Bitcoin and indeed the entire blockchain technology industry is seen as being a male-dominated field. In fact, the general narrative that describes the demographic distribution of the industry is one in which it is populated by Caucasian males between the ages of 18 to 40.
BitPesa Since 2013
This gender divide isn’t strange when one considers that such similar demographic distributions are common throughout the technology sector. However, Elizabeth Rossiello is one of the few exceptions to the rule. Rossiello is at the heart of a growing bitcoin revolution in Africa called BitPesa.
Elizabeth Rossiello founded BitPesa in 2013 in Nairobi, Kenya. Before then, she had previously worked at Goldman Sachs and Credit Suisse. After the financial collapse of 2008, the New York-native moved to Africa and had a first-hand experience of the payments market in the continent.
She worked with a number of microfinance organizations and was inspired by the way in which the then recently launched Mpesa service was transforming the payments arena in East Africa.
Having just been introduced to bitcoin and blockchain technology that same year, she realized that it could have broad applications in the payment sector. That was how BitPesa was established and has gone to experience robust growth, recently opening a new office in Ghana. As such, the platform now operates in seven different African countries.
Speaking about the journey so far, Rossiello commented that:
“It can be frustrating because this technology is new and the media is riding the waves of excitement and collapsing optimism based on its price, while every day we’re over here demonstrating industrial use cases for bitcoin and blockchain every day.”
How BitPesa is Transforming the Payment Arena in Africa
BitPesa isn’t just a bitcoin company; it also offers mobile money and cross-border payment solutions in a market that has traditionally found it difficult to transact with overseas businesses.
As a result, the company can provide a suitable platform for business-to-business (B2B) transactions, especially for SMEs.
One of the principal markets in which BitPesa has found success is in enabling payments to foreign suppliers. According to Rossiello:
“Typically, you’d need a foreign counterparty to assist in that kind of transaction, but BitPesa lets businesses use bitcoin or another currency to buy those supplies and avoid going through a foreign cash window.”
However, with the aid of BitPesa’s services, customers can now undertake large value transactions with overseas partners in a much more cost-effective and comfortable manner. The company also runs a cloud-based API which allows for easy integration with partners.
The company has so far amassed more than $10 million in several funding rounds. Rossiello believes that cryptocurrencies can take center stage as far the commerce sector in Africa is concerned.
Other Blockchain Payment Solutions in Africa
BitPesa isn’t the only bitcoin company that is seriously tackling the African market as there are a handful of startups committed to providing bitcoin services for different sectors of the emerging market in Africa.
One area of interest for many of these companies is the remittance market which according to studies, faces the highest remittance cost in the world. According to the World Bank, Nigeria is the most extensive remittance market in Africa and the fifth largest in the world.
More than half of all global remittance is for non-cash purposes and as such, SureRemit, a Nigerian-based startup that is targeting the non-cash remittance market, is looking to power these types of transactions, making them less complicated and more cost-effective.
Immigrants can also use the platform to send e-vouchers to their loved ones which can then be exchanged for goods and services. The platform raised $7 million during its ICO.
Geopay is a peer-to-peer remittance platform based in South Africa. The platform runs on a blockchain and permits cross-border transactions without the need for rigorous documentation requirements. The platform charges a three percent fee and no bank account is required to send or receive money unlike mainstream remittance firms like Western Union and MoneyGram.
In a country where a significant number of rural dwellers are unbanked, such a consideration goes a long way to making it easy for them to receive money from overseas.
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