Although South Africa ended 50 years of segregationist laws making up the Apartheid in 1991, a city called Orania established its roots in the same year along the Orange River in the Karoo region of the Northern Cape province to bring back many of these divisive values.
In autarchy on 8,000 hectares, the 1,600 inhabitants try to keep the Afrikaner culture far from the black majority. So far, they have been using a native currency called the “Ora” and, of course, they are now ready to launch their cryptocurrency the “E-Ora.” This, based on a Wired article from June 6, 2019.
Launching an Altcoin
Welcome to Orania, the only city in South Africa where the remnants of the apartheid survive.
Oranians claim not to be racist; nevertheless, blacks are prohibited from living in Orania. Residents are evaluated carefully and must be true Afrikaners, not just speak the language. For the uninitiated, the Afrikaners are the descendants of Dutch, German, and French migrants who arrived in South Africa in the 17th century and colonized it.
The city represents an authentic, self-sufficient community based mainly on agriculture and tourism, developed in recent years. The complex is based on the construction of a series of luxury hotels and wellness centers on the Orange River shores and even includes a tour operator called Orania Toere.
The economy of the community reflects its independentist ideologies. There is a local bank, called Orania Spaar-en Kredietkoöperatief (“Orania’s Savings and Credit Cooperative”) created in April 2004, and complimentary local currency called “Ora,” based on a system of vouchers for purchases from Orania’s commercial activities. The same bank later began issuing checkbooks in this currency.
Despite Orania being a small community in the middle of South Africa, they have heard about Bitcoin and blockchain technologies. As such, they have decided to take their operation digital with the launch of the “E-Ora.”
Andile Solutions, together with the help of Piet Le Roux and Dawid Daniel Roodt, are developing the digital currency. The E-Ora is issued on Quorum, an open source, private blockchain developed by and based on Ethereum.
However, the E-Ora is far from being a real cryptocurrency like bitcoin or ether, at least in the beta test. The nodes are, in fact, wholly managed by Andile Solutions using cloud servers rented out from companies like Amazon. But Roodt explains that this will only be implemented expected for the beta test.
If the Oranians adapt to the system and begin using the E-Ora on a daily basis, the project would move to a public blockchain accessible to all.
Gaining Traction and Local Adoption
The E-Ora is the digital equivalent to the local currency the “Ora,” which is pegged with the South African Rand (conversion rate 1:1).
The process to acquire the cryptocurrency is pretty simple. Whenever someone goes to the local bank and deposits a certain amount of Rand or Ora, they will receive the equivalent in E-Ora through an application created by Andile Solutions using Quorum. At this point, it is possible to spend the cryptocurrency in affiliated shops and once one wishes to leave Orania, one need only to return to the bank to exchange the virtual currency.
In addition to the ethos of self-determinism, the e-currency aims to encourage exchanges within Orania and to reduce theft within the city. Outside of Orania, the currency has very little utility, and the only way to take advantage of it would be to go to the bank to exchange it with Rands or Ora.
The project has been running since a while, but, at the moment, the phenomenon is not spreading as expected, and just one restaurant called Buffelsfontein outside Orania decided to accept the currency.
Le Roux is nonetheless optimistic about the future of the project. “The greater ambition is to grow Orania into a small city that’s attractive to young cosmopolitans in Pretoria and Cape Town. The e-Ora could eventually help Orania forge real economic links with the outside world,” he said.
Even if South Africa appears to be the ideal country to build and test crypto-projects and Orania manifests many of the Libertarian ideologies that are often associated with Bitcoin, the development of a project such as E-Ora has already encountered several difficulties.
Building a new financial system even within a tiny community means radically changing the habits of citizens who may not have confidence in new technologies. Like those all over the world, users prefer convenience over clunky tools in pursuit of ideologies.