Tech & Innovation January 19, 2022 at 11:00 am

How this woman reportedly became the first business owner in Kenya to accept crypto as payment

Abu Mubarik January 19, 2022 at 11:00 am

January 19, 2022 at 11:00 am | Tech & Innovation

Beatrice Wambugu. Photo: BBC

Beatrice Wambugu is the founder of Betty’s Place restaurant in Kenya. The business is located about 150KM from the capital Nairobi and it is famed for its refreshing cup of tea, coffee, or the local “Nyama Choma” (grilled goat meat).

Besides offering tasty meals, Wambugu is very tech-savvy and takes cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Dash as payment. According to Wambugu, she wants to position her business as a “global restaurant” in response to the growth of digital currency.

“Since the world is becoming more global, my place is also becoming a global restaurant,” she told the BBC. “I attract different customers from different parts of the world, whichever coin they have. As long as it’s a viable coin, we accept.”

The acceptance of cryptocurrency by Wambugu does not come as a surprise. In 2016, she started trading in Bitcoin and within a year, she made enough money to buy a two-story hotel which she converted to Betty’s Place.

Although cryptocurrency is not widely used for payment of goods and services in Africa, particularly Kenya, Wambugu has received modest payments in Bitcoin. In 2018 when she started receiving payment in Bitcoin, she got about $300 from some 20 people.

To raise awareness about cryptocurrency and also encourage payments using Bitcoin and other digital payment options, she holds classes in how to trade in Bitcoin every Sunday at her restaurant, she told the BBC in 2018.

“I’ve set aside one day where I can teach my customers. Whoever asks about crypto-currencies: ‘How does it work? What is Bitcoin?’ I train them,” she said.

Accepting cryptocurrency as payment has not been without challenges, the young entrepreneur said. In an interview, she noted that some customers have been skeptical about digital currencies while others believe they are prone to fraud.

Nonetheless, Wambugu, who has been described as the first business owner to accept crypto as payment, said she wants her restaurant to be the hub of “solutions,” a place where Bitcoin is used and also where people can get a lot more interested in crypto.

According to a recent study by Citi Group, Kenya is among one of the few countries in the world with highest per capita holding of bitcoin. The report noted that bitcoin holding as a percentage of GDP is high in Russia, New Zealand, Nigeria, Ukraine, Kenya, South Africa, the United Kingdom and Colombia.

Despite the soaring usage of Bitcoin in Kenya, the country’s authorities are skeptical about formally adopting it. In 2018, Kenyans.co.ke reported that the country’s MPs “were concerned about the fact that cryptocurrency transactions are anonymous and untraceable and can be used by corrupt individuals for money laundering.”

In spite of these concerns, Wambugu believes that cryptocurrency is here to stay. “Cryptocurrency is here to stay, not even regulated by CBK. This is a global evolution. They can’t help it but accept it. The problem we have is lack of information,” Kenyans.co.ke quoted her as saying.

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