With an already over 100-billion-dollar market cap, digital currency or cryptocurrency is already making a huge global impact as it continues to grow and changing the course of our traditional currency channels.
It is estimated that only 4% of the world’s population knows and actively using the world’s first digital currency which is Bitcoin. There are however 1500 cryptocurrencies already in the market as of 2019. Bitcoin was created in 2009 and is an open source software, designed with clever algorithms to solve mathematical problems.
Shireen Ramjoo, Founder of Liquid Crypto-Money, a South African based cryptocurrency consultancy says, ‘Cryptocurrency is a digital currency in which encryption techniques are used to regulate the generation of units of currency and verify the transfer of funds, which operates independently of a central bank. This technology is revolutionary as it changes the way we see traditional banking and how it will be done in the future. It has the capability to generate units (create its own currency) and allow for verification of transferring of funds, changing the status quo of our traditional currency and banking ways.’
As bitcoins are created and held electronically, there is no need to spend on printing, like traditional fiat currencies, like the rand or dollar – they are produced by people running computers all around the world, using this software that solves these mathematical problems.
It is a decentralised system, meaning that it is not owned by any governments or authorities. Transactions are made with no middle men. Bitcoin is a currency that was created with an intention to create more wealth for people, it is different from traditional currency in that, it is not only viewed as a currency but as a commodity as it appreciates over time.
So why should we be more interested in this?
The fact is that for centuries we relied on the banking sector to take care of our traditional banking needs. Now we are moving into a ‘money-revolution’ where traditional currencies would not be used as much as we use them now, into our future. It brings with it faster, cheaper, and more efficient value driven solutions.
‘Already countries are adopting this trend and beginning to create their own digital currencies. Tunisia is the first country in the world to create a government digital currency, the e-Dinar. Senegal is looking to roll-out the eCFA and if successful looking to roll it out to all other francophone countries. Various other governments are in beginner phase talks about creating their own centralized digital currencies. We will be seeing centralised and decentralised currencies playing out side by side in the market,’ says Ramjoo.
Many of us also assume that because it is a digital currency, we cannot physically use this money. That is far from the truth. Bitcoin, works as a normal currency. Once you get your bitcoin debit card, which is a normal Visa or Mastercard, you can swipe at any point of sale system, which can be at your local Spar, Woolworths or even at the petrol station. That then means, even if a retailer does not accept bitcoin directly, every shop that takes VISA/Mastercard takes bitcoin indirectly too. You are also able to withdraw physical cash or local currency using your card at any local FNB, Absa, Nedbank, Standard Bank ATM or any worldwide ATM.
First world countries have a wider network of bitcoin ATMs already, in South Africa the first bitcoin ATM was installed in Kyalami, Johannesburg in 2014.
Worldwide developments are taking place of governments starting to regulate bitcoin and accepting it as a form of currency in respective countries already. Germany, Switzerland, Japan, Australia are amongst the countries that already have regulated it. In South Africa, SARS will include Bitcoin in 2019 Tax Forms, to start tracking cryptocurrency trades.
The advantages of using cryptocurrency (bitcoin) weighs far more positive than using fiat currency because it allows people more freedom with their own finances.
- Money can be sent globally in a matter of minutes.
- Fees are minimal. Lesser than traditional routes.
- It’s fast, efficient, and safe if learnt how to use correctly.
- It is an appreciating currency. It is designed to deflate and increase value over time.
- It’s a universal currency, meaning that the price is standard all over the world.
- It is also VISA/Mastercard accredited, meaning that it is accepted and used worldwide and can be exchanged to any worldwide currency.
- It’s recorded on the blockchain which is a transparent system which we all can see.
- No third party seizure. Governments cannot freeze bitcoin accounts allowing users of bitcoin to use their money freely. Once regulations are in place they would have access however to such data.
‘People really need to understand digital currency, so that they learn how to transact safely. With anything new as well, there are others trying to scam people with investment programs. Bitcoin is just a currency, like your rand or dollar. If you choose to take this currency then invest it into a programme promising returns, then there would be higher risk in such and that has nothing to do with the currency itself,’ warns Ramjoo.
Shireen Ramjoo can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Shireen Ramjoo
Photo by TheDigitalArtist/Pixabay