Central African Republic (CAR) adopts Bitcoin as a National Currency

Central African Republic (CAR) flag

An African country, the Central African Republic (CAR), becomes the second country in the world, after El Salvador, to adopt Bitcoin as a national currency. As its name says it, CAR is a country in Central Africa. The country of the late Jean-Bedel Bokassa is rich in diamonds, gold, uranium, and other precious minerals; yet it is one of the poorest countries in the world (when you have the FCFA as a currency, can it be any different?).

On Wednesday, a bill to adopt Bitcoin as the country’s legal tender was passed unanimously by the parliament. The office of CAR president, Faustin-Archange Touadera, claimed the move would “improve the conditions of Central African citizens” and distinguish CAR as “of the world’s boldest and most visionary countries.” I couldn’t have said it any better… it is about time to get rid of the FCFA [The 11 Components of the French Colonial Tax in Africa] anyways, why not do it in style? Excerpts below are from the BBC.

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Bitcoin (Source: IBTimes)

The Central African Republic (CAR) has approved Bitcoin as legal tender – just the second country to do so.

CAR is one of the world’s poorest countries, but is rich in diamonds, gold and uranium. It has been wracked by conflict for decades and is a close Russian ally, with mercenaries from the Wagner Group helping fight rebel forces. Lawmakers voted unanimously to adopt Bitcoin as legal tender, said a statement from the CAR presidency. The move puts CAR “on the map of the world’s boldest and most visionary countries“, it said.

Others have raised fears that cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin could make it easier for criminals to launder money, and that they are environmentally damaging because they use so much electricity to generate [as if exploiting uranium was eco-friendly! could they possibly be happy when the golden hen is going away?]. The internet is needed to use any cryptocurrency but in 2019, just 4% of people in CAR had access to the web, according to the WorldData website.

Map of Central African Republic

The country currently uses the French-backed CFA franc as its currency, along with most other former French colonies in Africa. Some see the adoption of Bitcoin as an attempt to undermine the CFA, amid a contest for influence over the resource-rich country between Russia and France. The context, given the systemic corruption and a Russian partner facing international sanctions, does encourage suspicion,” French analyst Thierry Vircoulon told the AFP news agency [of course, France will be suspicious of former slave colonies finding friendship elsewhere].

In the capital, Bangui, the response was mixed. Economist Yann Daworo told BBC Afrique it would make life easier, as transactions can be made with smartphones and it was easy to convert Bitcoin to any other currency. Businessmen will no longer have to walk around with suitcases of CFA francs that will have to be converted into dollars or any other currency to make purchases abroad,” he said.

Diamonds

He also argued that the CFA was not being used “to benefit Africa” [preach cousin]. There are growing calls in several countries for the currency to be dropped by those who see it as a relic of the colonial era, enabling France to continue to exercise economic control.

However, computer scientist Sydney Tickaya said he thought the adoption of the cryptocurrency was “premature” and “irresponsible“. Internet access is still underdeveloped in the country while Bitcoin depends entirely on the internet,” he said, adding that the CAR had more pressing issues such as security, education and access to drinking water [sure… but after over 100 years of dealing with France and the FCFA, and not even getting simple roads or education or water, while your diamonds are exploited without you getting a dime, isn’t it time to try something different? when will it be mature enough, or responsible enough to take a leap?] .

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Who/What did we Celebrate in Africa in 2014?

Beji Caid Essebsi, new President of Tunisia
Beji Caid Essebsi, new President of Tunisia

Like every year, I have to tell you about the good things that happen in Africa, and all the things we celebrated. Here are 10 of them.

1. I have to say it again: Blaise Compaore’s demotion. Blaise Compaoré was booted out of office in 2014. Thomas Sankara‘s murderer taught that he will be eternal in power, and on October 30th 2014, the people of Burkina Faso said ENOUGH!

2. Presidential Elections finally took place in Tunisia, 3 years after Ben Ali‘s toppling at the beginning of the ‘Arab Spring’, and the election of the people’s choice as president: Beji Caid Essebsi. We are glad the people of Tunisia’s choice was respected.

Some members of the South African Team - MTN Qhubeka(Source: bicycling.co.za)
Some members of the South African Team – MTN Qhubeka(Source: bicycling.co.za)

3. Mrs Catherine Samba-Panza was sworn in as interim president of the Central African Republic on 23 January 2014. She was chosen as a neutral person to lead the country of the conflict that rages in the area; she is the first woman appointed in such a position in the history of the country.

4. For the first time in the history of Cycling, there was an African team competing in a great race. 6 Africans (two Erithreans and 4 South Africans) ran in Spain for the South African team, MTN-Qhubeka.

5. Two African teams advancing into the last round of 16 at the Brazil 2014 FIFA World Cup for the first time in the history of the FIFA World Cup: namely, Nigeria and Algeria. Even though both teams were eliminated in the last round of 16, Algeria particularly put up a good fight against Germany (who went on to win the World Cup) and made us proud.

6. The African version of Robocop designed by two female engineers in the Democratic Republic of Congo, one of them being Thérèse Inza.  This is a traffic cop who regulates the traffic, and even gives tickets to the cab drivers, and those who do not want to follow the code of the road.

Lupita Nyong'o
Lupita Nyong’o

7. There were 3 Africans nominated at the Oscars in main categories this year: Chiwetel Ejiofor(Nigeria) in the ‘Best Actor’ category, Barkhad Abdi (Somalia) in the ‘Best Actor in a Supporting role’ category and Lupita Nyong’o (Kenya) in the ‘Best Actress in a Supporting role’ category. Lupita made us proud by winning the Academy Award for ‘Best Actress in a Supporting role’ for her role in 12 Years a Slave. She was also named the ‘Most beautiful Woman’ by People magazine (I never really understood that People Magazine award: as if they had searched through the 3.5Billion women in the world before giving this award!) and ‘Woman of the Year’ in Glamour, and was announced as the ‘New Face’ of Lancôme, a first for a Black woman.

8. Nigeria became Africa’s # 1 economy after rebasing its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) from 1990 to 2010 constant prices. Nigeria just surpassed South Africa as Africa’s top economy, and the world’s 26th largest economy.

9. U.S President Barack Obama hosts 50 African Heads of State and government officials at the historic US-Africa Leaders Summit.

George Weah
George Weah

10. George Weah, the only African to have won a FIFA World Player of the Year (in 1995) and won Ballon d’Or, won a senate seat in Liberia yesterday Dec. 29th. The 2005 presidential contender (he had won the first round of the elections then) of Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf won the senate elections against Robert Sirleaf (President Johnson-Sirleaf’s son). This was a landslide victory; it is a step forward, and progress is always to be acclaimed!

Why the name Bangui (Capital of Centrafrique)?

Aerial view of Bangui today
Aerial view of Bangui today

Today, I will be talking about Bangui, the capital of Centrafrique or the Central African Republic (CAR).  Bangui is commonly known to locals as “Bangui, la coquette“, or “Bangui, the coquette“.  Before its independence on August 13 1960, Centrafrique was known as “Oubangui-Chari” (in English: Ubangi-Chari) because its border in the south is formed by the rivers Oubangui (which is the border with the democratic republic of Congo) and Mbomou, while at its northern border is the Chari river which also runs into Chad.  When the French first colonized the area in the 19th century, they adopted the name Oubangui-Chari, since the country is located in the Oubangui-Chari basin.  Thus the city Bangui is located on the right bank of the Oubangui river.  The city was started (I will not use the more common word ‘founded’ as I disagree with its use here) on 26 June 1889 during French colonization, to serve as a base for French expansion in Central Africa.

Downtown Bangui in 1950s
Downtown Bangui in 1950s

At its creation, it was part of the then French colony of Haut-Oubangui (Upper-Ubangi).  The city grew thanks to its proximity to a French military post (which still exists there today), and became the center of the French colonial administration in the area.  At first, from 1889 to 1912, the population was mostly centered near the river Oubangui; later on, it grew on the northern side. It is also good to mention that the city-center is dominated by the Gbazabangui hills, inside which there is a special forest reserve.