Sanele Gumada
2 minute read
16 May 2018
6:30 am

Cryptocurrency ATMs coming to SA

Sanele Gumada

South Africa is due to get its first cryptocurrency ATM this week, despite the country’s lack of knowledge about it among the population.

"Bitcoin accepted" sign in the window of "Kafi Schoffel", a coffee bar in Zurich downtown that accepts Bitcoin as means of payment and houses a Bitcoin ATM. Picture: iStock

But the businessperson behind the ATM hopes to expose more people to the world of digital currencies and give them an opportunity to add some bitcoin, dash, etherium, or others to their digital wallets.

According to Northwold Spar general manager George Neophytou, the biggest problem with cryptocurrency adoption in South Africa is that people do not have enough knowledge about it.

There are still only 1 200 businesses in the country who accept it.

Neophytou, however, was optimistic about the new venture, which is being installed at the Northwold Spar in Johannesburg.

Neophytou said: “There are currently seven machines on their way and two in the country right now. With this new ATM machine, I am giving more people a chance to come and transfer some money, put it into their wallet and become part of the new generation.”

With about 3 000 bitcoin ATMs globally, Neophytou also noted the importance of gaining more knowledge about cryptocurrencies.

“The big problem with cryptocurrency is that people can’t see it. It’s something that is in the air. When one tries to explain to somebody that you have R10 worth of bitcoin on your cellphone, they only see their physical R10 as more valuable,” he said.

Neophytou added the new ATM machine served as a platform for people to see cryptocurrency as part of their reality.

“It’s just like anything on the stock exchange. It goes up and it goes down. Cryptocurrency is the financial decision that everybody has to make on their own and it’s a personal decision,” he said.

Economist Dawie Roodt was excited about the project, saying South Africans were “ahead of the curve with cryptocurrency”.

Roodt further highlighted that people saw cryptocurrency as an investment opportunity and a platform to avoid exchange control regulations.

“There isn’t much trust in the South African economy and people want to put their money where they can protect it,” said Roodt.

“The banking system in South Africa is also quite expensive. Although the cryptocurrency is also expensive, people would be keener to use cryptocurrencies because they want to be anonymous in what they’re doing.”

He also noted the potential benefit to the economy if cryptocurrencies would be adopted more broadly.