Kenya has long been considered a pioneer of mobile money services, given the successful mobile payment system M-Pesa made its debut in the market. Now a recently launched project aims to combine M-Pesa with another pioneering currency technology, Bitcoin.
BitCoin is a virtual currency, with around 11 million BitCoins in circulation currently. The currency is not backed by any government; its value comes from its scarcity, like gold.
Now, a group of veterans from billing platform providers have developed a solution to allow people to send and receive BitCoins and convert it to and from an M-Pesa balance. The solution, known as Kipochi, aims to enable Kenyans to receive money transfers from the diaspora in an easier, faster and cheaper way, compared with banks and money transferring services such as Western Union and MoneyGram.
According to its developers, Kipochi works on all mobile phones that have SMS, USSD or HTML5 interfaces, as well as on desktop computers. The group describes it as a “lightweight BitCoin Wallet”.
“Imagine a world where your dear grandmother in northern Kenya suddenly does not have to travel one day to reach a bank, only to find out transfer has not yet arrived,” Kipochi co-founder Pelle Braendgaard said. “Kipochi, M-Pesa and BitCoin can together assist the developing countries in creating faster remittances and growth on GDP.”
In April this year, M-Pesa was fully launched in India by Vodafone India and local bank ICICI, following a pilot trial. By launching the service in India, Vodafone hopes to help approximately 700 million Indian citizens who previously had no access to conventional banking.