LONDON - Central African Republic will start selling a cryptocurrency it says will be worth $21 million next week, it said on Friday, amid a wider rout in the industry and scepticism over the project's feasibility in a poorly connected, war-torn country.
The "Sango Coin", described as a "national digital currency" will go on sale on July 21 with a minimum investment of $500 to be paid in cryptocurrencies, including bitcoin and ethereum, according to the country's Sango investment website.
Central African Republic, where access to the internet and electricity is low, became the first African state to make bitcoin legal tender in April, raising eyebrows among many crypto experts and drawing words of caution from the International Monetary Fund.
The nascent cryptocurrency market is highly volatile, with bitcoin down some 55% so far this year. Prices surged in 2020 and 2021, but have fallen sharply in recent months as investors ditch risky assets.
The doubts and what has been labelled the "crypto winter" do not seem to have lessened the Central African Republic government's enthusiasm for its scheme.
"For us, the formal economy is no longer an option," President Faustin-Archange Touadera said at an online event marketing its crypto project earlier this month.
In Central America, a big bet on bitcoin by El Salvador has soured in recent months as the cryptocurrency suffered a sharp drop, with its holdings falling by more than half in value to $49.4 million.
El Salvador last September became the first country to make bitcoin a legal tender, alongside the U.S. dollar, despite criticism by the IMF and credit agencies.
In the Central African Republic's initiative, foreign investors will be able to buy citizenship for $60,000 worth of crypto, with the equivalent Sango Coins held as collateral for five years, and "e-residency" for $6,000, held for three years, according to the Sango website.
A 250 metre square plot of land is listed as $10,000, with the Sango Coins locked away for a decade. It was not clear if these options would also go on sale next week, when 210 million Sango Coins are on offer, priced at $0.10 each.
The website said there would be 12 more coin sales, with the price increasing each time. Many details were unclear, including what technology is being used, which companies are supporting the rollout and and whether the price of the token would be free-floating or fixed.
The Sango investment platform terms and conditions state that unused Sango Coins cannot be refunded and converted back into other cryptocurrencies.
(Reporting by Rachel Savage, Additional reporting by Elizabeth Howcroft and Rodrigo Campos, Editing by William Maclean)