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Africans Embrace Bitcoin to Send Money Abroad

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Developing countries from Africa and Asia are rapidly adopting Bitcoin in a bid to circumvent steep bank charges when sending money abroad.

This is according to Bitcoin payment processor Bitwala which notes that when sending money abroad, local banks’ models favour corporate profit over people’s need and their own convenience over fast speeds.

Founded in 2012, Germany-based start-up Bitwala allows users to transfer euros over the Single Euro Payments Area payments using Bitcoin. Users must first download a Bitcoin wallet.

The start-up says for the majority of businesses and individuals in the developing world, foreign exchange remains a critical inhibitor to their success or sometimes access to basic food and medicine.

“While our early adopters have come from Europe and North America, more recently we have seen a steep adoption rate among users sending money to and from developing countries on the African and Asian continents,” says Jörg von Minkcwitz, CEO of Bitwala.

Transferring cash via a bank or money transfer operators like Western Union or MoneyGram can be costly. According to the Overseas Development Institute, the average charge to transfer $200 to Africa using traditional money transfer services is 12%.

Bitwala says in total, the number of sign-ups from developing countries is coming closer to those in the US and EU. Taken together, users from developing countries form approximately 30% of Bitwala’s new sign-ups globally.

“Our daily Web site visits also reflect this growing trend. Bitcoin users in North African countries are a growing proportion of Bitwala’s user base, making up 4.4% of visitors, up from historically 2% and surpassing Switzerland,” says Von Minkcwitz.

“Banks charge a lot of fees and manipulate currency exchange rates to their advantage, resulting in a huge cost to customers all over the world,” he notes.

According to Bitwala, at a cost of $4 billion per year, international transfers to Africa are the most expensive in the world. Furthermore, it notes, online and offline businesses continue to pay a steep price for transferring money abroad or even domestically as the majority of banks charge between 10%-19% on any transfers to, from and within African countries.

The start-up points out that while transferring money to South East Asia is cheaper than it is to Africa, banks and intermediaries doing so charge high enough fees that take away a significant amount of people’s hard-earned money.

“Let’s consider the case of Jane, a hypothetical expat in Berlin who relies on banks and money transfer services to support her parents living in Beijing. She sends €500 to them regularly each month. As a customer of one of the European leading banks, it costs her a total of €47.7 each month to make that transfer. Over a year, this number rises to more than €570. If she were sending €2 500 per month – it would cost Jane a total of €1 441 per year just in transfer fees,” Von Minkcwitz says.

He explains the recently leaked document from Santander, a major Spanish banking group, confirms the dangers of using banks.

In 2016, the bank made €585 million solely from international money transfers, making up 10% of all of its revenue. In addition to transfer fees, the bank also made another killing by controlling its foreign currency exchange which helped it earn €290 million, Von Minkcwitz says.

“Perhaps the most shocking part is that 80% of all global money transfers are still conducted via banks and conventional monetary transfer channels. Bitcoin offers a much more efficient method of sending money abroad. This is done by shortening the time involved in trade settlements and securing the best exchange rate.

“Most importantly, the strength of Bitcoin and the blockchain technology it relies on is that it allows you to send money across borders without paying the steep fees charged by traditional gatekeepers like Western Union, MoneyGram, Ria and others.”


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Nigeria CommunicationsWeek believes that technology makes life more exciting and helps improve the lives of people around Nigeria and indeed the world. So since 2007, we have devoted our energy to independent reportage of technology and how they affect lives.

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E-Financial

FG Sacked IST Members over Fraud- Ahmed

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Mrs Zainab Ahmed, minister of Finance Budget and National Planning, has said the Federal Government sacked some past members of the Investments and Securities Tribunal (IST) as they indulged in corruption.

FG Sacked IST Members over Fraud- Ahmed

Inaugurating the new members, the minister charged the new members to eschew corruption and be forthright.

Bar. Azi Amos Isaac was appointed as Chairman for a five year term and Bar. Nosa Smart Osemwengie, was re-appointed as member for a second term of four years.

“The problem with the tribunal has been infighting amongst members, lack of industrial harmony and series of complaints bordering on maladministration.

“This has been the bane of the tribunal and a source of embarrassment not only for the Ministry of Finance but for the government in general,” Ahmed said.

The new chairman, Azi, assured the finance minister that, “the teething issue of restiveness has been addressed since he assumed duty,” adding that, “The place is calm and the staff have become very supportive.”

Azi said since 2003, the tribunal has “given judgment in the value of assets worth over N844 billion and that from 2017 to date, they have given decisions in monetary value totalling over N28bn.

“It has not failed in its adjudicatory responsibility.

“It has carried out its assignment with candour and integrity and intends to improve on what has been on ground.”

 


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CBN Bans Customer-to-Customer Forex Transfer

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Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has banned transfer of foreign exchange (forex) from one customer to another.

CBN Bans Customer-to-Customer Forex Transfer

According to the apex bank, forex cash lodgements into domiciliary accounts can only be done by the account owners henceforth.

An internal memo available in the media space explains that the new guidelines are necessary to review the utilisation of inflows into customers domiciliary accounts.

The circular states: “Forex inflows cannot be credited to customers until the legitimacy of funds is established.

“They can have unfettered access by telegraphic transfers up to a limit of $40,000 monthly for payment of medical bills, school fees, subscription to professional bodies subject to existing CBN guidelines.

“Transfers from one customer to another is prohibited. Transfer within related companies is allowed subject to a limit of $50,000 per month.”

It recommended that proceeds from non-oil exports should be sold to banks, used for repayment of dollar term loans, and self-utilisation for trade transactions for LC, bills and Form A.

Also oil export proceeds from E&P companies are to be used to pay contractors and service providers employed by the oil companies in addition to the recommended uses for non-oil FX proceeds.

Offshore forex inflows from other Nigerian banks and internal account to forex transfers sourced from offshore inflows are to be used for trade transactions subject to eligibility for E-Form M.

“Upon confirmation of the legitimacy of the inflows, customers can have unfettered access, subject to a maximum of $50,000,” the document read.

“Utilisation for trade transactions subject to processing of eligible trade transactions using E-Form M. Payment for services must be backed with demand note from offshore beneficiary and other regulatory documents.

“Related party transfers are allowed to the maximum of the inflow received. The transfer request should be backed by a signed instruction from the account holder.” Payment of government fees and levies are also allowed to the maritime, oil and gas, aviation. government parastatals and export processing zones.

 


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Stanbic IBTC, Standard Bank, Listed Among Top African Corporate Brands

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Stanbic IBTC Holdings PLC and its parent company, Standard Bank, have emerged amongst the top winners of the 2020 Tech Times’ Africa LinkedIn Corporate Brand Awards.

The Stanbic IBTC Group emerged the second position in the category, with total votes of 3,515, out of 24 firms nominated for the award. Standard Bank placed the fourth 2,494 votes.

Nominations for this award opened to the public on July 1, 2020 and closed on July 14.

Shortlisted nominees were announced on August 24 while voting commenced immediately and voting ended on September 8, 2020.

The Corporate Brand Awards was instituted by Tech Times’ Africa, an online platform for leading technology, innovation, and startup stories.

Expressing his delight on the awards, Dr Demola Sogunle, Chief Executive, Stanbic IBTC Holdings PLC, said that both Stanbic IBTC Holdings PLC and Standard Bank had been deliberate and consistent in making a remarkable impact in Africa’s financial sector.

“Our sincere appreciation goes to the organisers of the Africa Corporate Brands Awards and to every member of the public who voted. This is a reflection of the high level of trust and confidence that the public has reposed on us,” he added.

Dr Sogunle further said that Stanbic IBTC Holdings PLC would remain relentless in portraying the organisation as one of the most influential corporate brands in Africa.

He stated: “Stanbic IBTC Holdings PLC and Standard Bank have relentlessly contributed to driving the growth and development of the African financial ecosystem. These awards affirm our efforts, and we are encouraged to raise the bar continually.”

The Africa Corporate Brand Award is designed to identify and recognise outstanding companies. It also projects their achievements and impacts on African society and the world at large.


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