The price of Bitcoin (BTC) on the local exchange Golix.io (formerly Bitcoinfundi) has shot 900 percent to $10 000 year-to-date, as investors pile into the digital currency, widely viewed as the future of money.
In January, $952 could buy you one BTC, an intangible type of money long thought to have been created by one obscure Satoshi Nakamoto, who has now revealed himself as Australian billionaire entrepreneur Craig Wright.
Bitcoin is not your everyday currency, the kind that one can hold in the hand like bond notes or US dollars; it’s stored virtually, on smartphones, computers and tablets etc, more or less like your Ecocash and Telecash, but without the central regulatory authority. Noone controls the digital currency, its creators claim..
According to data from Golix.io, bitcoin reached a high of $9,984 on October 18, but volume remained uninspiringly low, with just 1,6 BTC traded over 24 hours. That’s just about $16 000 bitcoin’s worth.
The lowest price on the day floated slightly above $8 000.
By mid-day yesterday ( October 19), the price had dropped 5,9 percent. Sellers were looking in the range of $9 397 with buyers offering around $9 000.
In the past 30 days, more than 110BTC has been traded on Golix.io, the equivalent of nearly $1,1 million.
Across the world, Bitcoin is hovering around $5 600. It climbed to a record $5 900 on October 13 spurred on by speculation the crypto-currency could split for the second time in three months at the end of this month.
The first split – also known as a hard-fork — of August 1 birthed a new rival currency called Bitcoin Cash.
Here, bitcoin almost always trades at a premium of between 30 and 40 percent due to a shortage of foreign currency.
So, what you get is that investors with access to US dollars buy bitcoin on foreign exchanges cheaper, before off-loading the stock on Golix.io, at a goodly profit.
It is a crisis Africa-wide, says Tawanda Kembo, a crypto-currency expert with Golix.io. From South Africa to Nigeria, Angola to Kenya, bitcoin trades at a premium, which has tended to downplay not only investor interest, but perhaps its acceptance, too.
Kembo blames this on a lack of liquidity, high demand and arbitraging.
To end this, he suggests Zimbabwe starts earning bitcoin, either through exporters accepting payment in bitcoin (as that inherently costs less due to negative transfer fees), diaspora remittances sent in bitcoin, and to the extent of taking bitcoin-denominated foreign direct investment.
When Golix.io opened up for trade in September 2015, trades reached no more than one bitcoin a month, or just $240.
Today, the exchange, Zimbabwe’s only digital currency exchange, which also quotes other junior digital currencies including Litecoin, Dash and Bitcoin Cash, records, on the average, the equivalent of $16 000 worth of BTC trades each day.
That’ pales into insignificance compared to say ice3x.com in South Africa, where trades reach 167BTC each month, at an average price of around $6 300, about 6 percent above the international price.
But in a Zimbabwean market where the digital currency is still cutting its teeth, the current figures count for something — bitcoin can only grow.
Unlike fiat currencies, Bitcoin – and the rest of the smaller crypto-currencies that number over 800 — thrive on the promise of freedom from government control, something that world government’s aren’t really thrilled about.
It’s a people-centric currency, created and traded by people and businesses over the internet, and regulated by them, according to Bitcoin creators.
In other countries like China, Russia and the US, Bitcoin is now being used to pay for goods and services, just like real money. Zimbabwe is still some way off from achieving similar fluidity.
But International Monetary Fund head Christine Largade this week landed support to bitcoin, saying it could replace banking as we know it today.