BitMari, a Zimbabwe-based bitcoin wallet provider and remittance service, recently applied for a remittance license from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe. The bitcoin startup aims to tap into agricultural-related remittances in the region. BitMari has already partnered with the Zimbabwe Bank of Agriculture in rolling out its blockchain-based accelerator for women farmers in Africa. The new license will see it become Zimbabwe’s first bitcoin-based remittance service.
BitMari set to Revolutionise International Remittances for African Farmers
In the past, Africa has recorded the highest number of people who do not have access to financial services. However, this is beginning to change as a wave of innovation sweeps across the continent, with technology being a key driver of financial inclusion. Bitcoin has been successful in improving the penetration of financial services in Africa, with companies such as BitPesa, and other cryptocurrency startups flourishing in several nations.
BitMari has been at the forefront of advocating for blockchain-based solutions as a means to achieve political change. In a 2016 interview with Ebony Magazine, BitMari co-founder, Sinclair Skinner was adamant that technology was a better solution for many of the continent’s problems than politics.
Building on its philanthropic programs targeting female farmers, BitMari hopes to offer superior money remittance services to the African economy, which has lost over $60 bn in exorbitant remittance fees. Farmers who export their produce see their earnings reduce when they send and receive money internationally or exchange currencies due to high fees. With the agricultural export industry accounting for 50% of Africa’s economic output, a system that allows farmers to bypass conventional banking processes and retain most of their earnings would likely quickly gain in popularity.
“Blockchain technology will allow Agribank and future indigenous African banks to leapfrog traditional remittance methods. Financial inclusion creates empowerment and ultimately stronger economies,” Skinner stated.
While some may argue, undeveloped financial structures in African countries, offer opportunities for cryptocurrency startups to succeed, the reverse can also be true. The lack of any substantive regulations pertaining to cryptocurrencies hampers the adoption of bitcoin in Africa.
Only a handful of countries have introduced official guidelines for businesses to operate within, the rest are either considering or have outrightly banned bitcoin usage. As BitMari continues to partner with mainstream financial institutions across Africa, the absence of regulatory guidelines could present future challenges to its business model.
Presently, everyone is focused on seeing whether BitMari’s license application will be approved and what it will mean for Africa’s financial ecosystem. In the words of Christopher Mapondera at a recent interview,
“Bitmari is utilising the wisdom of Zimbabwe and the resources of Silicon Valley to build fintech applications that will change the speed and flexibility of transactions throughout Africa”.