Has the Central Bank of Kenya Announced a Move to Use Bitcoin as a Reserve Currency?

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Claims that the Central Bank of Kenya’s Governor Patrick Njoroge supposedly announced a move to switch to the Bitcoin cryptocurrency as a reserve currency in a bid to apparently manage national debt have been circulating online.

The claim has been made on articles published on cryptocurrency-related news websites such as The Daily Leo, CryptoPotato and CoinGape in addition to tweets such as one posted on the Nigeria Customs Broadcasting Network Twitter account.

Background

An article on the Bitcoin News website states that Africa is a “fertile breeding ground” for digital currencies such as Bitcoin. The article that is based on research titled ‘The State of Crypto Africa’ indicates that factors such as the advent of mobile money services like Mpesa, and cryptocurrency’s ability to offer an alternative in the wake of challenges such as high inflation rates, poor financial infrastructure and incurring transaction costs in dealing with traditional banking, have led more Africans to cryptocurrencies.

Twitter co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey also posted that Africa will define the future of Bitcoin.

According to a UN report, the main Bitcoin countries are Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

Verification

The alleged announcement by the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) Governor has not been reported on any local media or published on CBK’s Twitter, Facebook accounts or its website, as such a major announcement would. A search on the Bitcoin News website, where updates regarding Bitcoin are routinely posted does not contain any information about CBK using Bitcoin as a reserve currency.

Piga Firimbi found that this claim was initially published in an article on the Posta Mate website, which is not a legitimate source of news as it identifies as ‘The home of satire and sarcasm’. Websites that have republished this information appear to have replicated the Posta Mate article including the fake quote by CBK Governor Patrick Njoroge.

CBK’s last official statement regarding cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin was issued in December 2015, stating that Bitcoin is not a legal tender in Kenya and that CBK in fact discourages Kenyans from using it.

“This is to inform the public that virtual currencies such as Bitcoin are not legal tender in Kenya and therefore no protection exists in the event that the platform that exchanges or holds the virtual currency fails or goes out of business,” the statement indicates, “The public should therefore desist from transacting in Bitcoin and similar products.”

The Capital Markets Authority (CMA), which is in charge of regulating capital markets in Kenya also issued a statement in January 2019 echoing CBK’s remarks on the use of Bitcoin and similar virtual currencies. The statement reiterates that virtual currencies are often unregulated and uncertain which could expose investors to substantial losses, as it goes on to illustrate how different cryptocurrencies have faired in the past.

“By comparison in December 2017, the price of Bitcoin was US$19,783 and it has since fallen to US$3,810, Litecoin was US$366 a coin and has since come down to US$30. Ethereum was US$ 1,400 in January 2018 and has fallen to US$130,” the CMA statement indicates.

At the same time, the CBK governor also tweeted in support of an economic review that looks into the disadvantages of adopting cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, which are said to promote illicit financial flows and consume a lot of energy.

There is no official statement from CBK indicating that it has changed its stance on virtual currencies not being a legal tender in Kenya or declaring that it will be using Bitcoin as a reserve currency for any reason.

Verdict

Claims that the Central Bank of Kenya announced that it will be using the Bitcoin cryptocurrency are FALSE.

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Linda Ngari