African business owners ordering purchases from China may now make payments using the digital currency known as bitcoin. BitPesa, a digital currency website, allows users in five African countries, including Kenya, Nigeria, DR Congo, Uganda, and Tanzania to utilize its platform in sending money directly to bank accounts in China. According to CNN, users can also receive payments on the platform as well as make payment transactions in Europe and America.
BitPesa, a Kenyan start-up with headquarters in Nairobi, says on its website that bitcoin payments provide a flexibility that could cut conventional money transfer costs by up to 60 percent.
While a number of similar digital currency websites currently operate in Africa and allow users to make and receive payments across Europe and America, BitPesa is the first platform to include a gateway for payments from China, giving the company a unique selling point.
China is by far Africa’s biggest trading partner and the volume of trade in 2016 was an estimated $220 billion. Analysts say the volume of Sino-African trade is expected to rise even further in the coming years.
BitPesa’s CEO, Elizabeth Rossiello, noted that African companies have had limited options for paying their Chinese suppliers in a swift and affordable way, which was why the company came up with a fast, convenient, resource that allows businesses transfer money seamlessly between Asia and Africa.
Rossiello explained hat funds transferred arrive “depending on where you are, just a few minutes or hours later in the Chinese bank account.”
The service, however, requires all users to register on the BitPesa platform before they can make a transaction. The platform then charges a transaction fee based on the amount and currencies involved.
BitPesa places a premium on security and Rossiello says the website requires users to provide documentation.
“We request your ID, your address, and your date of birth [at registration]. We check them against the same databases the banks use.”
Despite the security measures, Rossiello says not everyone is convinced and it has taken quite some effort to get people to warm up to the new form of payment.
Introduced in late 2008, Bitcoin is a form of digital cash or cryptocurrency created by an anonymous developer (or group of developers) under the alias Satoshi Nakamoto. As a peer-to-peer system, transactions take place without an intermediary and the system has no central account or administrator, making it a decentralized virtual currency.