The president appeared to be copying Elon Musk’s mysterious cryptocurrency tweeting style. CAR President Faustin-Archange Touadéra penned “Vires in Numeris” – a Latin motto meaning “power in numbers” that has been associated with Bitcoin – under the teaser header “More to follow.” Then there was his country’s motto.
This was announced to the globe a month after the CAR, after El Salvador, became the second country to embrace Bitcoin as legal cash.
The mineral-rich country is one of the poorest in the world, a condition made more difficult by a nearly decade-long civil war that has ravaged much of the country. The administration has enlisted the support of the Russian mercenary Wagner outfit in its struggle against insurgents.
Many people were perplexed by the CAR’s Bitcoin announcement, and some speculated that it had more to do with a political movement away from France and toward Russia.
According to a 2020 forecast, nine out of ten Central Africans do not have internet connectivity, which is required to use Bitcoin. Some questioned whether the CAR was the proper country to test the theory that cryptocurrencies will eventually replace traditional forms of money because of this, as well as a patchy and unpredictable electrical supply.
There hasn’t been a sudden influx of companies, such as shops or cafes, embracing Bitcoin as a form of payment in Bangui, the capital.
The initial decision, announced on April 27, came with no explanation other than the statement that it would provide “new prospects for our country.”
The unveiling of a project called Sango, named after one of the country’s official languages, was the “more to come” that President Touadéra was referring to in his May tweet. According to a government press release, this “visionary” initiative would generate “a tremendous opportunity for everybody who believes in crypto investing.”
The website, on the other hand, that the news release recommended readers to visit in order to learn more is, to put it mildly, opaque. The visitor is asked to sign up for a “secret code” in order to be included to an investor waiting list.
The CAR hopes to construct the “first legal Crypto Hub recognized by a country’s parliament, that welcomes entrepreneurs and attracts global crypto-enthusiasts,” according to a glitzy slide presentation. Sango is a “Crypto Island… the first island in the metaverse underpinned by reality,” according to Sango.
According to Stone Atwine, a crypto-specialist who owns digital financial services startup Eversend, the folks behind the presentation used a lot of “big terms,” but “the text was not really clear on exactly what they intend to do.”
A plan to allow people to invest in mining and other businesses using Bitcoin and a pledge that no income or corporate tax will be imposed appears to be among the phrases. Mr. Atwine sees opportunity in this since “a lot of bitcoin aficionados are searching for amazing places to build where things are legal.”
The Central African Republic (CAR) has large diamond and gold reserves, as well as other minerals, and Bitcoin is considered as a more convenient means to attract investors to the country.
“We are trapped in systems that do not allow us to perform because of impenetrable bureaucracy. Our economic ideology needed to be rethought as a solution,” In relation to the Sango project, President Touadéra stated.
The idea cannot be criticized for its ambition, but more visibility – and infrastructure – is certainly required when it comes to bitcoin and regular Central Africans.
“I have no idea what cryptocurrency is,” said Edith Yambogaze, a cassava vendor in Bangui, to the BBC.
“I have a smartphone, but I don’t have access to high-speed internet to use cryptocurrency. Also, I am not a cryptocurrency believer because there are scammers on the internet,” he added.
Some in El Salvador, where President Nayib Bukele supports Bitcoin with missionary zeal, appear to share this skepticism.
‘The internet is coming’
Supporters of CAR’s cryptocurrency adoption, on the other hand, are urging people to be patient. MP Jean Galvanis Ngassiyombo, a member of the National Assembly’s economic, planning, and finance commission, acknowledged that the country’s technology infrastructure was lacking.
However, he informed the BBC that a fiber optic network would be installed by the end of next year, allowing everyone to use the internet. In 2023, the CAR has agreed to share its fiber optic network with neighboring Cameroon.
Mr Ngassiyombo explained, “What the [Bitcoin] law did was anticipate that technology so, in fact, we can be ready when that technology is available to us.”
He is a cryptocurrency trader himself, telling the BBC how he receives daily price information on his phone. “I made money today,” he said as he demonstrated the app’s functionality. It is believed that the adoption of Bitcoin will help encourage savings and provide a safe place to keep and transfer money in a country where few individuals have bank accounts.