DAR ES SALAAM, June 25 (Reuters) – Tanzania’s central bank has said it is working on a directive from President Samia Suluhu Hassan to prepare for cryptocurrencies, pointing to a possible reversal of a ban it imposed in 2019.
The new president, who came to power after the death of her predecessor in March, said this month the arrival of digital currencies in the East African country was inevitable.
“In the financial sector, we have witnessed the emergence of blockchain or cryptocurrency technology,” Hassan said during the opening of a new central bank branch in the northern city of Mwanza this month.
“Many countries in the world have not accepted or started using these currencies. However, I would like to advise the central bank to start working on those issues. Just be prepared.”
Her comments, made shortly after El Salvador became the first country in the world to approve bitcoin as a legal tender, sparked new debate over the role of cryptocurrencies in the economy and remittances. Read more
Tanzania’s central bank banned cryptocurrencies in November 2019, saying they were not recognized by domestic law, but now says it is adapting following the president’s comments.
“The bank is working on the guidelines,” a Bank of Tanzania spokesman told Reuters this week, without elaborating.
The spokesman did not answer questions about whether the bank plans to adopt existing cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin, or was seeking to release its digital currency as China has done.
Hassan’s comments reflect her much more open stance on foreign investment, a shift from the stance of her predecessor John Magufuli, who tried with foreign gold miners and even closed horns with neighboring Kenya to enter the market.
The President of the Tanzanian Banking Association, Abdulmajid Nsekela, welcomed Hassan’s push because the $ 63 billion economy still relies heavily on cash transactions.
“The most challenging element for regulators is to be caught by surprise by innovations,” he said. Gradual preparations would help the central bank assess the risks and come up with ways to address them in advance, he added.
Analysts warned that progress could be slow.
“The change of tone from the president of Tanzania is clear, but wait to see if the central bank will take concrete steps towards embracing cryptocurrencies,” said Faith Mwangi, an analyst at Tellimer.
Mwangi noted Uganda, where President Yoweri Museveni made similar comments in 2017, but the central bank has not yet lifted its ban on cryptocurrencies.
Reporting by Nuzulack Dausen in Dar es Salaam and Duncan Miriri in Nairobi; Additional reporting by Omar Mohammed; Written by Duncan Miriri; Edited by Karin Strohecker and Andrew Heavens
Our standards: Principles of Trust of Thomson Reuters.
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