•Experts woo potential investors, governments warn
By Dayo Adesulu
With Bitcoin’s capitalization of $268 billion, experts say the revolution of the cryptocurrency market has changed the narrative of investment globally, as it successfully displaced Coca-Cola with a capitalisation of $195 billion and Boeing’s $175 billion.
From all indications, the emergence of cryptocurrency in the financial market has continued to post a threat to the conventional legal tenders as being used and controlled by the central banks of many nations.
While many countries have approved the innovation by creating their own cryptocurrencies, some countries and individuals still perceive the new dispensation as a fraud and a threat to their national economies.
Only last week, the government of India, among others, warned its nationals against patronising crytocurrencies which it described as Ponzi schemes.
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) had, in a similar vein, early last year, issued a circular to banks and other financial institutions requiring them to take certain actions relating to digital currencies. Citing money laundering and terrorism financing, the CBN asked banks to “ensure that you do not use, hold, trade and/or transact in anyway” in digital currencies.
It added, “Banks also must ensure that their digital currency exchange customers have effective AML/CFT controls to allow them to comply with customer identification, verification and transaction monitoring requirements. If in doubt, the relationship with those exchanges and customers should be discontinued immediately”.
Specifically naming Bitcoin, Ripples, Monero, Litecoin, Dogecoin, Onecoin and similar products, the bank reiterated that they were not legal tender in Nigeria.
Same day, the Nigerian Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) made its own announcement regarding digital currencies. The SEC warned the public against investing in them.
“The public is hereby advised to exercise extreme caution with regard to digital (cryptocurrencies) as a vehicle of investments,” the SEC announced.
The situation is reminiscent of the alert issued by the Nigerian authorities at the peak of the MMM Ponzi scheme, in 2016, warning the people against investing in it. Many ignored the warning, causing several to lose millions when the scheme suddenly crashed around Christmas period.
Many of those who had lost a fortune in the wake of the crash resorted to suicide.
Investopedia describes cryptocurrency as a digital or virtual currency that uses cryptography for security, adding that it’s difficult to counterfeit because of the security feature.
It said: “A defining feature of a cryptocurrency, and arguably its most endearing allure, is its organic nature; it is not issued by any central authority, rendering it theoretically immune to government interference or manipulation.”
Since its creation in 2009 by Satoshi Nakamoto, whose nationality is undisclosed, it has 1408 listed crypto coins globally.
Thus, cryptocurrencies have become a digital asset designed to work as a medium of exchange that uses cryptography to secure its transactions. It is classified as subsets of digital currencies, alternative currencies and virtual currencies.
Bitcoin (Automated Teller Machine) ATMs the world over are said to have increased from 503 in January 16, 2017 to 2,008 in January 2018. As criticism continues to dog Bitcoin as a legal tender, it continued to soar in value. The value of a Bitcoin that was 6 cent in 2009 when it started has rose to over $15,000.
On Tuesday, Jamie Dimon was quoted by the CNN as saying that he regretted calling Bitcoin a fraud.
For months, the JPMorgan Chase (JPM) CEO was one of Bitcoin’s most vocal high-profile critics. He predicted that governments would “crush it” and even threatened to fire any of his bankers if they traded it.
He said: “I called Bitcoin a fraud before I knew how much money we could make trading it.”
Founder of Bitcoin Ascension, Mr Ivan Mircic, while speaking with Sunday Vanguard from Australia, said countries which were anti-Bitcoin now recognize it.
He said: “Countries such as Malaysia and Japan were anti-Bitcoin but now recognize and allow it. The good thing about Bitcoin is that even if a governing body doesn’t want it, there is no way to actually stop people using it.
“The US securities are trying to find ways to control it to no avail as the owner has given Bitcoin to the internet, so there is no process to stop or regulate it.
“The owner is unknown, so there is no avenue there either. Bitcoin can and is used in every country and that is why I chose it to enable the whole world benefit.”
“As for the people that believe Bitcoin will not last, I seem to remember people in the early 90s saying the same thing about the internet.
“When you have a currency that can be used to buy products and has some of the wealthiest billionaires such as Bill Gates and Sir Richard Branson heavily invested in it, it is as safe as any currency in my opinion.
“Governing bodies do not like Bitcoin because they cannot regulate and control it.”
Explaining the difference between digital currency and cryptocurrency, he said that though cryptocurrency is a type of digital currency, there are some fundamental differences.
On the structure of digital and cryptocurrencies, he explained that while digital currencies are centralized and being regulated by a group of people through computers in the state of the transactions, cryptocurrencies are decentralized, and the regulations are made by the majority of the community.
Explaining further, he noted that while digital currencies require user identification, buy uploading a photo of yourself and some documents issued by the public authorities, cryptocurrencies do not require any of that.
He, however, said that in cryptocurrency, though the addresses don’t contain confidential information such as name, residential address, etc., each transaction is registered while the senders and receivers are publicly known. “Thus, all the transactions are tracked,” he said.
Talking about transparency in digital currencies, Mircic, who has about 15 years’ experience in online business world and helped to design Bitcoin Ascension program, said: “Digital currencies are not transparent.”
According to him, you cannot choose the address of the wallet and see all the money transfers, maintaining that cryptocurrencies are transparent. “Everyone can see any transactions of any user, since all the revenue streams are placed in a public chain,” he said.
For transaction manipulation, he posited that while digital currencies have a central authority that deals with issues which could lead to cancellation or freezing transactions upon the request of the participant or authorities or on suspicion of fraud or money-laundering, cryptocurrencies are regulated by the community.
“It’s very unlikely that the users will approve the changes in the Blockchain, although there were some precedents such as the hack of The DAO. However, the amount of money was significant, and the decision was uncertain,” he explained.
On legal aspects, he said: “Most countries have some legal framework for digital currencies, i.e., Directive 2009/110/EC in the European Union, or Article 4A of the Uniform Commercial Code in the US. We cannot say the same about cryptocurrencies at the moment. In most countries, their official status is not defined. The establishment of the legal framework is only in the process”.
Asked why Bitcoin and not another coin because some people say ‘Bitcoin is a bubble’, he said, “I chose Bitcoin as it is one of the most known and easiest to use. It already has places on and offline where it can be used and is at a good price to be able to benefit from the payouts; so people’s lives can become easier
“The advice I have for the people of Nigeria and Africa, both young and old, is that Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are here to stay and being involved in them now will give you a better chance of securing your future”.
Talking about the risk factor, he said: “There are risks in any business. I have tried to take out all the risks with Bitcoin Ascension. The corruption of a matrix by making it manual has been taken away. I have double security on my site to prevent any sort of hacking, which can happen with anything online. I have the site monitored for this each day.
“Countries such as Malaysia and Japan were anti-Bitcoin but now recognize and allow it. “The good thing about Bitcoin is that even if a governing body doesn’t want it, there is no way to actually stop people from using it. “The US securities are trying to find ways to control it to no avail as the owner has given Bitcoin to the internet; so there is no process to stop or regulate it.
“The owner is unknown, so no avenue there either. Bitcoin can and is used in every country and that is why I chose it so that the whole world can benefit.”
Also speaking, a crypto-trade expert, Mr Oluyinka Orimogunje, said: “Bitcoin is digital money that is generated through mathematical solutions and secured through complex coding.”
Bitcoin is the first decentralized digital asset, Orimogunje said, adding that it’s not controlled by any central authority and therefore a holder’s account cannot be shut down or closed up.
On how it works, he noted that Bitcoin transaction can be broken into five processes: transaction request, request broadcast to the nodes, request validation through mathematical algorithms, combination of current transactions to form a new block of data for the ledger and the new block is then added to the existing blockchain in a way that it is permanent and unalterable.
While talking about the connectivity between the blockchin and Bitcoin, Orimogunje pointed out that the blockchain is one of the most promising technologies for the future. He said: “Blockchain is a distributed ledger technology that underlies cryptocurrency like Bitcoin and provides a way to record and transfer data in a way that is transparent, safe, auditable and resistant to outages.
“The blockchain has the ability to make organisations that use it transparent, democratic, decentralized, efficient and secure. It is likely going to disrupt many industries in the coming seven to ten years”.
According to him, some industries globally are presently affected by the invention of cryptocurrency.
He said: “The blockchain will do to banking what the internet did to the media. It will hasten to bank the unbanked. Barclays is working on using the blockchain to make its transactions more transparent and efficient.
“Although the blockchain ledger is public, the data is verified and encrypted using advanced cryptography. This way the data is less prone to being hacked or altered without authorization. The blockchain eliminates the need for middle men, making it a peer to peer affair, hence faster and cheaper”.
He posited that part of the revolution that blockchain has brought is supply chain management, forecasting, networking and insurance.
Others include cloud storage, charity, voting, healthcare, energy management, online music, retail and real estate.
On her part, Mrs Chikezie Susan, an engineer but currently into cryptocurrency, said this is her third year in the business. As an investor, a trader and a trainer, she described cryptocurrency as a means of exchange like every other currency but in digital form.
She said: “It has a lot of advantages because of its flexibility; it appreciates with time and, because of this, many are now millionaires.
“As an investor, you just buy and keep it for the rainy season and you will see the power of cryptocurrency. For example, I remember when my sister gave me N500, 000 to invest in something. I bought Bitcoin with the money and within one month the value rose to N800, 000. Seeing this opportunity makes me to go the extra mile to receive training on cryptocurrency trading and now I’m a certified trader.
“Training others on this platform is a way of raising more millionaires in our society. Trading is a platform for increasing the quantity of Bitcoin . With trading, you can turn one Bitcoin to ten Bitcoin in a month”.
Speaking in the same vein, Mr Noah Ejiofor said he knew about cryptocurrency in April 2015 through a friend. He disclosed that he decided to learn about it, “since it’s all about new way of making and spending money”.
He said: “There were lots of things I needed to understand before investing in cryptocurrency which I didn’t know; hence my first investment was a disaster. So I decided to seek for real knowledge about it and the result was massive.
“Today I stand here to encourage everyone to get involved in cryptocurrency because it is a great wealth creator. I have seen people that started with almost nothing in this industry and have become multi-millionaires in dollars. This is the first time an ordinary person can change his life easily and enjoy great financial freedom.
“I know of people who started with 10 dollars and built their income to over 800 dollars in few months of being in business, this is really crazy.
“As a globally recognized currency, with Bitcoin you can buy virtually anything you can think of because it is real money. We have Bitcoin exchangers.
“It means that you can exchange your Bitcoin to any currency you desire, we also have Bitcoin ATM machine in this country now; you can also order a Bitcoin Master Card or Visa Card and link it to your local bank account and you can withdraw cash on your account from your Bitcoin wallet.”
Meanwhile, Mit Phoenx, an Online Entrepreneur and Africa Director of Bitcoin Ascension, told Sunday Vanguard that Bitcoin is different from normal currencies because it can be used to buy things electronically. In that sense, it’s like dollars, euro, yen or naira.
Phoenx explained that no institution controls the Bitcoin nextwork, adding that a lot of people are at easewith this because financial institutions or government can’t control their funds.
He said: “No one prints Bitcoin. This currency isn’t physically printed like conventional currency. Currencies like dollars, euro, yen or naira are printed in the shadows by the various central banks without being accountable to the population. The government of a country can produce more money to cover national debt, thus devaluating the national currency. But the Bitcoin is different. It can’t be devaluated and neither can it be produced just to make sure everyone around the world has a unit. The reason is that every cryptocurrency has a cap, a finite number. Bitcoin would never be more than 21,000,000 units in circulation. The same goes for Ripple, Dogecoin, Ethereum. This is even the reason for the rise in the value. The good thing is that everyone can be in the community of Bitcoin.
“Another positive thing about Bitcoin is the huge technology behind it, called blockchain. Blockchain is a distributed ledger or database held and updated independently by each participant in a large network. Cryptography is an important force behind the blockchain revolution. Blockchain can be illustrated as a combination of a public key+private key= encrypted signature.
“Again, Bitcoin has several features that set it apart from the central bank controlled currencies.
“I strongly believe that Bitcoin is here to stay. In fact the Bitcoin capitalization is more than that of Boeing, Coca cola and McDonald. The Bitcoin market capitalization is $268 billion, Coca cola market capitalization $195 billion and Boeing market capitalization $175 billion.
“Bitcoin is an economy of inclusion whereas national currency is an economy of exclusion.
“Most people cannot buy one Bitcoin at the present rate of $15,000, but there are legitimate ways to acquire Bitcoin.
“It can be through mining or matrix like Bitcoin Ascension where you turn 0.004bitcoin to 41 Bitcoin.
“Two billion people are unbanked and most of them are in Africa and Asia. With Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies like Dogecoin, Electroneum, Ethereum, Ripples, we can take away a lot of people out of poverty. Bitcoin makes everybody equal.”
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