Tech Lawyer Sees Possibility of Bitcoin Regulation in South Africa

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A senior associate and technology lawyer at global financial law firm Norton Rose Fulbright has discussed the legality of bitcoin in South Africa, a country where the cryptocurrency remains unregulated.

In a blog published yesterday, Kerri Crawford, a technology lawyer and senior associate at global law firm Norton Rose Fulbright discussed cryptocurrencies with a particular focus on bitcoin.

Based in Johannesburg with a focus on e-commerce and information technology, Crawford writes that Bitcoin usage in South Africa isn’t illegal. She also notes that bitcoin acceptance among vendors is growing, with a fellow law firm also accepting payment in the cryptocurrency.

The legal status of Bitcoin in South Africa is akin to that of most countries around the world, wherein cryptocurrencies aren’t prohibited or outlawed outright.

Crawford underlines the same while referencing a joint advisory [PDF] issued by the country’s major financial authorities and regulators in 2014, alerting citizens to be aware of the risks associated with using or investing in virtual currencies.

At the time, the National Treasury of the Republic of South Africa began its alert by stating:

The National Treasury, the South African Reserve Bank, the Financial Services Board, the South African Revenue Service and the Financial Intelligence Centre would like to warn members of the public to be aware of the risks associated with the use of virtual currencies for either transactions or investments.

While the official position and lack of regulation remain the same with the lack of any new updates to the advisory since the September 2014 user alert, Crawford raises the possibility of the government looking into regulating and recognizing bitcoin in the future. She wrote:

[A]s the uptake of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies increases, it is possible that the South African authorities will adopt the approach taken in many other jurisdictions and explore ways in which the regulatory regime could be amended or revised.

The rest of the blog details regulatory measures taken by authorities from different countries including those in the European Union along with Canada, Australia and the United States.

South Africa has notably played host to the first ever bitcoin conference in the African continent. Cape Town was the venue for a two-day bitcoin conference in April 2015, with bitcoin and Fintech startups vying to tap into the sizable African remittance industry.

In recent times, bitcoin made further gains in the land after South Africa’s biggest marketplace enabled bitcoin payments for both buyers and sellers. Bidorbuy, a major marketplace which sees over 30 million page views every month enabled bitcoin among other payment options for sellers, which meant that every item sold on the marketplace can now be bought with bitcoin.

As a sign of bitcoin’s growing popularity, the marketplace’s knowledgebase article even stated:

We encourage sellers to offer bitcoin as a payment option because there is no risk and you will be reaching a large audience of new online shoppers.

Featured image from Shutterstock.

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