Before Nigeria, South Africa had been the sub-Saharan jurisdiction most receptive to cryptocurrencies. In December 2014, the South African Reserve Bank put out a paper stating its position on virtual currencies. The SARB affirmed that it alone has the right to issue any legal tender and that decentralized convertible virtual currencies don’t constitute legal tender in South Africa. The SARB stated, “Only the Bank is allowed to issue legal tender i.e banknotes and coins in RSA, which can be legally offered in payment of an obligation and that a creditor is obliged to accept. Therefore the decentralised convertible virtual currencies are not legal tenders in RSA.” This was confirmed again by the SARB in its statement in 2017 as it confirmed that it does not recognize cryptocurrency as “currency” or “legal tender” in South Africa.

Continuing the trend of inconsistency, however, the Minister of Finance in South Africa distributed authority over crypto beyond the SARB. The Minister noted in mid-2017 in Parliament that “the National Treasury together with the SARB, [Financial Intelligence Centre], and [Financial Services Board] also established an Intergovernmental Fintech Working Group in December 2016, to develop an approach and revised policy stance towards fintech, including crypto-currencies.”

The country has been trying to affix a pro-crypto stance recently, as seen in a policy paper released by South Africa’s Intergovernmental Fintech Working Group, financial regulators in the country recommended “that crypto assets remain without legal tender status” in a roadmap outlining what could become the nation’s first comprehensive crypto laws.


Though many of the nations of sub-Saharan Africa have changed their attitude toward crypto recently, Zimbabwe has seen perhaps the most striking thaw in recent years.

The government banned crypto in 2018. The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe instructed the private banks of Zimbabwe’s largest virtual currency exchange, Golix, to close its accounts and made Golix itself refund its customers.

Nonetheless, peer-to-peer trading of cryptocurrencies continues to grow in Zimbabwe as the country’s monetary policies falter. In mid-2019, the crypto rush in Zimbabwe reached such a high that rumors about Bitcoin’s price reaching a 600% premium began to spread.

In its monetary policy statement from February, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe revealed that its focus was on stabilizing its currency. Having suffered massive hyperinflation that peaked in 2007, the bank appears intent on eradicating the volatility of its exchange rate through the establishment of a currency stabilization task force. According to the RBZ, exchange rate stabilization will result in a corresponding decrease in inflation, thus leading to significant economic recovery for the country.

Consequently, Zimbabwe has made somewhat of a U-turn in its crypto policy. A local news source reports that the RBZ is reportedly developing a regulatory sandbox for cryptocurrency companies in the country.

Other parts of Africa

For other parts of sub-Saharan Africa, the situation seems to be pretty much the same. As regulators take their time to wrap their heads around this technology and how its implementation can influence the dynamics of their economic scene, citizens are seeing it as a haven for reasons ranging from remittances to hyperinflation.

As of last year, Ghana’s Securities and Exchange Commission confirmed that cryptocurrencies were still unregulated, issuing a public warning to investors in March 2019. Meanwhile, the regulatory space for cryptocurrencies in Kenya is currently nonexistent, with only a warning from its regulator for individuals and organizations to steer clear of transacting in digital currencies.

What the future holds for Africa

For the most part, the neutral regulatory stance on crypto in most countries within sub-Saharan Africa is due to a lack of education. However, it appears that this will not remain so for much longer. The level of interest from its citizens is growing. Beyond the need to hold cryptocurrencies for speculative reasons, Africa seems to be the region with the greatest need for cryptocurrency use cases. This increasing demand will play a key role in hastening regulation across the continent. With Africa’s most populous country, Nigeria, newly involved in the space, we may be about to witness a cascade of regulation from other parts of sub-Saharan Africa.