Africa: between prohibition, punishment and regulation; cryptocurrencies are gaining ground on the continent

Since its introduction in 2009, when the famous anonymous Satoshi Nakamoto was invented, cryptocurrencies have seduced more than one person. Their presence in the global financial chain has become essential and no one can ignore them anymore. Even the biggest conservative bankers who believe in traditional money are no longer able to help. Against all odds, these new digital assets have made their way to Africa, a continent considered less technologically advanced. In 2022, an African country has gone so far as to adopt bitcoin as its official currency. Second in the world. In the same year, one of the largest meetings of crypto ecosystem players was organized on the continent. Will African central banks relent when faced with the unstoppable adoption of cryptocurrencies by the local population?

African governments are furious about cryptocurrencies

Since its all-time high of $69,000 in November 2021, bitcoin and all of its altcoins have attracted the attention of many investors and institutions. Since then, the number of users has continued to grow, and the black continent does not want to miss meetings. Many users find them a refuge from the rising inflation that has hit the continent. While most central banks on this continent are reluctant to deal with cryptocurrencies, their adoption is not in sight. The population of Africa, mostly young, is increasingly mastering the invention of Satoshi Nakamoto.

However, in many African countries, the legal status of bitcoin and all cryptocurrencies is not clearly defined. While countries like Egypt formally ban the use of crypto assets, it is neither entirely legal nor illegal in other countries. But despite their ban and controversial legal status, the adoption of cryptocurrencies seems unstoppable. Indeed, the African population finds in this new asset class a financial system that can free them from the banking isolation they are victims of. As for Egypt, everything is clear here: the use of cryptocurrencies or even the mere possession of cryptocurrencies is prohibited by law.

Religion involved in Egypt, bitcoin is haram

With a predominantly Muslim population, Egypt banned bitcoin religiously, morally and legally. Dar al-Ifta al-Misriya, the country’s highest Islamic advisory body, issued a religious decree in 2018 that classified bitcoin transactions as “haram,” meaning they are prohibited by Islamic law.

The reasons for this measure are mainly religious and economic. According to the Grand Mufti of Egypt, Shawqi Allam, the country’s highest religious authority, bitcoin is like gambling, which is considered a great sin in the Muslim religion. In addition, Shawki Allam believes that the decentralization of bitcoin and its high volatility could destroy the savings of the Egyptians and undermine the country’s ability to stabilize its own currency. Although this religious and moral opinion is not derived from the law, it has serious implications in a country populated by almost 95% of practicing Muslims and where Islam is the state religion.

In September 2020, a new banking law was adopted in the country. She echoed the opinion of the religious authority, banning in her Article 206 “the issuance, trading and even promotion of cryptocurrencies.” While this law is non-binding, it does give legal effect to a moral appeal made two years earlier by the country’s religious authorities.

In Algeria, Users Ignore Ban Despite Stressful Report

Algeria is one of those African countries that are having a real showdown with cryptocurrency users. Since December 2018, the Algerian authorities have enacted a financial law criminalizing the use of cryptocurrencies in the country. Indeed, Algerian law prohibits and punishes “the purchase, sale, use and possession of any so-called virtual currency.” The Algerian legislator describes virtual currency as “any asset used by Internet users over the Internet in the absence of physical support, such as coins, banknotes, check or bank card payments.”

In addition, articles 197 and 198 of the Algerian Penal Code punish any person who engages in “issuing, distributing, selling and introducing into the national territory currency, securities or illegal obligations” with life imprisonment. However, Algerians are ignoring the ban and many young people are investing in cryptocurrencies. According to Nassim Bellour, already in 2017 there were more than 60,000 users making about 300,000 transactions per day. And since then, these numbers have been steadily rising.

Is Morocco finally ready to regulate cryptocurrencies?

Morocco topped the list of countries that are very hostile to cryptocurrencies. The law of the Kingdom, namely article 339 of the Moroccan Criminal Code, is punishable by imprisonment for a term of one to five years and a fine of 500 to 20,000 dirhams “making, issuing, distributing, selling or importing into the territory of the Kingdom banknotes intended for supplement or replacement of currencies that have legal tender”. To clarify, the National Exchange Authority reminded that bitcoin is not legal tender in the country. And that conducting transactions in virtual currency has become a punishable act.

However, the old Sheriffian Empire is still not tightly closed to technological progress. Vice versa! Even if the Criminal Code of the constitutional monarchy is hostile to electronic currencies, the Moroccan authorities are investing in promoting blockchains for professional use.

Despite the ban, cryptocurrencies have gained momentum in the country. In 2022, there were over 1.15 million cryptocurrency holders in the country. As a result, the government found it necessary to consider a bill to regulate crypto assets. This was announced by the Minister of Economy and Finance Nadia Fettah Alawi. This was during his visit to the country’s parliament on Monday, January 10, 2022.

From 2021, Morocco is exploring the possibility of developing a legal framework to regulate the use of cryptocurrencies, the minister said. This will be done in collaboration with Bank Al-Maghrib (BAM) and international partners. Today, everything indicates that the bill is ready. Moroccan Central Bank Governor Abdellatif Djouahiri explained that the project will be available soon. And add that there will be consultations with various stakeholders.

Kenya not backing down despite mass adoption

At a press conference on the occasion of the announcement of the country’s monetary policy, the governor of the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) Patrick Njoroge at the same time spoke about bitcoin and all other cryptocurrencies. He clearly reminded that the Kenyan institution remains skeptical about the use of cryptocurrencies. The Central Bank of Kenya is not in the first place in relation to bitcoins. Already in 2015, the Central Bank issued a circular prohibiting commercial banks from cooperating with ecosystem players. The circular lists individuals and companies using their bank accounts to purchase cryptocurrencies.

Since then, many banks have repeatedly blocked the transactions of customers wishing to buy cryptocurrencies. This excerpt from the circular reads: “According to Central Bank of Kenya Circular No. 14 of 2015, virtual currencies such as bitcoin are not legal tender in Kenya. […] NCBA Bank does not approve crypto-currency transactions made using your card and does not transact with institutions that deal with virtual currencies. […] protect your finances by not buying, holding or trading virtual currencies.”

Kenyan bank appears to be on a crusade against cryptocurrencies

The press release from the BCK boss demonstrates enough that the financial institution does not want Bitcoin to continue to be massively adopted in the country. Wasted effort. Despite this ban, cryptocurrencies continue their merry way. It should be remembered that Kenya is one of the African countries with a regulatory framework for taxing cryptocurrencies. The governor of the Central Bank of Kenya has always been enthusiastic about blockchain technology. He seems open to the idea of ​​seeing his institution develop its own digital currency in the near future.

This bitcoin critique proves how difficult it is for banks to accept that they can no longer fully control people’s assets. Proof of this is that Kenya is currently one of the top bitcoin adopters in Africa. And this despite all the attempts to block user access for many years. Nigeria has taken advantage of the launch of its CBDC eNaira to step up its attacks on bitcoin. But the hunt for bitcoin users has produced a positive result. They all rushed to the Pear to Pear exchange, which is used by bitcoin to do without intermediaries.

Will Tanzania Launch Its Own Cryptocurrency After CAR?

The Central African Republic was the second in the world to adopt bitcoin as its official currency, after El Salvador. After all, on April 21, 2022, deputies unanimously adopted a bill on the use of cryptocurrencies. Despite threats and warnings from the IMF regarding this decision, the CAR clearly intends to get rid of the international monetary system and the CFA franc. At the same time, the country launched its own cryptocurrency SANGO Coin.

There is a strong possibility in the region that Tanzania will officially launch its own cryptocurrency. Since June 2022, the President of Tanzania has been pushing the country’s central bank to take a closer look at these digital currencies. Samia Suluhu Hassan’s arguments focused on the growing importance of cryptocurrencies in global finance. The country’s central bank recently recalled its plan to launch a digital currency. However, she does not intend to go there in a hurry to avoid economic risks.


Despite restrictions and often unclear legal frameworks, we are seeing the massive adoption of cryptocurrencies across the continent. From the above, everything suggests that African central banks understand that cryptocurrencies are inevitable. The acceptance of bitcoin as legal tender in the CARs certainly has a lot to do with this. With the current mass adoption, African states are realizing the need to streamline the use of cryptocurrencies. This seems urgent, especially given that the majority of the population is the victim of financial exclusion from the traditional system. Can we hope that another African country will follow in the footsteps of the CAR?

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Avatar of Guellord Mbusa
Guellord Mbusa

Trained as an internationalist and environmental activist, I entered the crypto universe because I was drawn to its intriguing and exciting side. Since the end of 2020, I have been investing in it every day because I remain convinced that cryptocurrencies and their blockchain technology represent a monetary alternative for the future and an important technology in this world threatened by multiple crises.

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