- The Bitcoin price has been on a roller-coaster ride since last year when the global Covid-19 pandemic struck, with prices reaching 2017 levels when it last peaked.
- For those looking to spend their newfound wealth there are some stores willing to accept bitcoin, as well as a breadbasket mix of other cryptocurrencies, in return for goods.
- From Krugerrands to Ferrari's, and even skateboards here's some options.
- For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.
Just a few years ago the thought of purchasing something in South Africa with cryptocurrency – let alone actually being able to do it - would have been unheard of. But step-by-step, crypto is becoming a part of our everyday lives.
Several stores in South Africa are willing to accept bitcoin, as well as a breadbasket mix of other cryptocurrencies, in return for goods from Krugerrands to Ferrari's, and even skateboards.
, with the value jumping from about R179,000 last September to nearly R900,000 in mid-April, a price that hasn't been seen since 2017 when it last peaked. The rise, however, was short-lived when prices fell to around R500,000, where it sits now.
The latest hype cycle showed positivity factors when El Salvador officially became the first country to make bitcoin a legal tender and big bank Goldman Sachs began trading on the blockchain-based network created by JPMorgan Chase & Co.
On the flipside, negative news that China wants to clamp down on miners that make up about 65% of the world's bitcoin using computers to generate the complex algorithms to make the digital currency; billionaire Elon Musk tweeting that you could buy Tesla cars before back peddling on the deal citing energy consumption concerns; and an alleged R50 billion heist by two South Africans that 'mysteriously disappeared' has made international headlines.
Regardless of its volatility, South African's haven’t been deterred from investing – in fact, it's the opposite.
Crypto trading platform Luno, which was founded in Cape Town, said it added one million more users over the past three months, with 300,000 new wallets being created over this period. South Africa accounts for 30% of the platform's users.
"If we assume that crypto is destined to replace traditional currency as a medium of exchange, retailer adoption is clearly important. When Luno asked its customers in 2020 whether they'd pay for goods and services using crypto given the option, over 80% of 435 respondents indicated that they would," said Marius Reitz, GM for Africa at Luno.
But, for South Africans wishing to make an early cash out and spend their newfound wealth, purchasing goods in bitcoin is limited and, at times, not always a done deal.
One just needs to look back to 2014, when Takealot (and other companies) announced they would allow consumers to pay with cryptocurrencies through a partnership with local payment gateway, PayFast. The service was discontinued in 2019 due to "design flaws unique to bitcoin that make it an impractical substitute for cash, including high transaction fees and long confirmation times for buyers".
Despite the issues, there are several companies that accept cryptocurrencies as a form of payment for goods and services.
"There are some challenges, but the industry has made rapid improvements in crypto interoperability and transaction times. The cryptocurrency and payments sector are constantly developing and working to address issues," said Reitz, GM for Africa at Luno.
While you won’t be able to use them to buy milk in your local grocery stores, there are several stores which do accept crypto currency.
Even more surprising is what you can buy. Here are some of our top picks:
Buy Krugerrands and gold coins
Following an increased demand for "coins for coins" The South African Gold Coin Exchange (SAGCE) & The Scoin Shop began accepting cryptocurrencies bitcoin, Ethereum, USD Coin, Litecoin, Dai, and Bitcoin Cash as payment for gold coins and collectables in September 2020.
"Cryptocurrency has made a lot of wealthy people in the past five years. But there are limitations to what one can actually do with... profits, until now. There is Capital Gains Tax if you cash it out, but not if you buy something a lot more stable like Krugerrands or collectible coins," said Rael Demby, CEO of SAGCE & The Scoin Shop.
"We are always looking at ways to improve the customer journey, and these tech savvy investors and speculators have found themselves with a pretty decent problem – they don’t know what to do with some of their newfound wealth."
They say this made them the first company in the gold coins and collectables sector to accept crypto as payment. You can buy anything from Gold Bullion and Proof Krugerrands, rare ZAR Gold Coins, to Modern Numismatic gold collectable coins.
"Our online store has seen Cryptocurrency payments (through wallet Coinbase) contribute to over 25% of total sales since we launched. It grows every month," said Demby.
According to Demby, when there are spikes in bitcoin and Ethereum, they can see sell-off, and when gold runs, the gold sales pick up too.
Buy a Ferrari
Fourways-based Ferrari specialist Ferris Cars, that sells sports cars and merchandise, made history in April becoming the first car dealership in the country to sell a car in exchange for bitcoin – a timeless classic pre-owned Ferrari California.
What sweetened the deal for Tommy Roes, Ferris Cars Co-owner and Director, was that the sale came as a complete shock on the night of the launch of their cryptocurrency account, operated on Altcointrader.
"When we launched, we thought we would only sell something small like a bottle of whiskey or something. We didn't expect someone to be physically ready to come and buy a car. About a week before we launched, we had a customer contact us saying they were interested in the Ferrari and then on the night he walked in and bought the car, live on the screen with crypto," said Roes.
Having taken over the company in March 2020, Roes said they wanted to shift gears from doing business in an old-school way and find a novel and exciting thing to bring the business of the 21st century.
"The idea of selling a car with bitcoin is not a new idea… What was interesting to us was it had never been done before in South Africa. Theoretically there was no reason why it shouldn’t happen."
Since then, the company has gone on to facilitate the sale of a Ford Mustang with further interest in other vehicles. Roes, however, cautions that it's too early to tell if it's a novelty or a consistent method of payment.
"Initially the interest was quite overwhelming but since then the sales have tampered [sic] off, with the price of bitcoin dropping," he says. "Because we are selling very high-end cars, we don't have the kind of turnover an average dealer would have. For us, an average month is four to six cars a month," said Roes.
For motorheads looking for something unique to spend their money on, soon to be on sale is a Ferrari experience worth around R20,000 on the Kyalami racetrack.
Buy solar cells on a solar farm
When we talk of investing in renewable energy, we often think of massive solar farms that only big-time investors can buy into. The Sun Exchange is a tech company based in Cape Town that gives the little guy a chance.
Sun Exchange hosts smaller scale solar farm crowd funding projects typically sized at 1MW to 10MW. Sun Exchange divides the thousands of solar cells on these projects into small units and then sells them in small affordable unit prices at an average of R140 ($10).
It means anyone from around the world can purchase a cell on these projects - like a Spar Supermarket in Mokopane to the Rondebosch Boys High School, in Cape Town – that otherwise could not afford to raise the capital themselves to invest in renewable energy.
"About 13% of our South African members and 30% of global members choose to pay in bitcoin," says founder and entrepreneur Abe Cambridge, who noticed the extreme lack of solar panels on the rooftops of buildings in South Africa which are ideal for solar energy back in 2016.
Members can both pay for solar cells or earn their monthly solar rental income in either bitcoin or ZAR which is integrated through the Luno exchange.
Since 2016 Cambridge says his company has seen increased interest in using bitcoin as a currency exchange.
"Sun Exchange has been accepting bitcoin since 2016, when we rolled out our first project at the Stellenbosch Waldorf School. In 2020, 30% of solar cell owners paid for solar cells in bitcoin, up from 17% in 2017. In 2020, 64% of solar cell owners elected to receive their rental income in bitcoin, up from 59% at the end of 2019, and 42% in 2016."
And if you had bought into one of the early projects, you would have already recouped your costs.
"Solar cell owners are effectively earning bitcoin on a dollar cost averaging basis. In fact, those who've elected to earn bitcoin on projects have done very well in light of the growing value of bitcoin. In some cases, three or four years later, solar cell members have already effectively paid off and have made over 100% profit on their solar cells, assuming they've kept their bitcoin earnings in their wallet and have not spent it."
Their platform won the award for Best Bitcoin Business in Africa at the Africa Fintech Awards in 2016.
Buy a beer making kit
Danie Barnard, is the man behind the make-your-own-beer-starter-kits - Boer Bier.
Boer Bier started in 2020 when alcohol sales were banned in South Africa during Lockdown Level 5. Due to the sudden interest in the home-made brewing industry, he sourced affordable locally made brewing kits and the company was born.
According to Barnard, 5% of the sales they generate consist of cryptocurrency payments Litecoin, Ethereum, and bitcoin which they accept over the wallet CoinBase.
Some other companies:
Bitcoin isn't just for techies, it can also be for fancy tekkies. An array of branded skateboards, sneakers, hoodies, and more can be purchased from this Cape Town-based skateboarding and streetwear store using crypto.
South African online store Future Light allows customers to purchase LED lights for anything form camping to households and parties.
Cape Town start-up House of Sacks sells eco-friendly hessian bags. Owner Toana Kandemiri says you can purchase goods using over 110 different coins, from their paygate MyCryptoCheckout.