South Africa’s Model: A Blueprint for Crypto Regulation in Africa

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  • South Africa’s approach to crypto regulation can be summed up through the popular saying: “Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can.” 
  • The advantages of this approach are manifold, benefiting both the populace and the government. 
  • The success of South Africa’s regulatory model is evident in the country’s thriving crypto ecosystem.

Cryptocurrency has taken the world by storm. While the blockchain technology-based system has grown in popularity globally, the battle with crypto regulation has been equally compelling. African nations have generally struggled with regulating cryptocurrency, but South Africa has chosen a simple and progressive path.

By leveraging its existing legislation and legal framework to incorporate cryptocurrency, South Africa has significantly enhanced its position in crypto friendliness in Africa and perhaps globally.

As cryptocurrency surged in popularity over the last decade, governments and regulators were caught entirely off guard. Initially, there was much off-the-books activity, but soon the ugly side of scams, money laundering, and other illicit activities emerged.

“Starting where they were” meant recognizing the existing legal framework and its adequacy to handle cryptocurrency. South Africa defined cryptocurrencies as financial assets under existing law, immediately bringing digital currencies within established rules and defining the playing field. Many countries have struggled for years to create a legal framework from scratch.

“Using what they have” meant appreciating the strengths of the current financial system. Cryptocurrency, despite its innovative technology, does not require an entirely new regulatory approach. The system still involves intermediaries like brokers, wallets, and exchanges, akin to those in traditional fiat currency systems.

“Doing what they could” involved using the tools at their disposal to regulate the crypto industry. Rather than creating new regulatory bodies or frameworks, South Africa chose to regulate crypto under existing financial laws and institutions, recognizing cryptocurrencies as financial assets rather than as legal tender. This streamlined the regulatory process and minimized costs and administrative burdens.

The South African Cryptocurrency Regulation Timeline


Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin emerged globally, but South Africa lacked specific regulations.

Early Recognition (2018):

The South African Revenue Service (SARS) clarified that cryptocurrencies are treated as assets for tax purposes.

Working Group Formation (2018):

The Crypto Asset Regulatory Working Group (CARWG) was established to assess South Africa’s stance on crypto assets.

Growing Interest (2020):

The Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA) proposed classifying crypto assets as “financial products” under existing legislation.

The South African Reserve Bank (SARB) explored the potential of a Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC).

Recent Developments (2023):

FSCA regulations came into effect, requiring crypto asset advertisers to comply with advertising standards.

Crypto assets are still not considered legal tender, but their use as an investment is recognized.

February 2024:

FSCA issued 60 cryptocurrency provider licenses from over 300 applications in the first round.

Benefits of Crypto Regulation for South Africans

The advantages of South Africa’s approach to regulation are numerous, benefiting both the people and the government. The benefits to South African citizens are readily apparent. Regulation provides a sense of legitimacy and security in their crypto transactions.

Having exchanges and other registered and regulated providers offers a degree of security in dealings. Additionally, regulation facilitates compliance with anti-money laundering (AML) and counter-terrorism financing (CFT) measures, enhancing financial security and stability—two crucial aspects of cryptocurrency transactions.

Moreover, regulation boosts confidence among investors and developers, encouraging broader participation in the crypto market. South Africa ensures fair competition and promotes market integrity by creating a level playing field where all operators must adhere to the same standards and regulations.

This, in turn, spurs innovation and investment, driving economic growth and innovation. Cape Town, for instance, has become a hub for digital nomads in the crypto sector, taking advantage of South Africa’s progressive regulatory stance.

Benefits of Crypto Regulations for the South African Government

For the government, regulation yields tangible benefits such as tax revenue, data, and increased transparency. By taxing crypto transactions, South Africa generates revenue that can be allocated to significant government projects. This is especially critical for a developing economy with a large population.

Additionally, bringing crypto providers into the fold means the government gains access to reliable data on cryptocurrency-related transactions and activities within the country. Properly utilized, such data could yield substantial returns in the future.

Regulation also aids in combating illicit activities, such as tax evasion and money laundering, thereby safeguarding the financial system’s integrity. For example, Nigeria’s financial regulator recently took Binance to court over tax evasion, though there is some confusion over who regulates cryptocurrency in Nigeria between the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

One of the most significant advantages of South Africa’s approach is its adaptability. By regulating crypto within the existing framework, South Africa has laid the groundwork for future innovation and expansion in the sector. Regulatory measures can be updated and refined as the crypto landscape grows and evolves to address new challenges and opportunities.

The success of South Africa’s regulatory model is evident in the country’s thriving crypto ecosystem. Since the implementation of regulation, South Africa has seen a surge in crypto investment. Crypto startups and entrepreneurs are flocking to the country, drawn by its supportive regulatory environment and vibrant tech scene.

This influx of talent and capital has positioned ‘Mzansi’ as a regional leader in the crypto space, driving innovation and economic growth. The legality of crypto transactions has led to the development of crypto debit cards, lightning network payment systems, and more.

While South Africa has set a commendable example, many African countries have yet to take decisive progressive action on regulation. Despite expressing intentions to regulate crypto, few have translated words into action.

This lack of action does not bode well for nations that have expressed a desire to become technological hubs of Africa, as it leaves them wanting to regulate one of the most significant technologies of our time. This inertia not only stifles the growth of the crypto industry but also leaves consumers and investors vulnerable to risks and uncertainties.

The crypto world is not short of scams, and many Africans have fallen victim to these scams. While the lack of regulation is not solely responsible for these occurrences, it is evident that regulation could have mitigated some of these issues, either through establishing consequences for offenders or providing a system for people to verify approaches and offers.

The South African Example

For other African countries, the Rainbow Nation’s approach to regulation offers a clear path forward. By leveraging existing frameworks and resources, countries can overcome regulatory hurdles and embrace the potential of cryptocurrencies. Blockchain technology and cryptocurrency are continually touted as having significant potential for Africa.

This alone should encourage African authorities to integrate crypto into their regulatory frameworks sooner rather than later. As the crypto revolution continues to gain momentum, proactive regulation will be crucial in ensuring that Africa remains competitive in the realm of innovation and development.

South Africa’s approach to regulating crypto serves as a model for other African countries to emulate. By starting where they are, leveraging existing frameworks, and doing what they can, these countries can harness the transformative power of cryptocurrencies while safeguarding the interests of their citizens. With pragmatic regulation, Africa can unlock the full potential of crypto and pave the way for a brighter, more inclusive future.


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Kudzai G Changunda
Kudzai G Changunda
Finance guy with a considerable interest in the adoption of web 3.0 technologies in the financial landscape. Both technology and regulation focused but, of course, people first.