Bitcoin Buzzes in Morocco Despite Ban

Last Updated on April 9, 2021

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Despite being banned in 2017 by the Ministry of Finance, Moroccans are still finding ways to buy Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, allured by the digitalization and discreteness of crypto.

In 2017, the Moroccan government banned all cryptocurrencies and began placing penalties and fines for anyone caught trading digital currency. The news came alongside a statement from the government that discussed the ban, and its reasons, stating that the “secretive payment systems are not backed by financial institutions” and “virtual currencies involve significant risks for their users.” Many believed the ban would diminish Africa and Morocco’s overall image, limiting bitcoin and thus limiting people’s freedoms. It was since speculated that the ban would harm the adoption of Bitcoin in Moroccan society. Well, they were wrong.

In early March, Morocco opened up to the idea of digital currencies within its borders, charging a new committee with identifying and analyzing the prospect of digital dirham, Morocco’s currency. The committee would work alongside local authorities as it studies the use of digital dirham, and produce a plan for the reinstatement of the digital dirham at the local and international level. Still, cryptocurrencies are and would remain banned, and any infringement on that decision would elicit fines and penalties. The ban on cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin was not the target of change by the government, but somehow the people learned to revolt, as Morocco continues to rank among the top digital currency hubs in Africa.

In a recent report by The Hustle, new data from LocalBitcoins, a peer-to-peer crypto market, presents the interesting fact that trading in Morocco is up 4Xs over the last 9 months. The Hustle attributes this metric to a few central reasons. First, only 29 percent of Moroccan adults have bank accounts, and Moroccans do not want their neighbors to know they have money. This could be elicited by recently developed culture pertaining to the countries economics, but the true origin is unknown. Also, in a 2008 study, Morocco’s largest bank found that people rejected the idea of mailed bank statements, despite wanting savings accounts. The reason: privacy.

This leads to the obvious reason for the exchange of Bitcoin among Moroccans since blockchain technology entails security and privacy, that which Moroccans can get behind. And, thanks to peer-to-peer crypto marketplaces like LocalBitcoin, as well as border-hopping (either physically or virtually with a VPN), Moroccans can bypass the anti-crypto regulations and trade the digital currency. Also, major crypto exchanges like Binance allow users to exchange the Moroccan dirham for cryptocurrency- giving Moroccans loopholes to challenge the system.

With all this said, Morocco has yet to change its policy regarding Bitcoin. Despite the wild success and constant growth of Bitcoin’s value, the government continues to regulate and, in this case, ban the trading of cryptocurrency. Morocco, Egypt, and Algeria have all maintained their established stances on crypto trading, while Nigeria Zimbabwe and South Africa (among others) are open to the digital currency, despite its financial instability and constantly evolving value.