Crypto Currency, a new digital banking system, has taken the Cameroon banking sector by storm.
This is coming at a time when some countries like Kenya are banning the use of crypto currencies, trading with currency like Bitcoin.
Most Buea city dwellers now trade in bitcoins as shopping is now done via bitcoins. People now buy goods and book flight tickets using the bitcoin digital system.
Experts say Crypto currency is the latest technology and innovation in the financial industry. This is thanks to the fintech innovation called Block Chain Technology.
Currently, bitcoins and other digital currencies have no legal status in Cameroon. The central bank of the six-nations’ monetary union, CEMAC, has not yet issued any specific guidance on the use of bitcoins within its borders.
The Central Bank of CEMAC did create a legal framework for electronic money in 2001. In its framework titled ‘Regulation No. 01/11-CEMAC/UMAC/CM – On the Use of Electronic Money’, the regulator outlines how electronic money can be used to bank the under banked population in the region.
However, there is no mention of bitcoins or other decentralised crypto currencies in the framework.
Bitcoin is a digital currency that can be used to buy goods and services or converted to fiat money such as Naira, XAF, dollar, Euro among others.
The use of Bitcoin in Cameroon can just be a solution to the FCFA problem faced by many French-speaking countries in West and Central Africa.
According to Mr. Elvis, Bitcoin broker in Buea, trading in bitcoin is the easiest and most reliable financial transaction anyone can get into.
“This innovation is very powerful in that it is not controlled by any Central Bank. This means you are the bank and you enjoy all the profit that comes on your money as a result of market activity.
Cameroonians can therefore buy, hold and use bitcoin as they please. At least, until any specific guidance on bitcoin will be issued,” he added.
“At the jewellery store where I work we started accepting bitcoin as a payment method about a year ago and have had many customers purchase fine watches and jewellery from us,” Mrs Jane Namondo told natimesnews.com.
On his part, Mr. Eyong James, a bitcoin dealer explains: “I feel comfortable with bitcoin because it serves time and cost, no need to move money from place to place. I own my bank in my phone and from time to time I can check my account.
“Yes, there are a lot of small businesses in the South West Region that have the option to pay by Bitcoin. It has become very popular. You can even email people to pay them in bitcoin, if they have a bitcoin wallet set up,” Eyong said.
While that is good news for bitcoin traders and investors, it means that bitcoin and blockchain startups do not fall under regulatory oversight, which can be an issue for consumers as they receive no protection but also for the startups themselves, who are operating in a regulatory “no man’s land” without knowing whether regulation could come and stomp them out of business as it has been the case in Namibia, which recently banned bitcoin use in commerce.
What is encouraging for Cameroon’s bitcoin community is that, the Cameroonian Government has previously trialed a bitcoin-like digital currency called Trest in a test conducted in 2015 with the help of Indian IT Company Trestor.
This shows that Cameroon is very open to mobile payment innovation. It could, therefore, become a fruitful breeding ground for crypto currency solutions, especially given the country’s low number of individuals with bank accounts, but high mobile phone penetration.