No, this is not the first cryptocurrency ATM in South Africa

A recent article published by Business Insider SA titled “SA’s first cryptocurrency ATM to open in Johannesburg by the end of the week” covered the installation of a new cryptocurrency ATM at a Spar in Johannesburg.

The article (archived here) claimed that South Africa’s first crypto ATM was to be installed by Northwold Spar, and supported multiple cryptocurrencies like Dash, Ethereum, and Bitcoin.

While this is undoubtedly a forward-looking move, it is most certainly not the first cryptocurrency ATM to go live in South Africa.

MyBroadband spoke to Bitmart CEO Jacques Serfontein, who confirmed there are multiple cryptocurrency ATMs live in South Africa – including a Douro cryptocurrency ATM at the retailer’s physical store in Nelspruit.

Bitmart’s cryptocurrency ATM was installed in September 2017 and supports multiple cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, Dash, and ZCash.

The retailer also sells Douro cryptocurrency ATMs through its online store for R149,999.

The picture of the ATM posted in the Business Insider SA article implies it is Douro ATM model.

Business Insider SA then published a follow-up article, showing the “first cryptocurrency ATM” in South Africa in action.

Bitmart cryptocurrency ATM
The Douro cryptocurrency ATM installed at Bitmart’s physical store in Nelspruit.

Cash exchanges and wallets

Cryptocurrency ATMs allow users to buy and sell cryptocurrencies for cash without requiring a bank account.

Users simply supply a QR code containing their chosen cryptocurrency wallet address, either through a smartphone app or physical print.

The machine then scans the user’s QR code, accepts the cash payment, and deposits cryptocurrency into their wallet.

Cryptocurrency ATMs function as direct cash exchanges with the owner of the machine’s wallet, however, and are not regulated by the same rules which apply to bank ATMs.

This can make it difficult to track the number of active cryptocurrency ATMs in South Africa, and means that property owners who wish to offer cash exchange services have nothing to stop them from buying an ATM for their store.

Websites such as Coin ATM Radar can be helpful for those looking to find an ATM, but they function on user submissions and are not perfect record keepers of all crypto ATM locations.

As cryptocurrencies are decentralised, there is also no regulator or single body controlling who can open a wallet, purchase an ATM, or make transactions.

This, paired with the fact that a crypto ATM looks like any other address on a blockchain, makes it difficult to determine the true number of ATMs in South Africa.

Serfontein said he knew of several other crypto ATMs in Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Midrand, and there could easily be more dotted around the country which are not as well advertised.

Tracking which was the first to be implemented is therefore a difficult task.

Now read: I hope Bitcoin will be the Internet’s native currency – Twitter CEO

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No, this is not the first cryptocurrency ATM in South Africa