Unearthing the Truth About Central African Republic ‘Bitcoin Legal Tender’ Reports
Confusion reigns as reports in the international press have variously claimed that the Central African Republic (CAR) has “adopted bitcoin (BTC)” as “legal tender” – while other media outlets appear to suggest that the country has actually done nothing of the sort, and instead approved a legal framework that will legalize the use of crypto within the country.
In either case, there are no official confirmations yet.
Similarly outlandish claims were made about the ambitions of the Russian finance ministry back in April, with some appearing to misinterpret the ministry’s hopes to “legalize” the sector as meaning that it wanted to give BTC and the like “legal tender status.” The latter has so far taken place in only one country: El Salvador, where BTC now has the same legal standing as the fiat USD.
Regardless, media outlets such as Forbes Monaco claimed that a “draft law establishing both the legal framework for cryptocurrency regulation and bitcoin as an official currency” had been approved in parliament.
Other media websites told a very different story, however, with RFI, one of France’s biggest media outlets, reporting that the law in question “aims [to go] beyond the creation of a legal framework for cryptocurrency,” and instead “establish a favorable environment for the financial sector.”
Although this report was more scant in detail, it appeared to suggest that the government wants to allow crypto to be used as a means of sending and receiving international remittances.
The Minister of the Postal Service and Telecommunications Justin Gourna Zacko was quoted as “highlighting the restrictive framework of the central bank,” and claiming that “digital currencies” had “many advantages.” The minister added that it was currently “very difficult” to process remittances.
However, opposition MPs were quoted as voicing their opposition to the draft law in no uncertain manner – and in a manner that might suggest that the bill is not quite as tame as skeptics might think. The MPs stated that they had “strong reservations” about the bill, which they warned would make the CAR a center for “the laundering of dirty money,” as well as a hotbed of “tax evasion and fraud.”
They also voiced their concerns about the “impact of such a measure” on international financial donors, as such a project “will only arouse suspicion.”
Very similar concerns were expressed by opposition MPs in El Salvador in the days leading up to BTC’s official adoption as legal tender. And with organizations like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund threatening to cut off financial aid to the Salvadoran government, critics in the Central American nation claim they have been proved right.
Should the CAR’s bill prove to be a much tamer “legal framework” type bill that seeks to regulate the sector, it seems unlikely that opposition MPs would express such alarm.
Sifting the statements in search of truth
Discovering the truth behind the matter appears to be trickier than it may first seem: RFI claimed that when it asked the CAR “authorities” about the law, they “did not wish to provide further details.”
Another report, this one from the Francophone Network of Human Rights Journalists (RJDH), appeared to hint at a much tamer bill that “establishes a legal framework,” for “cryptocurrencies, in particular bitcoin” in the CAR, with provisos for “governing cryptocurrency and the establishments handling these assets.”
But an extended version of what appears to be the same quote from the minister (Gourna Zacko) hinted further at remittance-related developments. Gourna Zacko was quoted as stating:
“Sending money to the Central African Republic from elsewhere becomes very difficult. And also receiving money from the Central African Republic is complex because it is controlled, it goes through the central bank. With cryptocurrency, there is no more control from the central bank. You have your money, you send to an investor for business, you receive it in any currency [you choose].”
Cryptonews.com attempted to find official news of developments and discovered a Facebook post from what appears to be the government’s official account. Sadly, this post was somewhat scant on detail, too, simply explaining that a bill “governing cryptocurrency in the Central African Republic” had been “approved” by MPs during a plenary session.
But in an accompanying video, the government’s media representatives explained that the bill would necessitate the creation of a “government agency that will regulate electronic transactions.” This agency, they added, will be charged with “ensuring the security of the system.”
Gourna Zacko was also filmed speaking to journalists, where he made the above comments, but also added that it is “first” needed to implement the necessary “legal measures” to “allow all CAR citizens to enjoy the benefits of this means of transferring and receiving money.”
No mention was made of BTC, nor of granting any token “legal tender” status.
Further details appear to be very hard to come by. The government’s official Twitter page has not been updated since 2019. Its website has not been updated since 2018. Its YouTube page showed a little more in the way of recent activity, with a post from two months ago (unconnected to crypto). But the most recent video before that was uploaded two years ago. A government Flickr account’s most recent photos were uploaded in 2018.
The National Assembly’s website, meanwhile, appears to have been hijacked by nefarious actors – Cryptonews.com was first redirected to a porn site and then to an online gambling site when we tried to access it.
A McAfee security app had this to say about it.
Cryptonews.com has reached out both to the government and the Bank of Central African States, the organization that serves as the nation’s central bank (in addition to performing the same function for five other African states), asking the bodies for clarification on this development.
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