A senior associate and technology lawyer at global financial law firm Norton Rose Fulbright has spoken about the legality of bitcoin in South Africa, where the cryptocurrency is still unregulated.
Kerri Crawford, a technology lawyer and senior associate at global law firm Norton Rose Fulbright, discussed cryptocurrencies in a blog post published yesterday.
Crawford, who is based in Johannesburg and focuses on e-commerce and information technology, writes that Bitcoin use is not illegal in South Africa.
She also mentions that bitcoin acceptance among vendors is growing, with another law firm accepting the cryptocurrency as payment.
Bitcoin's legal status in South Africa is similar to that of most other countries around the world, where cryptocurrencies are not prohibited or outright prohibited.
Crawford emphasises this point, citing a joint advisory [PDF] issued in 2014 by the country's major financial authorities and regulators, warning citizens about the risks associated with using or investing in virtual currencies.
The National Treasury of the Republic of South Africa issued an alert at the time, stating:
"The National Treasury, the South African Reserve Bank, the Financial Services Board, the South African Revenue Service, and the Financial Intelligence Centre would like to caution members of the public about the risks associated with using virtual currencies for transactions or investments."
While the official position and lack of regulation remain unchanged, with no new updates to the advisory since the September 2014 user alert, Crawford suggests that the government may consider regulating and recognising bitcoin in the future.
"As the adoption of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies grows, it is possible that South African authorities will follow the lead of many other jurisdictions and investigate ways in which the regulatory regime can be amended or revised."
The rest of the blog describes regulatory actions taken by authorities in various countries, including those in the European Union, Canada, Australia, and the United States.
South Africa was notable for hosting the African continent's first bitcoin conference.
In April 2015, Cape Town hosted a two-day bitcoin conference, with bitcoin and Fintech startups vying for a piece of the lucrative African remittance market.
Bitcoin has recently gained traction in South Africa after South Africa's largest marketplace enabled bitcoin payments for both buyers and sellers.
Bidorbuy, a major marketplace with over 30 million monthly page views, enabled bitcoin among other payment options for sellers, which meant that every item sold on the marketplace could now be purchased with bitcoin.