Official Press Release

Media Kit: Marshall Islands issues world’s first crypto legal tender: ‘The Sovereign’ (SOV)

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  • The Republic of the Marshall Islands is a sovereign country in the Pacific, member of the UN since 1991.
  • There are approximately 67,000 Marshallese, spread acroos 29 atolls, comprising 1,156 islands.
  • During 1946-1958, the US conducted 67 nuclear tests in the country. The Bravo Test was 1,000 stronger than Hiroshima.
  • In 2023, half of the US aid is about to cease, from an aid of $60M a year it will go to $30M a year, causing high risk for the country’s budget stability. Currently the yearly budget stands on $100M, heavily relying on the U.S.
  • The U.S. have strong interest in the RMI due to security and geopolitical issues, as an ally in the pacific.
  • The country is highly affected by the climate change. For example, the sea level rise might cause the country to be flooded and literally disappear.

Announcement  Highlights:

  • RMI is the world first sovereign to issue a cryptocurrency (SOV) that will be legal tender.

      • SOV is the world’s first legal tender that will be issued as a cryptocurrency.
      • The SOV will circulate as legal tender in the country, alongside the USD.
  • SOV will be distributed to the public via an Initial Currency Offering (ICO).
      • SOV solves a large problem in cryptocurrencies, which none of them is considered ‘real’ money by jurisdictions over the world. For example, in 2014, the IRS published its guideline saying that even though Bitcoin and other ‘virtual’ currencies operate like money, they are going to be taxed like property, with 15-20% capital gain tax, because ‘they are not the legal tender of a sovereign nation. In contrast, SOV is regular  money. This creates legal certainty for its use, because all jurisdictions have laws in place for dealing with legal tender, whereas private cryptocurrencies are dealt with differently in different jurisdictions.
  • SOV is based on the ‘Yakwe framework’ that requires users to identify vis-a-vis the blockchain and solves the anonymity problem that plagued bitcoin and precluded its mainstream adoption.
  • This framework allows SOV users to provide satisfactory answers to the key  questions of financial institutions: who are you, and what is the source of your funds?
    • Everyday application will be based on fingerprint recognition, the token will only function as a form of exchange and not utility.
    • Bitcoin and other crypto currencies are anonymous and therefore not compatible with the framework of the existing regulated banking environment. There’s a huge market need for a non-anonymous blockchain system that can operate within a regulated environment.
  • The ICO
    • Neema, y-combinator Israeli fintech startup, is partnering with RMI to issue the SOV for RMI will start the presale soon.
    • The immediate step will be to start a presale that will allow the RMI to raise initial prospects prior to the ICO later this year. The goal of the presale is to allow cryptocurrency holders (the 95% of blockchain enthusiasts, who have nothing to hide), VCs, banks, and other financial authorities to collaborate on building the first crypto based economy as part of their joint vision
    • Date: To be announced.
    • RMI’s SOV units and funds allocation post ICO are designated to deal with the most pressing matters to the RMI:
      1. RMI National Trust Fund 50%: in 2023, $30M of annual US aid to the RMI will cease. This trust fund will help the RMI prepare itself for 2023.
      2. Nuclear Legacy and Healthcare Fund 20%: to provide additional required healthcare and support to the people who were affected by the US nuclear tests.
      3. Green Climate Fund 10%: to fund sustainable development goals in the following areas: green energy projects around the islands with the goal of reaching 100% sustainable energy usage, responsible waste management and recycling, protecting its waters from overfishing, and eco tourism.
      4. Citizens Residents 20%: Each resident-citizen will receive SOV allocation. The blockchain technology which underlies SOV will enable the RMI to be a nation which mints new money and hands it to its citizens directly into their SOV digital wallets.
  • The difference between SOV and PTR
Legal Status Legal tender of the country, as defined in an enacted bill by the parliament (with  a majority of 20 out of 28)). Not the legal tender of the country, and therefore not considered as “real money”. The parliament might cancel the PTR after the next elections in April.
Decentralization Fully decentralized, pricing determined by market. Marketed as pegged to the price of oil. But the pricing formula can  be changed by the Venezuelan government at its own discretion any time.
Country’s Status Close ally of the U.S. Under U.S. embargo



President Heine quoted Psalm 37:4 “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart”, and added:

“This is a historic moment for our people, finally issuing and using our own currency, alongside the USD. It is another step of manifesting our national liberty. Allocating SOV units directly to the citizens will circulate the currency and distribute wealth efficiently to our people. In addition, The RMI will invest the revenues to support its climate change efforts, green energy, healthcare for those still affected by the US nuclear tests, and education.

Speaker of Nitijela, Kenneth Kedi, said:

“Between 1946 to 1958, the United States conducted 67 nuclear explosions in the Marshall Islands. The most powerful of which, the Castle Bravo, 1000 times more powerful than Hiroshima bomb, was detonated in Bikini Atoll. An independent Nuclear Claims Tribunal awarded the Republic of the Marshall Islands $2.3 billion in health and property damages.  And as mandated under the Compact Treaty between United States and Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI), RMI filed a Change Circumstances Petition (CCP) before the Congress in 2000 for compensation but United States Administration denied the petition, claiming the CCP as no legal standing amongst other argument. Marshallese people will continue to seek full justice from the US for legal issue that remain outstanding and seek for moral support from the US Congress.

As leaders, we must continue to find ways and means to address our Nation’s crucial issues. With the passage of the Sovereign Currency Act 2018, and the specific allocation of 20% of SOV proceeds to go directly into the Nuclear Legacy & Health Care Fund, the burden that have been imposed on our victims and survivors will be lessen and they can be at peace.”

Minister David Paul, Minister in Assistance to the President, said:

“The Marshall Islands is the first nation to adopt a transparent crypto monetary system, and we are proud of it. We are making our economy more resilient and payments more transparent.

We are excited to be the world’s first nation to leapfrog into the era of digital currencies. 10% of our proceeds from the ICO will be directed towards a Green Climate Fund, to help us fight the effects of global warming, coming from the burn of fossil fuel by the large industrial nations, and hurting the small Island Nations the most.”

The Minister elaborated on the ‘Yokwe Protocol’:

“The big wigs in banking around the world, the World Bank, the IMF, Jamie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan, have publicly acknowledged that blockchain is a revolutionary technology. It allows people to transact freely with each other, and it allows instant and cost-effective settlements. The challenge with Bitcoin and other crypto currencies is that they’re anonymous, and therefore not compatible with the framework of the existing regulated banking environment. It was clear that there was a huge market need for a non-anonymous blockchain system that can operate within a regulated environment. I’m especially proud of SOV since it is based on a new blockchain framework called ‘Yokwe’ that has all the benefits of bitcoin minus the anonymity. SOV makes cryptocurrency usable for the 95% of blockchain enthusiasts, who have nothing to hide. Every SOV wallet is associated to a real person, via verified government ID and fingerprint. ‘Yokwe’ encrypts the user’s identity on the blockchain and only they can reveal it. This makes it extremely easy for SOV’s users to answer the most important questions banks want to know: ‘Who are you?’ and ‘what is the source of those funds?”

Neema is the company that was chosen to lead the SOV issuance. Neema is an Israeli company that specializes in financial inclusion solutions via the blockchain and is backed by Y Combinator.

Barak Ben-Ezer, the CEO of Neema, quoted Victor Hugo in the capital of the RMI, Majuro:

“ ‘Nothing is stronger than an idea whose time has come’.  The leaders here are genuinely committed to the wellbeing of their country. We were amazed by the strength and openness of their democratic process. We agreed that crypto is the best way to manage a national currency in 2018. Cryptocurrency can be stored and transacted instantly and with minimal fees, and no ruler can inflate it by printing more. We’re humbled by the opportunity and the trust. For the first time in history, a cryptocurrency will be the legal tender of a sovereign nation.  
SOV solves a huge problem in cryptocurrencies, as until today none of them were considered ‘real’ money by banks, regulators and the IRS.
In 2014, the IRS published its guideline saying that even though Bitcoin and other virtual currencies operate like money, they are to be taxed like property, with 15%-20% capital gain tax, because ‘they are not the legal tender of a sovereign nation’. That’s when it hit me – let’s create a digital currency, which is a legal tender of a sovereign nation. SOV will mark a new era for cryptocurrency, which most of us in the crypto community, want to legitimize. SOV is about getting rid of the excuses why not to shift to crypto – it’s real money, and it provides the golden path between an open ledger and total anonymity, it gives users the power to decide when and what to disclose.”

Dr. Peter Dittus, the former secretary general of the Bank of International Settlements and Neema’s senior economic advisor, said in the capital Majuro: “SOV is the promising starting point for the adoption of cryptocurrencies by sovereign nations. The Yokwe protocol provides a promising balance between transparency and privacy and we’re excited to develop it further.  It’s state of the art technology, put to good use, with the right values in mind and a clear purpose.

Roye Rahav, Neema’s Chief of Staff, said today in the capital Majuro:

It’s a dream come true. We’re excited and happy to bring the vision of a disintermediated global monetary system one step forward. And it starts here in the Marshall Islands.




Media Contact

Alona Stein