March 9, 2015 — The Guardian
ZF Could you tell me a bit about the story of BitPesa? How did you come into being?
ER Sure. I came to Kenya in 2009 to work as a microfinance rating analyst and what you saw was the institutions that successfully incorporated mobile money is their operating expense figures suddenly started to plummet. So, it was a really exciting time seeing this new technology have real change in the way businesses can be built and structured. You know, when I explain bitcoin to people back home in the US or here at my other home in Kenya, I find they get it at the same level. Here they just say oh, an international M-Pesa, and back home they’re like, oh OK, it’s sort of like PayPal but not really. So it’s interesting to see how quickly it’s picked up here.
EM My name is Eliud Mungai, I am a Kenyan entrepreneur. Bitcoins I’ve been using since October 2014. BitPesa, I started using in December. I started using it for speculative stuff, buying bitcoins and just checking on the price to see how it’s moving and then I discovered about a platform called BTCjam, it aided in my micro-lending, I actually do micro-lending on the side, so I got into this platform and I found another valuable use for my bitcoins. So once I started using BTCjam and the trading became the conversion of the bitcoins to Kenya shillings frequent, that’s when I started using BitPesa.
ZF At this point bitcoin isn’t that well known in Africa. How do you plan to deal with that?
ER Well, we’ve been building a community here in Kenya, which is exciting, so in early 2014 we would have weekly or monthly meet-ups where there’d be like three people, five people, but pretty soon by six months in we had a kick-off event with 120 people.
EM BitPesa, I use it let’s say like two times in a week. The biggest transactions I’ve done with it is for conversion, I’ve been able to get a loan to fund my retail business from BTCjam and I was able to convert, because it was a big bitcoin amount, I was able to convert it choosing BitPesa into Kenya shillings. And also now because I refer a lot of my customers who have been lending to BTCjam the amount that they need to be lent I convert it to bitcoin, so I use BitPesa on a weekly basis because I usually try to get at least two customers in a week, I convert their Kenya shillings to bitcoin so that I can lend to my customers.