The eOra is a digital coupon project in the town of Orania. The project underwent a pilot phase for several months commencing in November 2017. During the pilot phase a limited number of members of the Orania Chamber of Commerce could participate in exchanging the coupon. After evaluating the pilot phase it was decided that the Orania Chamber of Commerce and Prolokus will collaborate further with a view to rolling-out the digital coupon for general use by the members of the Orania Chamber of Commerce. It was also decided that the OSK Cooperative Bank will not participate in the project post the pilot phase. As of H1Y2019, planning for the eOra’s future is still underway, with future announcements to be made as developments justify them.
The eOra is a digital version of the Ora, a coupon used for payments in the town of Orania in the Northern Cape Province in South Africa. The eOra is currently undergoing a pilot and development phase, and is a project of the Orania Chamber of Commerce and technology and economics company Prolokus.
Orania is known for its use of a private payment token, sometimes refered to as a “currency”, the Ora. The unit exists since 2006, is linked one-on-one to the South African Rand and is accepted as payment alongside rand in the town. The Ora is issued by the local chamber of commerce, in cooperation with the local community bank, the OSK Cooperative Bank Limited (OSK).
Although the payment token is referred to as a “currency”, it is really only a coupon tied to the Rand. Ora is obtained and redeemed at the bank one-on-one with the Rand and every coupon carries an expiry date. On one side of the note its value is printed, and on the other side of the note will be found an advertisement for a local business. Although the Ora is therefore rather a coupon than a currency, it still holds numerous advantages for the local economy.
Advantages of the traditional Ora
- Better cash availability given limited commercial banking operations.
- Greater safety with regard to cash reserves, given that Ora is of less value to thieves.
- Marketing for chamber of commerce members who advertise on the coupon.
- Discount for Ora users on purchases, commensurate with what businesses are willing to offer as incentive to receive eOra rather than Rand (with Rand implying greater cash handling cost).
- Return on the trust account (the Rand with which Ora is bought earns interest) can be used for community causes.
- Seigniorage is earned by the chamber of commerce as issuer of the coupon, when coupons are not returned by the time of their expiry date or grace period thereafter, for example when Oras are lost or withheld by tourists as souveneirs.
- Local economic development, thanks to a combination of the abovementioned advantages and other aspects related to the circulation of the coupon within a local economic community.
eOra v. Ora
The eOra is a digital version of the Ora. It doesn’t replace the physical Ora, but exists parallel to it. Users may choose themselves which combination of Ora or eOra they would like to use.
The primary way in which users work with their eOra is via an app installed on their cellphones. The app provides a user access to a digital wallet, in which eOra is kept and from which eOra can be transferred or in which eOra can be received.
Advantages of the eOra
The eOra holds all the advantages of the physical Ora, as well as certain additional advantages:
- Electronic transactions: Electronic and automated transactions become possible.
- Lower transaction cost: Transaction cost on payments with eOra is significantly lower than transaction cost on payments with credit cards or credit card-linked apps. In the pilot phase transaction cost on the eOra is set at 0,5%, payable by a receiver, which compares favourably with the +-3% often levied on traditional card transactions.
- Better cash management: Cash handling and availability are improved.
- Greater purchasing power and “GDP” for the town: For every percentage point decrease in transaction cost, the purchasing power of money in those transactions increase accordingly, with a comparable increase in “GDP” for the town.
- Greater coupon circulation and trust account revenue: The more accessible Ora and eOra become, the larger balances and interest earned on the underlying trust account at OSK can be, to be reinvested by OSK and the Chamber of Commerce in the town.
- Is the eOra a new currency?
- No, the eOra is a coupon. It is tied to the Rand, will have expiry dates and is only acceptable at selected businesses and users with access to the eOra app, and who are willing to accept eOra.
- Is the eOra an investment?
- No, the eOra is a transactional coupon. It remains tied to the Rand and can be exchanged back into Rand, as long as the coupon’s expiry date has not been reached. Members of the Orania Chamber of Commerce might also offer discounts for payment in eOra, just as they do for payment in Ora.
- Is the eOra like Bitcoin?
- No, the eOra is not a stand-alone “currency” like Bitcoin. It is simply a digital representation of what would otherwise be physical Ora and is tied to the Rand as a coupon. The eOra is in this sense more like eBucks or like some of the electronic gift vouchers that may be bought at certain shops. Like Bitcoin, the eOra does use blockchain technology, but applies it differently from Bitcoin.
- Can I use the eOra?
- Pilot phase: During the pilot phase only users approved by the Orania Chamber of Commerce will be able to install the application and use eOra. If you are not a member of the pilot group, you will in this stage not be able to use the app and eOra.
- After the pilot phase: After the pilot phase the app will be selectively made available to more users, with a focus on members and customers of the members of the Orania Chamber of Commerce.
- Can you use eOra without a cellphone?
- Yes, you can also access your wallet with a regular web browser.
- Who issues eOra?
- During the pilot phase eOra is issued by the OSK Bank on behalf of the Orania Chamber of Commerce. An equivalent amount of eOra is created and paid out upon receipt of a Rand amount; and an equivalent amount of eOra is destroyed upon receipt of eOra and redemption in Rand.
- Does every physical Ora now also exist digitally?
- No, an Ora does not exist both physically and digitally. For every physical Ora OSK Cooperative Bank holds a Rand in trust for the Chamber of Commerce; and likewise for every eOra an equivalent in Rand is held either at OSK Cooperative Bank or/and other financial service providers..
- Isn’t this money creation?
- No, money is not being created. Only a physical or digital coupon is created – one that is for a limited time redeemable in Rand and which offers users certain advantages, but which is not a new currency. Every physical and every digital Ora is backed by an equivalent Rand deposit, under guardianship of the Orania Chamber of Commerce.
- Which technology is used for the eOra?
- The eOra is an ERC20 token running on an enterprise implementation of the Ethereum blockchain. It doesn’t exist on the public Ethereum blockchain.
- How safe is the eOra in terms of technology?
- The eOra is supported by multiple servers across the world checking, copying and backing up transactions. It is for all practical purposes as safe or safer as any generally used electronic financial services, but it is nevertheless built on new technology and therefore only rolled out in phases and after successful testing.
- What happens after the pilot phase?
- The project is currently carried forward in collaboration between mainly the Orania Chamber of Commerce and Prolokus. After the pilot phase, OSK Cooperative Bank will not be issuing and redeeming eOra. Alternative arrangements are currently being made.
For more information, or to get in touch with the project, direct an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.