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Meet Africa’s Blockchain Startups: BitMari

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BitMari App

BitMari is a bitcoin wallet provider and remittance service that seeks to deploy bitcoin technology to drive financial inclusion in Zimbabwe through diaspora remittances. The company aims to assist individuals and businesses in utilising bitcoin for financial transactions and international money transfers.

Bitcoin-powered Remittance Service

BitMari LogoBitMari was founded in 2015 by entrepreneurs Sinclair Skinner and Christopher Mapondera. While doing business in Zimbabwe, the two were constantly faced with the challenge of sending money internationally. The process was time-consuming and costly. Drawing from their technical background, BitMari was conceived to bring more control to ordinary Zimbabweans when it came to sending money overseas and vice-versa.

“Our goal with BitMari is not to just ease the pain of financial dependence and economic uncertainty, we wish to bring an end to that pain by offering more monetary control to the people,” says Mapondera in an EBONY.com article.

By signing up for an account or using the BitMari app, you can send money in the form of bitcoin to a recipient in Zimbabwe. The money can be accessed through a mobile wallet or at any local financial institution that partners with BitMari. The app also acts as a bitcoin wallet that handles your transactions and currency conversion requirements. The company’s value proposition lies in its ability to have low remittance fees compared to other money transfer services.

According to COINFOX, the company plans to expand into regional markets in the future. Skinner said,

“Zimbabwe was selected because of its high literacy rate, high cell phone penetration, high mobile banking usage and most importantly willingness to adopt new economic systems… A 10-year-old child in Zimbabwe knows more about FOREX than most adults in Europe and U.S.”

Blockchain-based Accelerator Program for Women Farmers

In its bid to increase the popularity of bitcoin in the region, the startup partnered with the Zimbabwe Bank of Agriculture in carrying out a women farmers accelerator program. The program seeks to give women farmers a jumpstart in agriculture, by raising funds through its crowdfunding campaign to equip them with farming inputs and tools. The program will help a group of 100 farmers to develop their skills as well as utilise blockchain technology to improve farming processes and have access to financing.

The startup managed to raise $17,000 from its crowdfunding effort by November 2016 for the program. Successful farmers will be linked to international investors through smart contracts.  In addition to its philanthropic efforts in the farming sector, the company also aims to tap into agricultural remittances in the region and applied for a remittance license from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe earlier in the year.

With Diaspora remittances making the bulk of money transfers in the region, BitMari is zeroing in on a somewhat stable market. The challenge the company faces is cultivating trust for digital currencies, especially when competing against more traditional money transfer services like WorldRemit, which is popular in Zimbabwe.

BitMari is developing partnerships with local institutions to strengthen its remittance network. Also, having a bitcoin wallet that is secure and easy to navigate helps to gain users who are used to the convenience of mobile money platforms. For Zimbabweans living in a world of volatile exchange rate fluctuations and financial uncertainty, digital currency might just be the option they need.

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Zimcoin Launches New Cryptocurrency Exchange in Zimbabwe

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Zimbabwean blockchain technology company, Zimcoin, has launched a new digital currency exchange that will allow users to buy and sell bitcoin (BTC).

The Future of Zimcoin

Zimcoin hints at the possibility of much larger projects in the future with its bitcoin exchange acting as a gateway:

“At Zimcoin we want to provide Zimbabweans with access to the new decentralised internet. Bitcoin acts as a gateway to all the exciting projects happening in the cryptocurrency and blockchain world. Whether you want to engage with the prediction markets of Augur or invest in the Decentralised Autonomous Organisation Decree, Bitcoin is a great starting point. Here at Zimcoin, we provide a platform to buy and sell Bitcoin, as well as a place to find out about the blockchain projects we are excited about. So what are you waiting for? Sign up today and become a pioneer in Zimbabwe’s love affair with Blockchain.”

When Golix was operating in Zimbabwe they faced minor incidences of security breaches and scares. It seems that Zimcoin is learning from their mistakes and trying to avoid that from the start.

ZimcoinZimcoin has already implemented two-factor authentication from day one, unlike Golix which only implemented a few years after operating. With Zimcoin’s 2FA you are given two options; an email or using Google Authenticator. Though the email is less secure than Google authenticator, you do not have to download a separate application.

The exchange also logs out after a period of inactivity, which means incidents such as someone getting access to your computer because you’ve gone out are also unlikely as well.

The Challenges of Cryptocurrencies in Zimbabwe

Earlier this year, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe had classified operations by cryptocurrency exchanges as illegal in the country. This greatly affected Golix, Zimbabwe’s largest crypto exchange, despite them winning interim relief.

According to a report by TechZim, Zimcoin is not overly concerned by this ban and say that they had been in communication with the RBZ since last year and feel that they will be able to operate without any trouble.

Meanwhile, Zimbabwe is struggling with its economy, and as its foreign reserves dwindle, which will likely positively affect Zimcoin’s growth as more Zimbabweans start to look towards other currency alternatives. 

Despite all the challenges Zimbabwe faces with cryptocurrencies, the blockchain is gaining popularity in Zimbabwe. This is good news for companies like Zimcoin as they will hopefully face fewer problems than their predecessors.

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Bank of Zambia (BoZ) Warns Against Using Cryptocurrencies

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The Zambia central bank, Bank of Zambia (BoZ), has cautioned citizens about the use of digital currencies as they are not considered legal tender.

According to local media, the Bank of Zambia has received an increasing amount of inquiries about cryptocurrencies, which is a testament to the growing interest in bitcoin and its peers in the Southern African nation.

Bank of Zambia

The central bank highlighted that there is no legal recourse for cryptocurrency holders or investors who lose money in this new digital asset class due to its unregulated nature.

Additionally, the Bank of Zambia stated that it does not oversee, supervise nor regulate cryptographic currencies and assets and that any actions in related to cryptocurrencies are performed at the user’s own risk.

This statement echoes that of most African countries’ regulators when it comes to bitcoin regulations.

In most of Africa, central banks are taking a wait and see approach to blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies in an attempt not to stifle innovation.

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Binance Uganda Officially Launches and is Starting to Accept Deposits

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Binance Uganda
Images by Binance Uganda

In a statement on its website, Binance Uganda announced that is officially opening its doors on October 17, 2018, when it will start accepting deposits in Ugandan shillings (UGX), bitcoin (BTC) and ether (ETH).

Uganda’s First Local Fiat-to-Crypto Exchange

Binance Uganda is the first local fiat-to-crypto exchange in the East African nation and marks a milestone in Binance’s push into the African market.

Binance UgandaBinance Uganda users can now complete full account verification and are able to start depositing funds in UGX, BTC and ETH starting from 2018/10/17 10:00 AM Uganda Time (EAT).

The first available trading pairs on Binance Uganda will be BTC/UGX and ETH/UGX trading pairs. The start time for trading will be released in a later announcement.

Until the launch of Binance Uganda, local bitcoin investors had very limited options to convert their shillings into bitcoin or other digital assets and vice versa.

Peer-to-peer trading platforms such as LocalBitcoins and Paxful have failed to take off in Uganda and international exchanges do not accept Ugandan shillings as a currency, which has left Ugandans to largely trade via WhatsApp and Telegram on a peer-to-peer basis.

With the launch of Binance Uganda, it will be interesting to see how the local cryptocurrency community evolves and whether bitcoin and ether will be accepted as legitimate investment assets by the country’s wider investor base.

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