Ramaphosa floats the idea of an ‘African bitcoin’

Simon Allison in Kigali

President Cyril Ramaphosa says he fully supports calls for a single African currency— and that maybe it should be digital.

Speaking to journalists on the sidelines of the extraordinary African Union summit in Kigali, where 44 countries signed a deal to establish the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), Ramaphosa said a single African currency was the natural next step.

“Business people said doesn’t this beg for a single currency, and in my book it certainly does,” said Ramaphosa.

South Africa did not sign on to the AfCFTA on Wednesday, as Ramaphosa must still obtain approval from domestic stakeholders.

The president said he wasn’t sure what exactly a single African currency might look like― previous proposals have said it might be called ‘the Afro’― and that it might not take physical form.

“We will begin to interface with the idea and notion of a single currency, possibly even a digital currency, and it’s possible that a digital currency will precede a real single currency because it is easier than having a proper full currency,” said Ramaphosa.

Digital currencies like Bitcoin have become increasingly popular in recent years.

Resistance to a single currency has previously come from African leaders concerned about economic sovereignty. But that is changing, said Ramaphosa.

“It may take time, it may take years, but it’s interesting that something that we never spoke about in the past, we are now talking about. Because people always had a sense of sovereignty around their own currency, feeling that their currency is about their sovereignty, their nationhood, but people are now thinking beyond the borders of their own nation.”

The prospect of a single African currency was first formally proposed in 1991, with the Abuja Treaty which outlined the establishment of the African Economic Community.

Note: The author was a guest of the African Union Commission. 

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Simon Allison
Simon Allison, The Continent
Simon Allison is the Africa editor of the Mail & Guardian, and the founding editor-in-chief of The Continent. He is a 2021 Young Africa Leadership Initiative fellow.

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