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Meet Africa’s Blockchain Startups: BitHub Africa

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Bithub Africa

To help tell the story of bitcoin and blockchain technology in Africa, BitcoinAfrica.io has launched the “Meet Africa’s Blockchain Startups” series, which introduces startups that are leveraging blockchain technology and cryptocurrency to develop innovative new solutions that aim to change the status quo of business, banking and other sectors in Africa.

The first blockchain startup that will be introduced in our series is BitHub Africa.

The Blockchain Accelerator Program

BitHub Africa is a Nairobi-based blockchain-centric accelerator founded in 2016 by former BitPesa employee John Karanja.

BitHub Africa, in its bid to boost the application of blockchain technology to drive financial inclusion, is seeking to assist local companies that are deploying blockchain based solutions through its hub and coworking space in Nairobi. The accelerator program allows these startups to connect with a talented pool of blockchain developers at the BitHub space as well as have access to consultancy services.

BitHub AfricaCompanies that are looking to leverage blockchain technology in sectors such as payment systems, agriculture, financial services, data storage and management, among other sectors, can apply to be part of their accelerator program. The requirements are simple and for a modest monthly fee their co-working space can be used complete with all the relevant amenities and strong internet connectivity. Also, participants in the incubator program can enjoy free blockchain consulting services.

Future Opportunities

In Africa, bitcoin and its underlying technologies have the potential to disrupt some key areas such as governance, by creating immutable voting systems that promote free and fair elections, by improving efficiency and transparency when it comes to the transfer of value, and the protection of intellectual property through notarizing services.

John Karanja in an interview with EY indicated BitHub’s current focus is microlending, energy distribution by deploying smart grids or green energy and providing access to farmers through smart contracts. He says,

“We’re seeing that businesses that want to make a true social impact, such as providing more access to energy or access to loans and credit, are the ones gaining traction. At the same time, they are attracting investment and launching quickly.”

The hub is already making strides in the micro-lending space, with the launch of pesazetu, a peer-to-peer lending platform in August last year. In addition, as part of its advocacy for blockchain-based solutions, BitHub Africa published the African Blockchain Opportunity Report in 2016. The report highlights the opportunities blockchain is creating for entrepreneurs in Africa based on the review of 16 cryptocurrency and blockchain platforms. They are also engaging the regulators and government ministries to push for inclusion of blockchain technology in Kenya’s ICT policy.

It remains to be seen how the blockchain accelerator program shapes up the local startup scene, but Karanja is optimistic about BitHub’s prospects,

“I am very optimistic. The ICT sector is growing exponentially in Kenya. We have a young and vibrant population with great ideas. We also have a lot of people coming from the United States and elsewhere to set up businesses here. So, we have a good mix of ideas and entrepreneurship. Kenya will go from nearly 6% connectivity to power the internet to 70% connectivity over the next decade. That is a tremendous leap, benefiting people in many ways, giving them access to services that were not available in the past.”

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Bitcoin Wallet Luno Adds SegWit Support to Lower Transaction Fees

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Luno Adds SegWit Support

Luno, one of the most popular bitcoin wallets in Africa, has announced full SegWit integration for bitcoin send and receive transactions. Previously, Luno customers could only receive BTC through a legacy wallet address, which was not integrated with the recent Bitcoin blockchain upgrade SegWit. Only send transactions were SegWit compatible.

With the full integration of SegWit, Luno users can now enjoy cheaper and faster bitcoin transactions.

“By implementing SegWit internally, Luno has managed to reduce the send fees paid by customers by over 25% already. As customers start switching over to new SegWit addresses, this will translate into a further reduction in sending fees in the coming weeks and months,” Werner van Rooyen, head of marketing and communications at Luno stated.

Luno currently operates in South Africa, Nigeria, Malaysia, UK, and in 35 other European countries.

What is SegWit?

Segregated Witness (SegWit) was an upgrade to the Bitcoin blockchain that is intended to address Bitcoin’s scalability challenges as well as fix the issue of transaction malleability. With SegWit, signature data is separated from transaction data in order to enable more transactions to fit into each block. The signature data is kept in an extended block called the witness. As a result, bitcoin transactions become faster and transaction fees become lower.

In theory, the Bitcoin network can handle seven transactions per second. However, in reality, it is around four transactions per second. With the number of bitcoin transactions increasing as bitcoin’s popularity grows, transactions take longer as the unconfirmed transactions pool increases. Therefore, bitcoin users who can afford it have been paying higher transaction fees to incentivise miners to prioritise their transactions and, thereby, increase the speed of their transactions. At the end of 2017, this has led to the average bitcoin transaction fee spiking to over 35 dollars.

However, when SegWit addresses are used, bitcoin transactions become faster and the required resources decrease as well. Consequently, the transaction fees reduce.

How Can You Add a SegWit Wallet Address on Luno?

To add a SegWit address on the Luno wallet you have to follow these steps:

  • Open your Luno account either on the mobile app or the web app
  • Choose “wallets” from the menu
  • Click on your “BTC wallet”
  • Choose “receive bitcoin”
  • Click “add address” and follow the prompt

To receive bitcoin, use your SegWit bitcoin receive address. Legacy bitcoin addresses begin with 1 while SegWit bitcoin addresses begin with 3. Even after adding a SegWit wallet address, bitcoins sent to your previous legacy bitcoin address will still work. In addition, you can still send bitcoin from a SegWit wallet to a legacy wallet and vice versa since the transactions are still taking place on the same blockchain. But if you are sending bitcoins to and from a SegWit wallet, you can benefit from reduced fees.

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Bitmart Opens Cryptocurrency Mining Hardware Store in South Africa

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Bitmart Opens Cryptocurrency Mining Hardware Store

Bitmart, South Africa’s leading supplier of mining hardware, has opened a cryptocurrency mining hardware store in South Africa. This makes Bitmart’s retail outlet the first cryptocurrency mining store in Africa.

Products and Services Offered by Bitmart

Bitmart was founded by CEO Jacques Serfontein in 2015 to offer cryptocurrency mining hardware to South Africans. Currently, Bitmart offers GPU rigs, ASIC miners, GPU rig mining software, graphics cards, international mining rig monitor app, cryptomatic watches, hardware wallets, and motherboards. Customers can find GPU mining rigs that mine cryptocurrencies such as zcash, monero, decred, bitcoin, and litecoin.

Additionally, Bitmart provides services such as bitcoin mining farm design and deployment, mining training, antminer repair tickets, mining farm management using Genesis Hive, and shepherd services.

Through its shepherd services, Bitmart helps owners of second-hand miners to find buyers. Therefore, both sellers and buyers are assured of safe and secure transactions through Bitmart’s SSL-secured online shop.

According to MyBroadband, Bitmart is an authorised distributor of Avalon Miners, Genesis Hive, Trezor, Ledger wallets, KeepKey, and UniSat (satellite mining solutions) in Africa.

The company also supplies mining hardware to countries such as Japan, Dubai, North America, Australia, and England.

What Does Bitmart Plan for the Future?

Bitmart will be holding seminars in Johannesburg and Mbombela. The seminars will focus on bitcoin basics and advanced cryptocurrency trading. In addition, Bitmart will be introducing a satellite mining connection in partnership with Uniwisp that will allow mining rigs to mine from any place in the world. Uniwisp is an Internet service provider based in Nelspruit, South Africa.

 

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Kenya’s BitPesa Acquires Spanish Money Transfer Platform TransferZero

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BitPesa Acquires TransferZero

On February 8, 2018, BitPesa announced that it has acquired TransferZero, a Madrid-based online money transfer platform, which operates in over 200 countries using more than 50 currencies.

Why Did BitPesa Acquire TransferZero?

BitPesa, which is already operating in Africa and Europe, will be able to “set deep roots to UK and European licensing, bank accounts, and integrations” through this acquisition, according to the company’s statement on its blog.

“Europe is a hub for global remittance and payments companies. Digital currencies and decentralized technology have hit critical mass in the financial services and payments space. It is no longer a question of whether this technology will have staying power [but] which specific technology and what product iteration will launch and scale first […],” Elizabeth Rosiello, founder and CEO BitPesa said.

“BitPesa has the support of top-tier, institutional investors and a network that will help to bring TransferZero’s technology to the next level. With this support, we will be able to provide even more efficient transfers and user experience,” Luis Cambronero, former TransferZero CEO and present Managing Director, BitPesa stated.

Setting Up Infrastructure Across Europe and Africa is a Priority

“Setting up infrastructure across Europe and Africa has always been a focus of ours. […] We’ve just doubled our bank accounts, our infrastructure, and it’s licensed by the Bank of Spain as a payment institution. So we are fully compliant with PSD2 regulations […],” Rosiello said.

“This is truly a partnership where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, allowing BitPesa to solidify our leadership in this space. By bringing our regional and technological expertise together, we will further accelerate our month-to-month growth,” Rossiello asserted.

TransferZero will neither change its name nor its headquarters. In addition, its employees will remain with Bitpesa.

This acquisition from an Africa-based bitcoin startup of a European fintech startup shows that leading African startups can make waves beyond the borders of the continent and create a positive impact on a global scale.

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