LONDON - The sale of Central African Republic's first digital coin got off to a slow start, with just over 5% of the target bought in the hours after its launch, amid questions about the project's transparency and a wider downturn in the industry.
Central African Republic (CAR), one of the world's poorest countries, became the first African state to make bitcoin legal tender in April, baffling many cryptocurrency experts and prompting the International Monetary Fund to warn it was not a "panacea" for Africa's challenges.
The government has said its digital coin project will leapfrog the wartorn, mineral-rich country into a better future. It is aiming to raise almost $1 billion over the next year from the sale of its Sango Coin, according to its investment website, even as prices of such assets have tumbled this year.
Of the initial $21 million on offer, about $1.09 million had been sold by 1115 GMT on Tuesday, after it went on sale at 1700 GMT on Monday.
"A crypto project not selling out its initial mint is a poor sign," said Joseph Edwards, head of financial strategy at Solrise, a crypto investment firm.
"It's hard to get a precise read on things because of the whole coin and project's deliberately obscure structure."
Details that remain unclear include what exchanges it will be listed on once the sales have finished and what proceeds will be used for.
CAR's official currency remains the Central African CFA Franc.
Another crypto industry figure said Sango Coin did not have what many crypto enthusiasts view as one of the assets' main benefits - a lack of state involvement.
"They're building something that is literally controlled by the government," she said, declining to be named.
Investors who bought the Sango Coin, with a minimum investment of $100 paid in cryptocurrencies including bitcoin and USDT - cut on Sunday from a planned minimum of $500 - were enthusiastic about its prospects.
"Sango is backed by the potential of its natural (resources)," said Michel Muna, a 35-year-old Cameroonian who imports food and drink, referring to the CAR's pledge to "tokenize" its mineral wealth.
"Sango is the beginning of the Rise of the African Continent," Muna, who bought $524 of Sango Coin, said in a message on Telegram.
(Reporting by Rachel Savage, Editing by Mark Potter)