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Concerns over Facebook’s Libra currency

Publish date: 10 July 2019
Issue Number: 1789
Diary: Legalbrief eLaw
Category: Economy

From early next year, Facebook intends to let its 2bn users – more than 139m of whom are in Africa – make digital payments through its apps and popular messaging service WhatsApp using a new crypto-currency called Libra. In a BBC analysis, Andile Masuku notes that it could have profound implications for a continent which receives a huge amount of remittances – and is one of the least-banked regions of the world, something that has allowed for other innovations like mobile cash payments to take hold in Africa. ‘As a Zimbabwean living in SA, I have become numb to the daylight robbery that ensues whenever I receive money from abroad or send cash to my family back home. As such, like many other cautious pragmatists, I relish the prospect of a network like Libra permanently disrupting the lucrative cash remittance businesses of large banks and money transfer services like Western Union and MoneyGram.’ He notes that a recent World Bank report reveals that the cost of sending cash in sub-Saharan Africa was at least 20% higher than any other region in the world. ‘But we must not be naive to the myriad factors responsible for maintaining market inefficiencies and actively engineering economic complexities which corporations like Western Union exploit to great effect. African governments are also deeply suspicious of crypto-currencies, like Bitcoin. The long list of countries which have, in some way or another, prohibited the use of crypto-currencies includes Nigeria, Kenya, Ethiopia and even my native Zimbabwe, which is well on its way to being a cashless society thanks to the growing adoption of mobile money services.’

Full BBC News report