Bitcoin, the first cryptocurrency, was launched in the throes of the 2007/08 global financial crisis at the convergence of technological developments and a global financial system that was collapsing and threatening to take the economic lives of billions of people with it. As a decentralised cryptocurrency bitcoin was seen as a more trustworthy and efficient alternative to centralised fiat money. With its underlying blockchain technology, intermediaries like banks were cut out and payments made directly between payee and payer. The holders of bitcoin were anonymous and free from the eyes of tax authorities and law enforcement. Within a few years other cryptocurrencies such as Litecoin, Ether, XRP were initiated as an entire movement formed around cryptocurrencies.
Regulators and policymakers in most jurisdictions, including South Africa, took the view that cryptocurrencies are not equivalent to sovereign currencies and do not constitute fiat currencies. Hence the term crypto assets is preferred when referring to digital financial assets that are issued, transferred, stored or traded electronically using distributed ledger or blockchain technology.
Over the last decade a number of financial assets other than cryptocurrencies have developed. All are issued and transferred using distributed ledger or blockchain technology, including, but not limited to stablecoins, non-fungible tokens and security tokens.
This crypto assets masterclass attempts to provide insight into how crypto assets (and cryptocurrencies) work, their benefits and the risks involved in investing or speculating in them and the regulatory framework developing around them.