Exclusively populated by Afrikaners, the town of Orania located in the remote parts of South Africa’s Northern Cape Province, has had its own currency known as the Ora since 2004.
Pegged to the rand, the Orania Chamber of Commerce has been responsible for printing the community’s currency.
Now the town of approximately 1,600 people is experimenting with a digital currency version of the Ora, the E-Ora, as a way of further solidifying their independence.
According to the Associated Press, the experiment began in January though the idea had been announced last year as CCN.com had reported. Per the Orania Chamber of Commerce chairman, Daniel Dames, the E-Ora will offer respite if the South African rand suffers from hyper-inflation or devaluation.
As it is not a cryptocurrency in the mold of Bitcoin, for instance, the proponents of the E-Ora harbor the vision of ultimately pegging the digital currency to a hard currency.
“If the rand became so weak that one were to decide to walk away from it, one could perhaps couple (the E-Ora) to something else, such as a basket of currencies out there. Or something inside Orania. Something comparable that has value,” Dames told the Associated Press.
Work on the digital currency is however still ongoing.
According to some of the Orania community members who have been using the E-Ora, some of the advantages that the digital currency has offered include low transaction costs with some already using it to shop via their mobile phones. The digital currency also offers convenience since it makes it unnecessary to carry cash around.
Additionally, the E-Ora will eliminate the expenses of printing paper notes as well as reducing transaction costs.
“It is basically electronic cash that will be moved from wallet to wallet with every transaction without the commercial banks standing in the middle. In this way friction and cost is removed from the transaction. Both consumers and retailers will save between three and five per cent per transaction,” Peter Krige, the coordinator of Orania’s digital currency initiative said last year when the plans were initially announced.
During the testing phase of the E-Ora digital currency, the transaction costs have been averaging around 0.5%. The proponents of the Ora currency, and by extension the E-Ora, also argue that the digital currency will assist in preserving their Afrikaans culture.
Established by Carel Boshoff in 1991, Orania is situated on private land that measures 8,000 hectares. The community which regularly generates controversy over its lack of racial diversity has two schools and its own municipal services. Its economy is heavily reliant on tourism and agriculture and currently Orania’s own statistics suggest it enjoys an unemployment rate of 2% compared to a South Africa-wide rate of 26.7%.