'Show me the money’ : a discussion of the cryptocurrency market and its potential regulation in South Africa.
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The developments of the internet and electronic communication, have created a platform that enables the trade of goods and service through the internet. This connects consumers and businesses to facilitate safe and efficient transactions. Unremitting electronic advances have also brought to light the inadequacies of the current trading system, which struggles to keep abreast with these new developments. Cryptocurrency is one such new technology creating challenges for trade and legal systems regarding confidentiality, security, legal certainty and predictability. The virtual, decentralized nature of this technology and the absence of a specific legal monitoring entity makes the application of traditional legal frameworks untenable and the enforcement of any new legal framework tenuous. For these reasons, the current regulatory status of decentralized cryptocurrencies, or digital currencies, is perplexing. The cryptocurrency platform offers a solution to developing trade issues as cryptocurrencies transcend borders and are international by design. The anonymity of cryptocurrency systems have the ability to surpass current restrictions and allow for virtually instantaneous cross border transactions thereby making it more attractive than traditional monetary systems. This offers some advantages and disadvantages as this system is not without challenges such as its potential use for criminal activities. As such, there are countries that are well ahead in regulating cryptocurrencies and have legislative and institutional frameworks in place. However, a uniform approach to the regulation of these so-called virtual currencies (which differ from the traditional monetary systems) is needed as these differing approaches by governments in their attempts to nationalise regulation, is of great concern. In particular, South Africa has a well-developed money-lending environment, institutions and legislation and it has plans to develop its current institutional and legal framework to accommodate these advances. This thesis examines the legal nature of cryptocurrency in the international electronic commerce economy and treatment by national governments. This thesis will endeavour to discover whether international harmonisation of initiatives by the major international regulatory organisation can develop a universal guideline to harness the potential of this new technology.