Mauritius has a well establish digital asset regulation that serves as an example for all of Africa
- On the global crypto list of 157 countries, Mauritius ranks 131st with 23,208 crypto owners as of 2022.
- In 2021, Mauritius released its first crypto liscensing document in Africa, Virtual Asset and Initial Token Offering Services Act.
- Within its ecosystem, Pursa is the most trusted exchange within Mauritius, having almost 40% of its total crypto traders transact daily.
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One of the factors that consistently plague the progress of Africa’s digital asset market is the lack of proper laws. Over the past decade, most African countries have struggled with adopting cryptocurrency and digital assets into their economy. Fortunately, over the years, a few countries like South Africa have embraced the advantages of crypto. However, another African country sets an example to rest by enforcing various crypto licenses in Africa. Despite the lack of fame, Mauritius’ crypto ecosystem is a prime example of a country trying to enforce digital asset regulations and crypto laws benefitting the economy and its people.
Here is a look at how Mauritius, despite its constant battle enforcing digital currency, shows the world how to properly enforce crypto regulations, to protect itself and its people.
Mauritius’ crypto ecosystem
The journey of establishing Africa’s digital asset market to what it is today required some degree of effort. Many governments within the continent saw this only as a threat to its native fiat currency. Countries such as Kenya, Uganda and even Nigeria initially banned the commercial use of cryptocurrency. Other crypto traders in countries such as Tunisia suffered the most. Its government branded those not adhering to the law as criminals conducting money-laundering activities.
Despite this harsh take on the initial concept of Africa’s digital asset market, many individuals crypto traders consistently strived to achieve financial freedom through digital assets. Soon what started appearing as a waste of time, became a trillion-dollar venture. According to CoinGeko, the total market value of all crypto assets surpassed $1.14 trillion as of September 2021.
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Total Crypto traders in Mauritius
As expected, this value shifted the minds of many governments, and Mauritius was no exception. On the global crypto list of 157 countries, Mauritius ranks 131st with 23,208 crypto owners as of 2022. In terms of African countries, it ranks 30. Unfortunately, this represents a significantly low number compared to their population of 1.266 million as of 2021.
Despite this, Mauritius’ crypto ecosystem is among the few that were able to garner its government’s attention. Within its ecosystem, Pursa is the most trusted exchange within Mauritius, having almost 40% of its total crypto traders transact daily. Although initial protest from its government, its steady increase in crypto transactions is the main driving force behind its government’s change of heart.
Furthermore, Mauritius’s crypto ecosystem is among the few with crypto licenses in Africa. Its government still does not view Africa’s digital asset market as w a potential gain for its economy and thus does not acknowledge crypto as a legal tender. Fortunately, to safeguard its citizens, Mauritius has established several digital asset regulations that have stabilized its crypto ecosystem.
Licencing in Mauritius’ crypto ecosystem.
Africa’s digital asset market has paved the way for its fintech industry. In addition, Mauritius’ government is openly interested in making its country the leading fintech hub for Africa. To achieve this feat, the Bank of Mauritius had to tread carefully with cryptocurrency. Initially, in December 2013, it issued a warning on digital asses advising members of the public to exercise utmost care and diligence when handling digital currency.
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Its attempt at cautioning its citizens rather than banning its use is reflected significantly in its government’s openness to digital currency.
As a result of its openness to the notion, the government tasked the Financial Service Commission, its integrated regulator for the non-bank financial services sector and global business, with developing guidelines and potential digital asset regulations. This initiative would eventually lead to one of the first crypto licenses in Africa.
First Attempt at a crypto license
At its first attempt in 2019, the FSC established the Finacial Services (Custodian services (digital asset)) to regulate the general safekeeping of digital assets. These “crypto laws” highlighted the potential dangers of cyber hacking that could lead to the loss of its citizens’ assets. Unfortunately, this was a crude attempt at establishing digital asset regulations, and many sought clarification.
To address the misunderstanding, the FSC issued guidance notes on Security token offerings later on in the same year. For those unfamiliar with the term STOs are essentially a synonym for digital assets and involve crypto assets. It is a digital token supported by a blockchain system that represents a stake in an asset. In layman’s language, they are an attempt at a basic form of crypto assets that adhere to governmental regulations.
As Africa’s digital asset market grew, so did the development of other types of virtual assets. To ensure their digital asset regulations were on par, the FSC released a third guidance note to provide a common set of standards for STOs. Thus, finally establishing the first iteration of crypto licenses in Africa.
Establishment of the VA Act
As Mauritius’ crypto ecosystem steadily expanded, so did the sophistication of its digital asset regulations. In 2021, Mauritius released its first crypto liscensing document in Africa, Virtual Asset and Initial Token Offering Services Act. The VA act revolutionized crypto laws in Mauritius, establishing a more sophisticated, fair and secure regulatory system to deal with Africa’s digital asset market.
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The primary purpose of the VA Act was to provide a legislative framework for digital asset regulation. It addressed the intricate matter involving business activities with virtual assets and initial token offerings. Mauritius’ crypto ecosystem finally had crypto laws that met the international standards of the Financial Action Task Force concerning managing, mitigating and preventing any anti-money laundering risk involved with digital currency.
As one of the first crypto licenses in Africa, it established several safeguards that would keep up with the pace of Africa’s ever-evolving digital asset market.
How does Mauritius’ crypto license work in Africa
According to its documentation, Maurtius’ latest VA Act defined various terminologies within the global ecosystem. In doing so, it sets a fine line between fraudulent and legal activities. According to the crypto laws in Africa, a virtual asset service provider(VASP) is a person, who, as a business, conducts one or more activities involving the Mauritius Crypto ecosystem. The activities involved include;
- The conversion of virtual assets to fit currency and vice versa.
- The conversion of one or more forms of virtual assets.
- The facilitation of digital asset transfer.
- Safeguarding and the administration of virtual assets or instruments that enable the control of any digital asset.
- The participation in and provision of financial services related to an issuer’s offer or the sale of a digital asset.
In addition, the act also stipulates that a single body would regulate the implementation of any crypto laws, the FSC.
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Criteria for license
The VA act also defines the necessary steps for acquiring crypto licences in Africa. The criteria for any VASP to attain the license include:
- To apply for a crypto license, the party must address the FSC. However, if a bank decides to offer virtual currencies, it must obtain written approval from the Bank of Mauritius and select the type of crypto license it requires.
- Any VASPA that conducts any activity mentioned in the activities mentioned above must first apply for its corresponding class of crypto licensing.
- No VASP is allowed to operate on a virtual platform only. All VASPs must have a physical headquarters in Mauritius to monitor all their activities.
- Any foreign exchange such as Binance or Coinbase dealing with Mauitius’ crypto ecosystem must incorporate a native company.
- Only the FSC can approve an application for a variation of the crypto license or remove a specific limitation imposed on a specific class.
- The FSC must approve all controllers, beneficial owners, and associations.
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Each digital asset regulation in Mauritius represents a general mitigation strategy which prevents individual organizations from running off with the citizens’ assets.
Unfortunately, with the infancy of Africa’s digital asset market, organizations will evolve and offer new digital tokens. To address all future complications within Mauritus’ crypto ecosystem, the government introduces five classes of crypto licenses in Africa. They include:
- Class M: Virtual Asset Broker-Dealer
- Class O: Virtual Asset Wallet Services
- Class R: Virtual Asset Custodian
- Class I: Virtual Asset Advisory Services
- Class S: Virtual Asset Market Place
To establish several crypto licenses in Africa, Mauritius’s crypto ecosystem had to devise several safeguards preventing criminal activities. In doing so, many crypto companies have avoided working with its ecosystem. This has raised several questions regarding their systems.
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Despite this, Africa’s digital asset Market is steadily growing, and its crypto adoption within the country. Essentially, the establishment of its digital asset regulation framework might be the cause of its slow adoption rate. However, it shows that maintaining citizens’ safety is a country’s top priority. In addition, other governments might learn a thing or two from its exploits in establishing one of the first crypto licenses in Africa.