple. It is the figure that widely used all over.
Ripple has a particular closeness to Rwanda for an entirely different reason.
In May last year, the Ellen DeGeneres’ wildlife fund received a $4million donation via Ripple.
Ellen’s project is leading a major gorilla conservation program, which is also currently constructing a $10m campus in Musanze district, northern Rwanda.
On behalf of Ripple, co-founder of Sound Ventures the firm behind the virtual currency, Hollywood star Ashton Kutcher, made the donation by simply tapping away in seconds on his phone live on Ellen’s TV show. Millions were watching.
Kutcher said: “Usually people come out with the big giant check and do the big giant check thing, but we can actually transfer into Rwandan Francs right now right here and all we have to do is push this button that’s in your account.”
Back at the FinTech Friday yesterday, when the head of the Head of Payments at the central bank, John Karamuka was asked whether there was plan to regulate usage of cryptocurrencies, he directly pointed out that it is impossible.
“You regulate something you can supervise, there is no third party in cryptocurrency,” he said, adding that some emerge on the market today only for you find out at the end of the day that they have collapsed.
“We have 1,500 cryptocurrencies, but some of them are ‘Shit Coins’…,” added Karamuka, who urged anybody trying them to make sure they understand everything about them.
ICT and Innovation Minister Ingabire Paula said there have been some local experiments on ways to introduce possible use and regulation of ‘crypto money’.
No steps have been undertaken on whether to allow the public to use crypto money openly or ban it completely, said Ingabire, who emphasized caution for those going to the technology.
“We can’t prevent people from using [cryptocurrencies], but when you do it, do it at your own risk,” she summed up.