Thursday, 16 April 2020

In a recent interview with InsideBitcoins.com, Delta.App Chief Executive Officer Nicolas Van Hoorde revealed that investors were going back to digital assets as a hedge against the depreciating dollar. Hoorde talked about the chances of cryptocurrencies utilizing the current Coronavirus pandemic to surge in value.

During the interview, the chief executive also delved into the possibility of Facebook’s Libra seeing the light of the day. Furthermore, Hoorde talked about the current and prospects of institutional investors continuing to take part in the crypto sector.

The company behind the Delta.App was recently acquired by eToro, a leading global multi-asset investment platform. How will this acquisition impact Delta’s goals?

“Well, prior to the acquisition, Delta was already looking to diversify either horizontally or vertically. Seeing that eToro already offers tools for either direction, having a full-fledged cryptocurrency exchange via eToroX in their portfolio or the eToro platform itself which not only supports crypto but also stocks, ETF’s, indices and so forth – we basically teamed up with the best possible party for us to deliver on either of these future goals.”

Amid the huge competition in the sphere, you state that Delta.App is “the best Bitcoin, ICO & cryptocurrency portfolio tracker everywhere”. What are the arguments for such confidence?

“In 2017 and 2018 Delta was by far the highest-reviewed app within the crypto-asset portfolio tracker space. Delta raised the standards on UI and better customer support and we were pleased to see other providers invest in these aspects as well. Alongside this, we also won the Webby Award for the best mobile app UI and more importantly, users cite our product for ease of use. In fact, we get messages from people daily, which is really encouraging and also boosts the team.”

Can you tell us the current number of users the Delta.App has? How many users do you expect by the end of 2020?

“We reached 1.5 million downloads not so long ago and we’re seeing people using the tracker even when market volatility is low, which is encouraging.”

Institutional interest in the crypto sector has been on the rise over the past couple of years. What does this shift say about the future of digital assets?

“Much in line with eToro’s thinking, we believe we’ll see the greatest transfer of wealth onto the blockchain in years to come. You can increasingly see the crypto sector and the traditional financial markets grow towards each other. The ‘wild west’ period for the crypto market seems to be behind us, with more regulators, policymakers and central banks increasingly looking at what blockchain technology has to offer. Institutions are dipping their toe in the water – the likes of JP Morgan have launched their own internal crypto (JPM Coin) – and we expect this to rise as more use cases for the technology are being established.”

Bitcoin and the entire cryptocurrency sector are characterized by volatility. In your opinion, how will the upcoming Bitcoin halving have on this volatility?

“Bitcoin and crypto, in general, is still a very volatile asset class so it is difficult to predict what will happen after the halving. Hopefully, as the asset class matures through regulation and increasing rates of adoption, bitcoin behavior will become easier for people to understand. Although, like with any financial asset class, if we could predict how markets were going to behave, there wouldn’t be an orderly market for us to invest in.”

Do you think coronavirus can be a catalyst for crypto prices to surge amid the growing demand for digital money?

“We’ve seen extreme market volatility across all asset classes and stock markets around the world crash. Crypto markets have remained volatile, and in line with traditional markets, also dropped. However, we are seeing some investors on eToro going back into crypto as a hedge against a depreciating dollar, caused by the unlimited quantitative easing measures the US Fed announced a couple of weeks ago.”

The regulatory factor is a thorny issue in the cryptocurrency sector. In your opinion what should be done in order to have uniform regulations across the board?

“I don’t think I have the right qualifications to adequately answer the question – I hope that the people entrusted with this matter come up with a solution that makes sense for what crypto stands for in terms of transparency, while also making sure it can be done within a realistic and reasonable legal framework that protects those investing in it.”

Facebook’s Libra is seen as a game-changer in the cryptocurrency world. With the current controversies, will the coin be rolled out anytime soon?

“I have every faith that Facebook will enter the crypto asset space – what that looks like however is still up in the air. Mark Zuckerberg has announced they will ensure the project has the correct regulatory approvals before launching anything so whether they create a token or something else, like an on-chain payments network, remains to be seen. Either way, I feel confident that they will follow their mantra of creating something that will solve a significant problem.”

One of the major risks with the crypto sector is fraud and security issues. How does Delta.App cushion users against such threats?

“Delta is completely anonymous, there’s no user sign up process at all. No personal identifiable data is asked or collected at any point. Apart from that, we’re also very strict in terms of security. Let’s take our Exchange Account Connections as an example, a system that allows users to link up their exchange so that their transactions are imported automatically. First of all, these connections and parameters are stored fully client-side, which means that it never leaves the device. It’s not sent to any server. The downside is that if the user has multiple devices or switches device, he needs to set up the connection again. But it’s a small price to pay for this level of security.

Secondly, we only need to have access to the transactions that happened in the past, we don’t need the ability to transact. This ‘read-only’ permission level vs ‘trade’ permission is very important and to make sure Delta doesn’t have more permission than it actually needs, we actively refuse connections that give us more than ‘read-only’ access. We just won’t do it. So we basically protect the user doubly.”

Thank you, Nicolas, for the conversation!

 

Remember, all trading carries risk. Views expressed are those of the writers only. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. The opinions expressed in this Site do not constitute investment advice and independent financial advice should be sought where appropriate. 

Published in Bank & Finance
Thursday, 16 April 2020 15:07

Zimbabwe: Cash Transfers Begin

Zimbabwe's Government has started disbursing money to vulnerable groups that were affected by the 21-day lockdown, with the first beneficiaries in Harare and Bulawayo receiving their payouts yesterday.

The Ministry of Women's Affairs and Small and Medium Enterprise Development has availed a database of 129 000 SMEs to be considered for the Government bailout.

This was said by Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister Professor Paul Mavima during yesterday's post Cabinet briefing.

"We have other databases of those who are marginally food insecure with almost 3,5 million people, but we have to look at the neediest out of those so that we can reach the one million whom we have budgeted for and the disbursement are already underway," he said.

In a separate interview, Prof Mavima's deputy, Lovemore Matuke said payouts for beneficiaries from other provinces will be ready by tomorrow.

Government has availed $600 million through Treasury to cushion vulnerable households whose sources of income were largely affected by the 21-day national lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of Covid-19, while a separate package was being worked on to cushion SMEs and vendors.

Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube announced the facility two weeks ago.

Government said it would ensure the beneficiaries were not charged transactional costs when cashing out.

It recently said it would continue to implement selected priority programmes and projects to sustain the economy, but more resources would be channelled towards saving lives.

Further, the two percent intermediated money transfer tax (IMTT), which is ring-fenced for social protection and capital development projects, will be channelled towards Covid-19 related mitigatory expenditures.

Government has also availed a number of tax incentives for production and importation of essential drugs and health related capital equipment, as well as other medical supplies.

Treasury has suspended duty and tax on various goods and services related to testing, protection, sterilisation and other medical consumables to boost the country's state of preparedness against Covid-19.

 

Source: The Herald

Published in Economy

Africa is expected to reverse an economic contraction linked to the coronavirus crisis next year after containment measures are eased, the International Monetary Fund said, but the impact will be felt for years to come.

Sub-Saharan Africa’s gross domestic product is on track to shrink this year by 1.6% — its worst performance on record — because of the combined effects of the disease and plummeting oil and commodities prices. That is around 5.2% lower than the IMF’s pre-pandemic forecast.

Growth of around 4% should follow in 2021, according to the IMF’s regional economic outlook for Africa, released on Wednesday.

But the Fund warned that firm forecasts are currently hard to make. If the coronavirus outbreak is more protracted than currently expected and causes a deeper global recession, it sees Africa’s economy shrinking an additional 2.5% this year.

“I don’t think we’ve ever had as difficult a time trying to do projections in the institution, certainly in my 25 years,” Abebe Aemro Selassie, head of the IMF’s Africa department, told Reuters in an interview.

The Fund’s baseline scenario assumes that measures aimed at containing the disease, including lockdowns, will be concentrated in this year’s second quarter.

“We hope to see a rebound after that, with some recovery into next year. In some sectors such as construction or services, there will be pent-up demand and there could be a bounce back in those sectors,” Selassie said.

The pandemic will cause persistent, large losses of output “with the level of real per capita GDP expected to be about 4.5% lower by 2024 compared with the pre-COVID-19 projections,” the report stated.

African oil exporters can expect a 2.8% contraction this year, according to the IMF report. Other resource-intensive economies will shrink 2.7%.

Non-resource-intensive countries are expected to see growth decline to 2.0% from 6.2% last year. Within this group, however, tourism-dependent countries, including Cape Verde, Comoros, Gambia, Mauritius, São Tomé and Príncipe, and Seychelles, are projected to see a 5.1% contraction.

SUPPORT NEEDED

To fight the pandemic, the IMF is advising countries to ramp up health spending, release fiscal support to mitigate its economic impact and ease monetary policy stances to support growth.

International support is also essential, it said.

The Fund is set to provide some $11 billion to 32 sub-Saharan countries that have requested help in recent weeks.

To give countries breathing room during the crisis, the IMF and World Bank have proposed suspending debt service this year for the world’s poorest countries. Wealthy nations are expected to answer the call during a meeting of the Group of 20 (G20) major economies on Wednesday.

The IMF is not at this stage endorsing the kind of broader relief and debt cancellation African finance ministers are calling for.

“Debt sustainability is country‑specific and a medium‑ to long-term issue. Much will depend on how countries recover from this shock. My sense is they will do so at varied speeds,” Selassie said.

Africa’s creditor landscape has grown increasingly complex over the past two decades. Debt is held not only by Paris Club members and multilaterals, but also China, commercial banks and Eurobond holders.

“Quite a lot of thinking and work is needed to make sure that we understand and have modalities through which we can do debt relief operations,” he said.

“That’s really been kick-started with a vengeance as a result of the challenges countries are facing right now ... a new architecture is needed.”

 

Credit: Reuters

Published in Business

The malam said: ‘there is no corona!’
We also say: ‘there is no corona!’

A video of crowds shouting this refrain circulated on Nigerian social media in late March.

The “malam” or teacher they were referring to is Shaykh Sani Yahaya Jingir, an Islamic scholar based in Jos, Plateau State, in Nigeria’s religiously and ethnically diverse Middle Belt. He is a senior figure within the Islamic reform movement Jama’at Izalat al-Bid’a wa-Iqamat al Sunna (Izala for short), the largest Salafi group in Nigeria.

Shaykh Jingir has caused a stir in recent weeks with his incendiary sermons denouncing the coronavirus pandemic as yet another Western plot to stymie the practice of Islam. It is grist to his mill that travel to Saudi Arabia for the Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca (umrah) has been stopped, and that several states across Nigeria have suspended congregational prayers in an effort to stem the spread of the virus.

Recognising the danger of inflammatory messages like Shaykh Jingir’s, the Jama’atu Nasril Islam, an umbrella organisation for Nigerian Muslims, issued a statement cautioning Islamic preachers against misleading their followers over COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus. Under pressure from both the religious establishment (including the Izala leadership) and state authorities, Shaykh Jingir has now backpedalled.


Read more: Debunking 9 popular myths doing the rounds in Africa about the coronavirus


Alas, he is not the only person to publicly air doubt about the threat posed by COVID-19 being real. In northern Nigeria, others – from a wandering street preacher to a local music celebrity – have expressed similar views, as Sadisu Salisu Idris, a Kano-based community activist and Qur’anic school graduate who collaborated with me on this research, has found.

As of April 14, most of Nigeria’s 373 confirmed COVID-19 cases are in Lagos (214) in the south and in Abuja/FCT (58). However, confirmed cases have also started to appear across the north of the country, including in Bauchi (six), Kaduna (six), Katsina (five), and Kano (four).

Lockdowns are in place in the most heavily affected Nigerian states. Many other states have closed their borders and restricted large gatherings including markets. Mosques and churches in many parts of the country have been ordered to cap attendance, or to close.

But state authorities have been struggling to see heavy restrictions through. Met with popular opposition to mosque closures, on April 9 Katsina state announced they would be allowed to reopen for Friday congregational prayers.

Widespread suspicion

There is a history of scepticism in northern Nigeria towards global public health measures. The drive to eradicate polio in the early 2000s was troubled by widespread fears, fanned by religious and political leaders, that vaccines were intentionally contaminated with anti-fertility agents and HIV to decimate the Muslim population. Almost two decades later, polio still remains endemic in the region.

It’s difficult to know how many people in predominantly Muslim northern Nigeria are swayed by the idea that the coronavirus pandemic is merely “fake news” and social media are likely to magnify extreme viewpoints. However, given the virulence of the virus, public health measures will only be effective if the vast majority of the population follows them. Understanding and addressing the wider political experiences underpinning opposition to public health measures is therefore crucial.

Interventions seen to originate in the West frequently spark suspicion in northern Nigeria, and trigger questions about the motivations that underpin them. Memories of the British colonial occupation certainly matter, as do perceptions of current geopolitics. The “War on Terror” in the wake of 9/11 is still fresh in people’s minds and is widely perceived as primarily a hate campaign against Islam.

The persistent anti-Islam rhetoric of some Western leaders has been noted. Events in other parts of the non-Muslim world, including violent clashes between Muslims and Hindus in India and mass incarcerations of Uighur Muslims in China, have not been lost on the northern Nigerian public either.

In these circumstances, it doesn’t come as a surprise that people question whether highly disruptive measures, encouraged by mostly non-Muslim outsiders including the World Health Organization, are indeed well-intentioned.

Difficult task

Widespread perceptions of Nigerian politicians as self-interested and corrupt fuel suspicions further. The news that Nasir Ahmed El-Rufa’i, the governor of Kaduna State, tested positive for COVID-19 in late March was met with suspicion by some Kano residents, my research collaborator Salisu found. They believed his positive test result was fabricated and part of yet another fraudulent scheme to access federal resources allocated to states affected by COVID-19.

People in northern Nigeria have not forgotten the massive misappropriation of federal funds destined to tackle the Boko Haram crisis in north-eastern Nigeria and to support its victims. In this environment, rumours of COVID-19 being a hoax appear plausible, especially as so far most confirmed cases reported by the media have been among the elites. Their international mobility explains this, but privileged access to testing facilities is also likely to contribute to the high number of elite Nigerians confirmed to have the virus.

Recurrent rumours that the world may soon come to an end further complicate an already challenging situation, as they raise the stakes in religious observance. If the end times are imminent, the umma or Muslim community should live extra-righteously. The suspension of communal prayers seems to impede that.

Convincing the faithful that it is right to stay at home will be no easy task, especially with Islam’s holy month Ramadan just around the corner. Unequivocal messages from Islamic leaders across the religious spectrum will be crucial.

However, stay-at-home messages from Islamic leaders will only work if the government and international community do their part to rebuild trust. This means protecting ordinary northern Nigerians from the devastating effects heavy lockdowns are likely to have on their already precarious livelihoods.The Conversation

 

Hannah Hoechner, Lecturer in Education and International Development, University of East Anglia

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Published in Economy
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