RBZ warms up to digital currencies

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Kudzanai Sharara
The push for laws to govern blockchain technology has received a major boost, with the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) pledging its support for the technology.

RBZ Deputy Governor Jesimen Chipika, said the regulator will not be left behind in moving with the current technological revolution.

Chipika, who was speaking at the Inaugural National Entrepreneurship Forum hosted by Steward Bank last week, said the advent of blockchain technology is “giving us headaches at the central bank, as regulators because things can really get out of hand for us from the blockchain technology.

“But it has always been like that, innovators go ahead of regulators and policy makers, but we have arisen to say we will not be left behind and we will understand this animal before it overwhelms everyone, so we are seeing that development is going to be a different ball game because of technology.”

She challenged entrepreneurs and financial institutions not to be left behind and continue doing business the old model way.

“But I want to challenge Steward Bank, Econet, and the whole banking sector in Zimbabwe that with this technology moving so fast there is now talk of blockchain technology, faster movement, big data management.

Dr Chipika highlighted some of the key developments in the financial services sector, which have seen more than 80 percent of the country’s transactions going through mobile phones.

She noted that the business environment is being drastically changed by technology adding that regulators and policy makers must take time to “listen to the innovators, lets learn, let’s move with the times then we regulate appropriately then we can use the new technology, to drive things faster.”

“We will not win the war of resisting technology and we are better off accepting it and seeing where we can use it to drive development in the country.

“It does not have to take a century again to undo poverty in this country as innovation can help us to drive development much faster,” said Chipika.

Her remarks are in line with newly appointed Finance and Economic Development Minister Mthuli Ncube’s views on the use of cryptocurrency and the blockchain technology.

Minister Ncube reckons the attitude from regulators and policy makers should be to find ways to understand new technological developments.

“I think the attitude for Zimbabwe should be to invest in understanding innovations and often central banks are too slow in investing in these technologies. But there are other countries which are moving faster. If you look at the Swiss central bank they are investing in and understanding bitcoin. One can pay for travel using bitcoin in Switzerland. So if these countries can see value in this and where it’s headed, we should also pay attention.

“We have innovative youngsters so the idea shouldn’t be to stop it and say don’t do this but rather the regulators should invest in catching up with them and find ways to understand it, then you regulate it because you now understand it. I would actually encourage the central bank to create a unit to try and understand cryptocurrency,” said Minister Ncube.

Chipika said there is need to move away from what we inherited at independence, any economy run by a few, the trickle down model which has not worked “because nothing has trickled down to the majority of our people”.

“So really we are saying if we drive well this financial inclusion, get resources to our people, something will change in this country. And what the leaders are saying about middle income by 2030, we can even surpass it, that is really the way we are seeing things,” she said.

“The other bigger picture that I want you to take with you is that as a country we signed up to the 70 sustainable development goals (SDGs) that are driving the development of all developing countries to 2030, and that middle income status which our President is talking about is linked to that bigger development agenda.

SDGs are focused on eradicating poverty, lifting standards, creating wealth, driving broad based economy, and leaving no one behind.

“So the more we can put our people into economic activity, we will change the story of Zimbabwe, we will change the story of Africa,” said Chipika.

She said financial inclusion is about access and usage of finances such as capital markets, financial literacy, advisory among others for productive purposes.

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