Cryptocurrency. What Morocco stands to gain

Despite the bans, cryptocurrency is attracting more and more Moroccans. The Ministry of Finance with Bank Al Maghrib are studying the interest of a possible supervision of the use. Nothing concrete for the moment. Experts believe that the country could gain a lot through this legalization.

Morocco is ranked 24th in the 2021 Global Cryptocurrency Adoption Index by US research firm Chainalysis. Triple A, a cryptocurrency research platform, estimates that around 0.9 million people, or 2.4% of the total Moroccan population currently own cryptocurrencies. Statistics that, according to cryptocurrency expert and co-founder of the start-up Mchain, Badr Bellaj, show the craze of Moroccans for this mechanism, despite the fact that it has been banned from use in the country since 2017. Other revealing figures: Morocco has recorded a bitcoin exchange volume of 6 million US dollars, the highest in North Africa. The country even ranks 4th on the African continent, behind Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya. “Every week, Moroccans make transactions of DH 2 million in cryptocurrencies on a single site,” notes Bellaj adding that the peak was reached in April 2021 with a trading volume of 2.5 MDH.

The reasons for a rush

If there is a rush to use cryptocurrency in Morocco, as elsewhere, it is for several reasons. “Cryptocurrency seduces a good number of Moroccans, especially young people. For them, it is a way to consume services on the internet easily. They can buy sell, exchange, make investments to improve their financial situation … especially since this mechanism is accepted in many countries, “says Bellaj

“Cryptocurrency is legal in all countries except 8 that stand out, including Morocco,” Bellaj

On the usage side: “all you need is a smartphone, and a connection to open an account on one of the dedicated platforms, feed it with cryptocurrency and the game is easy”, explains the expert also adding that “fluctuation attracts opportunity seekers. Where there is fluctuation, there is bound to be profit. A study on the use of cypto-currency carried out among 10,000 Moroccans, the detailed results of which will be unveiled soon, shows, as Bellaj confided to us, that crytomoney is used for buying and selling bitcoins, for trading, and especially for cross-border transfers. “Transferring money is expensive. And so many are opting for cryptocurrency to make these transactions,” he acknowledges. The use of cryptocurrency is also explained, according to the same expert, by the problem of the non-convertibility of the Dirham, the complexity of services offered by banks to young people…

Basically, the ban does not prevent usage. And the public authorities seem to be aware of the issue. The proof, in a session of oral questions to the House of Representatives, the Minister of Economy and Finance, Nadia Fettah Alaoui announced that the government is working with its partners to study the interest of a legal framework for these cryptocurrencies. Bank Al-Maghrib had indicated in 2020 the constitution of a committee in charge of managing a digital currency project of the central bank. For his part, the wali of Bank Al Maghrib, Abdellatif Jouahri recently revealed that the project is at a very preliminary stage and would circumvent the negative aspects of cryptocurrencies, including not being backed by a central currency and the traceability of transactions. For experts, including Bellaj, these are purely political announcements.

“Morocco is not going to adopt cryptocurrency officially in the short and medium term’, insists Bellaj

And to argue this, he points out that “the country is not ready to adopt these payment and exchange mechanisms which are not controllable. And so the authorities fear that these means will be used for illicit purposes. They have a bad perception of this cryptocurrency and therefore the easiest way for them is to ban it.

For Badr Bellaj, Morocco may well gain more than it can risk by legalising cryptocurrencies. How? “Globally, we are witnessing the birth of a cryptocurrency industry. Morocco will be able to position itself in this niche and even become a regional hub to attract investments in this field,” Bellaj believes. He also adds that legalising the concept via laws and giving licences to platforms specialising in the sale of cryptocurrency will allow visibility on the clientele and therefore control the tap. Other advantages mentioned: “the possibility of taxing this industry and taking advantage of the use instead of encouraging the informal and making this activity rather an engine of employment for young people.

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