There is a new way to send money to and from Kenya by way of the virtual currency bitcoin.
While the company, Bitpesa, charges fees significantly lower than traditional money transfer services, some worry that the lack of regulation around bitcoins could put transactions at risk and open the way to criminal activity.
The bitcoin has been around for six years. It is a digital, decentralized currency, meaning it only exists electronically and there is no regulation or oversight by any bank or financial institution.
A Kenyan start-up called Bitpesa now allows people to send money into and out of Kenya through bitcoins. The company said in just two years, the number of registered users has grown to 4,000.
Research analyst Michael Kimani has been using Bitpesa since 2013. The cheap transfer rates are a plus, he said, but there are limitations like the volatile bitcoin exchange rate.
“The downside is the volatility, like the price usually goes up and down, so a lot of times I have to convert immediately if I really need the cash because I don’t want to hold it and find that the value has gone down in like a week or something. So that’s usually the downside,”