23 April 2018

Africa: IMF Endorses Cryptocurrencies ... Says They Don't Pose Immediate Danger

The Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has urged players in the financial sector to embrace the emergence of cryptocurrencies (virtual currencies), suggesting that, it could transform the way people save and invest.

She said just as few technologies that emerged from the dot-com era have transformed lives, the crypto assets that survive could have a significant impact on how people save, invest and pay their bills.

"That is why policymakers should keep an open mind and work toward an even-handed regulatory framework that minimizes risks while allowing the creative process to bear fruit," Ms Christine Lagarde has said during the 2018 Spring Meeting of the IMF and the World Bank Group in Washington DC, USA.

Cryptocurrencies, or virtual currencies, are a new class of digital assets powered by blockchains, which made their name underpinning networks like Bitcoin, Pay Diamond and Ethereum.

There are currently more than 1,600 crypto-assets in circulation, IMF Boss, Christine Lagarde disclosed, adding that, "given their still-small footprint and limited links to the rest of the financial system, crypto-assets do not pose an immediate danger."

Despite the assurance, she said regulators should remain vigilant as crypto-assets have the potential to magnify the risks of highly leveraged trading, and to increase the transmission of economic shocks should they become more integrated into mainstream financial products.

She further warned that banks and other financial institutions will face challenges to their business models, should there be a large-scale shift away from government-issued currencies toward crypto-assets.

"Regulators might find it harder to ensure the stability of a more diffuse and decentralized financial system. Central banks might have more trouble acting as the lender of last resort in case of a crisis," Ms. Lagarde warned.

Even-handed approach

Before crypto-assets can transform financial activity in a meaningful and lasting way, Ms. Lagarde said, they must earn the confidence and support of consumers and authorities.

"An important initial step will be to reach a consensus within the global regulatory community on the role crypto-assets should play. Because crypto-assets know no boundaries, international cooperation will be essential," she explained.

She said the IMF, with a membership of 189 countries, could play a key role by offering advice and serving as a forum for discussion and collaboration in the development of a consistent regulatory approach.

"For this to happen, we must keep abreast of rapid developments in markets and technologies. We must act quickly to close the knowledge gaps that inhibit the effective monitoring of crypto-assets."

The IMF Boss further stated: "There should be systemic risk assessment and timely policy responses, as well as measures to protect consumers, investors, and market integrity."

Key Points:

Cryptocurrencies - Some Potential Benefits?

Fast, inexpensive

Crypto-assets enable fast and inexpensive financial transactions, while offering some of the convenience of cash. Some payment services now make overseas transfers in a matter of hours, not days. If privately issued crypto-assets remain risky and unstable, there may be demand for central banksto provide digital forms of money―an idea we explore in the forthcoming Global Financial Stability Report.

The underlying technology of crypto-assets--distributed ledger technology, or DLT--could help financial markets function more efficiently. Self-executing and self-enforcing "smart contracts" could eliminate the need for some intermediaries. Already, the Australian Securities Exchange has said it plans to use DLT to manage the clearing and settlement of equity transactions.

Secure storage of important records is another promising use for DLT. Healthcare companies are studying how to use the technology to maintain confidential medical data while providing access to insurers and other authorized users.

In developing economies, such advances can help secure property rights, increase market confidence and promote investment. In Ghana, where property ownership is often the subject of disputes, a DLT-based platform called Bitlandpromises to help solve the problem by securely recording land sales.

Ghana's First Official Cryptocurrency

Cryptocurrency is turning things around for the nation. It has opened up the market and has given jobs and business opportunities to people who would have otherwise had nothing.

The Finchcoin, Ghana's first official cryptocurrency has been met with such popularity by the people that it is being expanded upon. This means Ghana will be getting cryptocurrency exchanges, a Finchcoin-based bank, a crypto mining station, crypto bonds and most importantly more opportunities for the people.

16-year-old Elisha Owusu Akyaw is one of those largely benefitting from the growth that has spawned from this coin. Ghana's youngest entrepreneur is the CEO of Token Media. The small company has carried out its share of massive operations thanks to blockchain. They haven't done it all themselves though. The small business has went through many firms who directed their projects in the right direction. That said, Token Media has carried out over $40 million in token sales.

This young man journeyed down a very unconventional path to his success. He explains here, "I got into the tech space sometime in 2013. I had my second phone after using a Nokia 3310, so I got access to the Internet and began to explore what mobile phones, operating systems and websites were all about, and in 2014, I learned how to create websites on my own through YouTube."

In terms of Ghana's attitude toward cryptocurrency, Finchcoin's birth has signaled a kind of change in the tides. The government that once warned citizens to stay away from cryptocurrency is now ready to embrace it. With that, the government of Ghana does want to regulations on cryptocurrency.

Akyaw, the young CEO has expressed that he believes cryptocurrencies will be the dawn of new era for Africa. It will pull the continent from the tight grips of financial despair.

He stated, "The futures of cryptocurrencies in Africa is bright, as it has moved from just being currencies into various useful platforms that will be essential to the African continent. I'm currently working on putting together an event on cryptocurrencies with a focus on regulations, the future of cryptocurrencies, and how they can help Africa."

Felix Dela Klutse, Washington DC, USA


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