The continent’s crypto market is still comparatively small, but the options for fraudsters and cyber criminals abound.
Africa has the smallest crypto currency economy globally, but the market is growing steadily. The legitimate use of cryptos can boost commerce on the continent, particularly among individuals, small businesses and entrepreneurs. These were the users responsible for most of the recent increases in crypto transfers recorded in Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya.
But Africa must prepare for the threats that come with digital currencies – notably crypto scams, organised crime and financial crimes such as money laundering or crypto laundering.
The world’s biggest crypto scam in 2020 was perpetrated in South Africa by Mirror Trading International. Using a Ponzi scheme, hundreds of thousands of victims were swindled out of US$588 million in Bitcoin. In April 2021, South Africa was again in the news with an even bigger crypto hack – this time by a company called Africrypt, whose two founders stole US$3.6 billion from investors in a matter of hours.