By Michael Kimani;
An air of mystery surrounding cryptocurrencies is holding back Kenyans from taking part in an ongoing massive wealth distribution. 10 years since emerging in 2007, Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies are no longer a passing fad. Over $200 billion of value has been created in what is just the beginning of an open alternative financial system. Just like anyone can download an app on a smartphone and connect to the world without asking for permission.
In Kenya today you can buy, trade, exchange, hold and store cryptocurrencies however you want as long as you do not break any existing laws.
How To Get Started With Cryptocurrency
For starters, you need what is called a blockchain wallet, an app that lets you store, send, and receive digital assets. There are dozens of options to choose from: online, on android and apple store for example blockchain, mycelium and coinomi.
Once you download and install one, the next step is to secure your wallet in case you forget your password or lose your phone. Some people who have ignored back ups as a safety precaution have fallen prey to sophisticated hacks. Don’t be one of them. Add a strong pin and back up your 12 word phrase to help you recover your bitcoin in the worst of scenarios.
Your wallet now needs something to put in it, otherwise, what is it good for? So you need to find yourself some bitcoins to add to your wallet.
Buying bitcoins in Kenya is not easy, there aren’t many services that cater to Kenyans. You have two options when considering where to buy or sell bitcoin for Kenya shillings.
One option is the members of the Blockchain Association of Kenya who broker bitcoin and digital assets locally. Another option is to head over to an online peer to peer marketplace where you can exchange regular money for digital assets. Localbitcoins.com is a marketplace that connects buyers and sellers locally.
How you choose to settle the transaction is up to you and the broker – cash, bank, mobile money or airtime. Typically, brokers will ask you for your bitcoin address – a long hexadecimal string that lets other people deposit bitcoins into your wallet. To receive bitcoins, go to your wallet, click on receive and copy a string that looks like this 1P1jyUGjQpnZ5daExhvccWPcdZ2AVCviTW; this is your bitcoin wallet address.
The Blockchain Association of Kenya recommends only transacting with trusted brokers with stellar reputation. From talking to hundreds of buyers and sellers we found out fraud and scams were a big challenge in acquiring, trading or investing in blockchain assets. Sometimes we step in as a third party to provide assurance for trading parties. Our members have to strictly adhere to professional standards in the use, distribution, agency and market making of blockchain assets.
So now that you have bitcoins in your wallet, what do you even do with them?
Make Online and Cross Border Payments
Well, you could send them to a friend or family member wherever they are in the world as a gift or remittance. Bitcoin works as a payment network, so anyone can instantly make online payments and send or receive money from abroad.
For instance, Anthony Muisyo, a student from the University of Nairobi uses cryptocurrency to place bets on online gambling sites that accept bitcoin. Mukiri a car dealer on Ngong Road sends bulk payments to Japan using bitcoin. Since Japan’s parliament passed a law recognizing bitcoin for payments in April this year, Japanese car dealers now accept bitcoin.
Become a Digital Commodity Broker and Trader
Alternatively, you can always settle for becoming a digital asset dealer, broker or agent. From the comfort of your home or workplace or while roaming, you can trade like insurance brokers, or the exhibition traders of Nairobi or the maize truckers of Eldoret. Cryptocurrencies are just like commodities – only that they are digital commodities so and easier to trade. You don’t need a warehouse or physical store, all you need is a smartphone, a reputation and a stream of clients.
Sit & Hold
Your last option is to just sit and hold your blockchain assets and hoping the price goes up. Cryptocurrency is a new asset class that is attracting all types of retail and institutional investors. After dismissing cryptocurrencies in the past, mainstream bankers are waking up to this sweeping wave. At an IMF Annual meeting in Washington last month, IMF Chief Christine Lagarde warned Central Bankers that cryptocurrencies pose a real threat to legacy banking and urged members not to dismiss them.
Why can’t young people tap into this new economy and create jobs and wealth? Why should we not be part of this?
The Blockchain Association of Kenya is educating Kenyans on the opportunities and implications of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. On 10th of December Sunday afternoon at Enkare Hotel, we are bringing together the Kenyan cryptocurrency pioneers for a Bitcoin Baraza. The agenda is to educate you on what’s really going on with bitcoin in Kenya.
Once we all understand what is happening, we can better position ourselves for all the other opportunities that come with cryptocurrency technology.