ZIMBOCASH determined to bring alternative money to Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe just like inflation hit Venezuela, is often cited as the most ideally placed country to adopt alternatives forms of money like cryptocurrencies adoption. However, this anticipated switch to such other forms of money has been off to a slow start.
There are a number of reasons that stop potential users from switching to such digital currencies. Some of the reasons include fear of the unknown or previous experiences with other failed projects that promised big but ultimately came short. Low internet penetration level is another challenge that stop people from adopting these new technologies.
Fintech companies hoping to tap into this market must be willing to spend more time and other resources in raising awareness as well as educating potential users. That is how ZIMBOCASH is attempting to bring this solution to Zimbabwe which has a longstanding history of currency challenges. ZIMBOCASH has been visible on the ground and has created a buzz about this novel technology.
AfricaBlockchainMedia.com reached out to ZIMBOCASH to understand more about this token, its distribution as well as its reception by some members of the public. AfricaBlockchainMedia.com asked Laswet Savadye of the ZIMBOCASH to respond to a set of questions. Below are questions and the respective responses.
Terence Zimwara (TZ): In the Zimbabwean situation, alternative currency or money affords citizens an opportunity to show their disapproval of the way the national fiat currency is being managed. In fact, cryptocurrencies in general enable that. Is this the case with ZIMBOCASH?
Laswet Savadye (LS): ZIMBOCASH is an alternative currency for Zimbabwe and we are passionately for the concept of sound money – that money should be limited in supply. Money printing is leading many people into poverty and the only way to solve the problems (associated with printing excess money) is fixing the supply of money.
However, we do not seek to replace the government’s fiat currency. ZIMBOCASH is envisioned to work side by side with the Zimbabwean dollar. We definitely are not anti-government and we have engaged the government to see how we can work together, and we will continue with these conversations.
TZ: Can you give us the number of tokens that you have distributed to members of the public and just how widespread has been the exercise?
LS: The ZIMBOCASH Community is growing virally through a targeted social media strategy and roadshows. At this stage we are not giving out token allocation details, but we will do so in due course.
TZ: What have been some of the notable milestones you have achieved since the start of this project?
LS: The movement is going viral. We have achieved a 40% month on month growth in the first year and we anticipate that in the second year we will continue to grow exponentially.
The most effective way to build a movement is by establishing the network through ambassadors. We launched the ZIMBOCASH Ambassador Program in January 2019, the program now has 305 Ambassadors led by 13 Lead Ambassadors in all regions across Zimbabwe.
We have conducted two very successful nationwide road shows where the main objective was to raise awareness, educate and empower the ZIMBOCASH community. Since then our subscriber growth has been exponential. We have a great website, our white paper (which we refer to as the ZIMBOCASH Blueprint) is great and we’ve had a great response from Zimbabweans all round.
We’re about to launch our phase two of our tech development roadmap, and are in discussions with some large international exchanges for listing. After a successful first round of funding, we are now in a second round of discussions with various large investors.
TZ: Do you think the levels of ignorance have dropped between the time you started this sustained campaign to get Zimbabweans buying into cryptocurrencies and now?
LS: We have found out that, in the cities, many of people we have met are clued up about the banking and monetary crisis in the country and have some knowledge of blockchain and cryptocurrencies especially Bitcoin. We have encountered people who are tech-savvy and are into forex and cryptocurrency trading.
Our challenge, as we have come to realise, is how to make ZIMBOCASH known by everyone in the cities and in the rural areas. We are driving an education campaign that reaches ordinary Zimbabweans with a simple message – we can fix the supply of money and make it available to all people through the latest technology.
Our education strategy is driven through our ambassador program, social media roadshows and interviews on national TV and radio.
TZ: Cryptocurrencies are generally borderless digital assets yet your particular token seems to be targeted at Zimbabwe only. Is there a possibility that non-Zimbabweans can also become holders of the ZIMBOCASH token and will this be exchangeable with other digital assets?
LS: ZIMBOCASH is a digital currency allocated to Zimbabweans. This means that the initial airdrop (allocation) and registrations are limited to Zimbabwean citizens only, no matter where they currently reside (excluding the US for legal reasons). However, non-Zimbabweans will, at some point, be able to purchase ZIMBOCASH from Zimbabweans on an exchange.
ZIMBOCASH will be border-less, Zimbabweans will be able to trade on international exchanges, converting ZIMBOCASH to other digital currencies such as Bitcoin, and USDT.
TZ: Can you tell us your own experience with authorities and regulators? Do you think they have treated you differently from other cryptocurrency businesses like Golix? Do they understand what you are attempting to do and how have you assured them that you are not threatening to replace the country’ financial system?
LS: The key difference between ZIMBOCASH and the cryptocurrency exchanges is that the latter require clients to cash-in or cash-out via the current banking system. The ZIMBOCASH scenario is quite different. We are not relying on the banking system– we are allocating ZIMBOCASH to people directly and then will rely on offshore demand for an “on-the-ground” sound-money cryptocurrencies to establish a market price.
For this reason, we do not pose the same threat to the banking system. In fact, we are adding value without disrupting the current system.
However, we are not anti-government. We would like to work with the government to develop a sound money system in Zimbabwe. Our culture is that of honour, we honour and respect the people of Zimbabwe and the government. It is in that vein that we have had talks with representatives from RBZ and the Ministry of Finance. Our engagements have been encouraging. The Fintech space in Zimbabwe is not (yet) regulated and we are glad that it was announced in the monetary policy statement of September 2019 that committees have been set up to come up with regulation so that Fintech companies like ZIMBOCASH can operate in a regulated environment.
We have allocated 10% of the ZIMBOCASH tokens for the Zimbabwean government, as well as one third of any transaction fees on the blockchain. As the network grows, we will continue to engage the government.
TZ: What can you say are some of the unique challenges that you face as a technology company attempting to penetrate the Zimbabwean market?
LS: Zimbabwe is experiencing a litany of problems right now and these affect all businesses. As a Fintech company, we are affected by the (low) internet penetration in the country. Data prices affect all Zimbabweans as does the intermittent electricity outages. There is also a low volume of Smartphones in the country (when compared to other countries).
To combat this, we are exploring the use of USSD that will enable us to reach those without smartphones.
The Zimbabwe situation is unique in that the currency environment is placing so much pressure on ordinary people, that the incentives for everyone to overcome these obstacles are high. We have a unique solution that solves many of the problems that people are facing.
We’re using our Ambassador network to good effect to reach into areas where others may not be able to reach, and our road shows have been effective at this as well.
The blockchain & crypto space is fairly new and can be quite abstract to many people, that is why we decided on the ambassador program and the conducting of educational workshops to raise awareness as well as educate and empower communities.
TZ: What do you presently consider to be the most significant barrier to mass adoption of cryptocurrencies in Zimbabwe?
LS: Fear of the unknown. Our experience has taught us that people tend to be overly cautious when faced with change, especially if it involves technology. There is also the fear of being taken for a ride and rightfully so. Some people have been involved in tech investments where they lost money to scams and get rich quick schemes.
That is why we do not ask people for their money to be part of ZIMBOCASH, rather, they get rewarded with tokens when they sign up. We will never ask people for their money. If the project succeeds, they benefit and in the unlikely event that it does not succeed, they will not lose any money.
The second point concerns the low levels of mobile smart phone penetration in Zimbabwe. The majority of people especially in rural areas, own a feature phone or a non-Smartphone which does not use the internet. That is why we decided to develop a USSD protocol to access the ZIMBOCASH network on such feature phones. This (USSD) will greatly help the unbanked and the financially marginalised semi-rural and rural communities.
TZ: Once operational, what will help the ZIMBOCASH token to maintain a stable value seeing that it is this value volatility which presently makes cryptos unattractive?
LS: ZIMBOCASH is the first “on-the-ground” cryptocurrency.
ZIMBOCASH is a transactional currency just like the Zimbabwean currency, US dollar, South African rand, just that its digital. It is meant for use on the ground for settling of day to day transactions such as paying for groceries, buying fruits and vegetables from street vendors, paying commuter fares, buying electricity, etc..
All currencies get their value through people using them to trade, to save and to invest. Our goal is to establish ZIMBOCASH as a medium of exchange and as a store of value – and we believe that through organic demand and supply networks of people trading through-out Zimbabwe, this will help stabilise the price.
Currently, most other cryptocurrencies have very little real-world use-cases. Demand is driven by market sentiment and this has resulted in these cryptocurrencies being remarkably volatile.
With that said, we are not afraid of price changes – that is part of how a new technology is developed and this indicates that there is a market of buyers and sellers. Ultimately, our primary goal is to make sure that there is a price in the first place. If we do this, we will have succeeded in creating value for all Zimbabweans.
TZ: Lastly, you should be aware of how scammers have used novel and innovative technological products to defraud large groups of people. When a large number of people is conned, the resultant complaints will force less informed governments or consumer watchdogs to intervene. Tell us how you are reassuring Zimbabwean crypto enthusiasts that ZIMBOCASH is different from other schemes or marketing strategies like the referrals system which have turned out to be Ponzi schemes?
LS: Many scams, be they pyramid or Ponzi schemes, ask you to either invest some money upfront, buy a starter pack or in any other way that they ask people to part with their hard earned money. When the scheme implodes and collapses it is this money that the unsuspecting people lose.
With ZIMBOCASH, it is free to sign up and to be part of the network. We do not ask people to pay anything, and we will never ask people to part with their hard earned money. Rather, we reward people with tokens when they sign up during the registration phase. We do this because every person who joins a network adds value to the network and that of every other individual on that network.
In the unlikely event that the ZIMBOCASH project does not succeed, our community members will not lose any money as they would not have paid for anything in the first place.