Botswana may not be the first country that comes to mind when thinking about bitcoin and blockchain innovation but the Southern African country is home to a small but active bitcoin economy that encompasses startups, meetups, a blockchain hub, and bitcoin trading WhatsApp groups.
To receive local insight into the current state of bitcoin in Botswana, Bitcoin Africa spoke to Satoshicentre founder and Botswanan bitcoin thought leader Alakanani Itireleng.
The Local Bitcoin Community
According to Ms. Itireleng, the introduction of bitcoin cloud mining and multi-level marketing schemes has been a key driver of bitcoin adoption in Botswana. There has been a lot of interest in these types of make money online schemes in Africa and this interest has also helped to boost bitcoin awareness in Botswana.
Meetups held by the blockchain hub, Satoshicentre, have also helped to spread awareness about the benefits that digital currencies and blockchain technology can provide.
Bitcoin Trading in Botswana
There is currently no bitcoin exchange in Botswana and at the time of writing, there was only one offer on the global peer-to-peer bitcoin exchange LocalBitcoins to buy bitcoin using the Botswanan pula. Not surprisingly, therefore, most bitcoin trading occurs through bitcoin trading WhatsApp groups and in dedicated Facebook groups.
Some Botswanan bitcoin users prefer to use South African exchanges such as AltcoinTrader, which allows direct bank deposits, and those with friends or relatives in South Africa often use Luno to buy and sell cryptocurrency.
According to Ms. Itireleng, Botswana is still in search for a local bitcoin exchange that can meet local demand. Bitcoin exchange, Belfrics, which recently launched in Kenya, has announced that it would launch in Botswana as well at some point in the future. Having a local exchange would likely boost adoption and help to grow Botswana’s bitcoin economy.
The Bitcoin Startup Scene
Currently, there are three notable blockchain startups in Botswana. The Satoshicentre, a blockchain hub run by Ms. Itireleng, Plaas, a blockchain-based farming platform provider, and Kgoboko, a blockchain-powered financial services platform for the unbanked launched by IndieStudio Africa.
The Satoshicentre is a blockchain hub that was founded in 2014 by Ms. Itireleng with the mission “to provide disruptive Innovations with the sole purpose of changing the way we carry out our daily routines and processes with ease through the help of the Blockchain.”
Plaas is a startup launched under Satoshicentre, founded by Alakanani Itireleng, which is working with various blockchain experts around the world, including BitcoinTracker and Bitsoko, to develop a mobile application that enables farmers and farming cooperatives to manage their daily farming productions and stock on the blockchain.
IndieStudio Africa launched Kgoboko, a financial services ecosystem that aims to address the needs of the unbanked in emerging markets. The startup aims to solve the problem of restricted access to funding and investment as well as low uptake and awareness of cryptocurrencies in Africa.
Cryptocurrencies Remain Unregulated
Currently, the Bank of Botswana (BoB) has not issued any regulations in regards to cryptocurrencies or the use of blockchain technology. According to Ms. Itireleng, the central bank has stated that it currently has no intention of regulating or studying cryptocurrencies. However, she believes that as more blockchain startups will launch in the country and more businesses will start to accept digital currencies, the regulator will be forced to take a closer look at this new technology.
When talking about bitcoin in Africa, Botswana should not go unmentioned. While the country does not have the sizable bitcoin economies of Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa, it has developed an active bitcoin community that is working on local blockchain solutions and is spreading cryptocurrency awareness.