Big players are continuing to roll out cryptocurrency services in South Africa, from international exchanges to major asset managers.
While the country may fall behind in other sectors of cutting-edge technology, South Africa’s cryptocurrency industry is alive and well.
Locals have shown a great interest in cryptocurrencies, with South Africa consistently ranking highest worldwide in search interest for “Bitcoin”, according to data from Google Trends.
Despite mainstream interest declining since the massive drop in digital currency prices, many startups and companies are looking to cryptocurrency and the technology behind it.
International organisations are looking to the South African market to launch cryptocurrency services, and local players are beginning to build global products.
Partly driving this is that South Africans are still looking to purchase cryptocurrency – and their exchange options are continuing to grow.
Luno is an established cryptocurrency exchange which operators in over 40 countries, including South Africa.
The exchange allows South Africans to buy Bitcoin and Ethereum directly with rand after a FICA process.
However, it is set to face more competition in the near future.
Sygnia CEO Magda Wierzycka said the asset management company will launch a cryptocurrency exchange named SygniaCoin in the third quarter of 2018.
Sygnia’s exchange will provide South Africans with the option to purchase cryptocurrency using rand, and will reportedly base its policies on regulatory framework used by exchanges based in New York, USA.
South Africans who wish to use cryptocurrency as an investment may prefer the interface of the asset management firm’s upcoming exchange, as it will allow users to hold and manage cryptocurrencies alongside more traditional assets.
Large international exchanges are also starting to see potential for adoption across Africa, with Binance set to launch a cryptocurrency-fiat exchange in Uganda.
Cryptocurrency exchange Coindirect has also recently launched trading pairs between rand and a range of cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, Bitcoin Cash, and Ripple.
Wallet support for these currencies, in addition to ERC-20 tokens, is also available.
The local cryptocurrency scene has also experienced a growing interest in the technology behind digital currencies.
International projects, including the recently-launched TariLabs blockchain incubator, also have strong local roots.
The startup is based in Johannesburg and is headed by Monero lead maintainer Riccardo Spagni, US-based entrepreneur Naveen Jain, and Ticketfly founder Dan Teree.
Jain told MyBroadband there is a lot of untapped potential for blockchain development in South Africa, and that it is exciting to have a cutting-edge blockchain project being developed in Johannesburg.
This interest in blockchain technology is not exclusive to the private sector, with the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) testing distributed ledger technology to improve payments.
The SARB based its experimental inter-bank payment settlement system on an Ethereum-based product called Quorum, which was built by blockchain engineers at JP Morgan.
Named Project Kokha, the system underwent pilot testing and performed exceedingly well during simulated real-time gross payments between banks.
Untapped developer resources, public interest in cryptocurrencies, and the lack of constrictive regulation in South Africa gives the country the potential to become a world leader in blockchain development.
As more South African companies experiment with blockchain technology, and offer products based on distributed ledger technology, the utility of cryptocurrencies will only continue to grow.