Kenyan startup BitPesa is set to formally launch in Nairobi next week, bidding to bring down the high transaction fees associated with international money remittance companies by taking advantage of the digital, borderless currency Bitcoin.
HumanIPO broke the news in December last year BitPesa – founded by microfinance expert Duncan Goldie-Scot and led by chief executive officer (CEO) Elizabeth Rossiello – was in discussions with multiple banks and network operators in Kenya over partnerships that could allow the mass introduction of Bitcoin remittance payments.
The company is now set for its full launch, aiming to tap into a market which sees diaspora Kenyans send around US$1.2 billion home every year. BitPesa will take a flat three per cent rate, allowing the sender to visit the platform and send as much money as they want, without needing to have a Bitcoin wallet.
“It couldn’t be easier for Kenyans to receive money! Funds are sent directly to any mobile money wallet in Kenya, namely M-Pesa, but also Airtel Money, Orange Money, and Yu Cash. They could either make payments via mobile money or cash out at any mobile money agent,” the company said.
“Our model could be used globally. We will most likely expand first across East Africa, and then in other regions where mobile money is accessible.”
BitPesa said one of its biggest challenges is that many Kenyan diaspora are unaware of Bitcoin as a technology, much less understand or use it already.
“So, we have increased awareness by partnering with the Bitcoin community in London to increase uptake among Kenyan diaspora living in the UK, and by organising Bitcoin meetups here in Nairobi,” the company said.
“Secondly, we currently do not sell bitcoins, which means that our customers either have to buy, earn, or mine bitcoins in order to send money using BitPesa. We are currently developing partnerships with Bitcoin companies in the UK to make it cheaper and easier for our customers to purchase bitcoins. Who knows, we may even set up BitPesa-branded Bitcoin ATMs that allow you to deposit cash and instantly send money to Kenya.”
Rossiello previously told HumanIPO while representatives of banks are relatively familiar with Bitcoin, there are a lot of misconceptions surrounding it because of the hype around the fact some people use it for buying illegal drugs and money laundering.
“Luckily we are doing this at a time when there is lots of publicity about Bitcoin, but there is also a lot of bad writing about Bitcoin,” she said.
The first thing we are getting from potential partners when we introduce them to the idea is they are very excited there is a solution to the problem, but their second thought is how do we do something so new.”
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