Naspers CEO Bob van Dijk said on Wednesday that the South African consumer Internet group remains a committed member of the Libra Association, the organisation working to develop the libra cryptocurrency.
Responding to a question from TechCentral at a media briefing in Johannesburg, Van Dijk said: “We are still committed to the project. What attracted us to it is still valid.”
Naspers subsidiary PayU is one of about 30 firms that signed up as initial members of the Libra Association, a group of companies that will have an equal say in how the cryptocurrency is managed.
However, the project has run into serious headwinds, with politicians and regulators in both the US and Europe cautioning against libra, warning it could set up a competitor to nation states’ fiat currencies.
Meanwhile, PayPal said last week that it has left the Libra Association and reports emerged this week that US senators are putting pressure on Mastercard, Visa and Square to back out of it, too.
Naspers and PayU have no intention of following PayPal’s lead, Van Dijk said. “PayU enables people in markets where credit cards are not present to participate in the online economy. Libra is focused on people who have limited options to pay,” Van Dijk said. “In Southeast Asia and Africa, transferring money is one of the most expensive things to do (and) libra can play a big role in empowering people.”
‘Really big regulatory issues’
“The philosophy behind it is very positive,” he added. “What I also thought was attractive is that it’s an open platform; anyone can come in. And many significant companies are behind it. But the reality is there are some really big regulatory issues — they need to be resolved. There are smart people working on it … but it will take some time.”
Van Dijk said regulation in “many areas”, including the cryptocurrency space, is “overdue”, but added that it is incumbent on consumer Internet companies, including Naspers, to behave in a responsible way and “to do well by their customers”. Companies “should take responsibility before regulators come in”.
In an interview with TechCentral in June, Van Dijk said he believed cryptocurrencies could have a huge and positive impact on societies by allowing for frictionless and costless transfer of value between people, something that didn’t exist in the world of fiat currencies.
He said the group, through PayU, was “excited” about working with Facebook and other partners in developing libra.
PayU and the other companies reportedly stumped up US$10-million each to be founder members of the Libra Association and to help direct the development of the cryptocurrency.
“It’s obviously early days … but the ambition that Facebook has with libra is exciting,” Van Dijk said at the time about PayU’s investment in the project. “It’s an empowering idea where you basically create a frictionless, costless way for people to transfer value to each other, so I think that’s exciting. — (c) 2019 NewsCentral Media