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Kenyan bitcoin startup BitPesa is expanding to neighbouring Tanzania about a year after it launched its mobile-friendly digital currency exchange. Since then, the innovative company has raised a total of US$1.8-million from international investors and is slowly but surely expanding across Africa with other emerging markets in its sights as well.
Company CEO Elizabeth Rossiello recently spoke at the Bitcoin Africa Conference in Cape Town where she highlighted the real need bitcoin technology can address in the continent’s financial services sector.
“We’re the first company on the planet to link mobile money with bitcoin,” she boasted. “About 97% of the people in Kenya use mobile money. In Tanzania it’s even better. We call it mobile money 2.0 where they have three key operators using it instead of one company.”
“Instead of sending bitcoin to another bank account or bitcoin wallet, you can actually send bitcoin to someone’s mobile wallet using their contact number in real-time,” Rossiello said.
With this expansion people can now make a payment to any Tanzanian mobile money number instantly from anywhere in the world for a transaction fee of merely 3%.
What really makes this expansion unique is the fact that, unlike in Kenya where Safaricom’s M-Pesa is the dominant mobile wallet provider, Tanzania’s general population relies on four different operators. The BitPesa integration is therefor significant as it highlights the powerful scalability of its services in environments where the demand for necessary financial services are surpassing the supply.
“Banking infrastructure has fallen behind and money transfer services like Western Union have filled the void,” Rossiello said. “The bitcoin technology is in the cloud, which means that everyone has access to world-class infrastructures. For us it’s a very convenient, cheap, scalable, robust piece of software.”
BitPesa’s CEO added that other countries like Ghana, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Romania, Turkey all have very advanced mobile money systems and are potential markets for the company’s remittance services.