Digital currency is transforming the way people experience money around the world, from offering an easier and cheaper way to send assets to lowering barriers to the digital and global economy.
In our Country Corner series, we take a look at how different nations and their financial systems are impacted by the adoption of cryptocurrency. We first covered Vietnam taking the prize as the top-ranked crypto adopter, opening access into its economy by leveraging blockchain technology's speed and convenience.
Now rising as another frontrunner in the crypto space, South Africa is pivoting toward greater financial inclusion brought by this decentralized, worldwide payment option.
South Africa embraces crypto across its infrastructure
Cryptocurrency use is becoming the norm in South Africa, with around 7.7 million South Africans owning some crypto and over half being highly optimistic about purchasing more in the future – amping up the country’s ranking into the top ten of global crypto success, according to CoinJourney’s 2022 study.
Rather than using bitcoin and other coins as a speculative investment, many South Africans are defying asset volatility and inflation by quickly cashing in or cashing out their crypto for everyday needs.
Because digital assets are decentralized — meaning they're outside the interference of third parties like banks or credit unions — individuals who can’t, don’t, or won’t use traditional banking services have the freedom to join the digital and global economy. For everything from buying and selling digital assets to transferring funds internationally, crypto competes with native currency with its near-instant delivery and low fees.
Following this growing confidence in crypto as an alternative payment option, the South African Reserve Bank declared digital currency as a financial asset at the start of 2023, allowing crypto to be accepted as a form of payment or exchanged for physical currency. This decision to embrace a bitcoin-friendly policy is a huge move for solidifying crypto in the South African infrastructure, helping blockchain scale in a way that benefits both investors and the nation.
With crypto so woven throughout South Africa’s financial fabric, the government was prompted to enact greater regulation of the industry. These efforts were put in place to protect vulnerable investors from scams and fraudsters, including money laundering and tax evasion.
To legally operate, all providers of crypto services or products must be licensed, adopt a “Know Your Customer” (KYC) check to verify identities and maintain full transparency on investment risks, in turn making it easier for customers to safely buy, sell, and store their cryptocurrencies.
A contradiction with a positive outlook
Despite nearly 1 in 4 South Africans being unbanked, the majority of whom reporting lower income, an estimated 79% of South Africans have mobile phones. Just through the accessibility of the internet, digital currency offers a solution for closing the financial gap. Blockchain technology helps bridge greater financial inclusion to individuals who were previously barred from opening a bank account or faced challenges sending remittances across borders.
After a simple and quick verification process through the Olliv digital platform or at one of our nearby crypto kiosks, anyone can make payments from anywhere and at any time in a convenient and affordable way. With this inclusive financial system enriching the economy, vendors, retailers, and governments can also benefit.