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Do Africa's cryptocurrency investors need a reality check?

Do Africa's cryptocurrency investors need a reality check?

The cryptocurrency space in Africa is growing, fueled by the rollout of new offerings, advent of Bitcoin and the lure of ROI – but it isn't for those who expect regulation, protection from government or consumer bodies.

This is according to Richard de Sousa, partner at South African exchange AltcoinTrader, which claims to be "the only true organically grown South African exchange" and one of the oldest cryptocurrency brands in the country (established in 2015).

Speaking to ITWeb Africa soon after the company added another cryptocurrency Cardano (ADA) to its portfolio, de Sousa said cryptocurrency is an unregulated market at this stage, but this will change in the years to come.

"The key thing here is personal responsibility and counterbility ... personal responsibility becoming the new counter culture. The cryptocurrency space is not for people who are reliant on governments, expecting to be protected by government and consumer protection plans. It is more for free thinkers, people that understand the technology," he said.

Africa's virtual currency market is being driven by the potential of high returns and it represents the start of a financial revolution, according to AltcoinTrader.

There is opportunity for "forward thinking people that are prepared to take personal responsibility and invest in this space" de Sousa added.

At the same time the company believes that regulators are correct in warning the market about the risks involved in trading cryptocurrency.

"We encourage the authorities to give the warnings as they need to, because the masses that blindly expect to be protected by government need to get warnings," said de Sousa.

ITWeb reported that according to the Ciphertrace 2018 Q2 Anti-Money Laundering Report, a record-breaking (three times the level seen during the whole of 2017) amount of cryptocurrency has been stolen from online exchanges in the first half of 2018.

According to the Report, "In the last two years alone, some of the best and brightest criminal minds made off with $1.21 billion in crypto-currency from exchanges."

While Bitcoin and blockchain technology has dominated cryptocurrency-related news coverage in Africa, AltcoinTrader asserts that because of the nature of cryptocurrencies and the need for people to do their own research, there is no reason to emphasise or create awareness around other coins.

De Sousa said that the company adopts a safer approach to rather position coins in their portfolio that have been thoroughly researched and upon which the company has applied its own exchange expertise.

Rafiq Phillips, TED Fellow & Founder of African blockchain startup focused on Bitcoin 'just for Getting it (dot) CryptoCurrency' (jfGi), said there is not enough awareness regarding the implications, risks and responsibilities tied to cryptocurrency investment.

"There is more fear, uncertainty and doubt about cryptocurrencies in the market than anything else. Doing your own research is vital. I believe the financial regulators warnings are both positive and negative, there are many illegal businesses and scams posing as cryptocurrencies and the paradigm shift in economics and finance bitcoin and crypto brings forth disrupts the control financial regulators have had on the system. The positive is that doing your own research into bitcoin and crypto will improve your own financial know-how into now only cryptocurrencies but finance in general."

Phillips believes in Africa, the virtual currency space is being propped up by speculation and decoupling value transfer from systems of control "with the odds stacked against the man on the street."

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