Kenyan Payments Startup Wins $100000 from Gates Foundation

On June 8, the Grand Challenges Explorations (GCE) website posted the winners list of their twice-yearly contest for the “most innovative ideas to fight our greatest health challenges.” In it they’ve awarded 52 research teams new GCE grants worth at least $100,000 US each. This year one of those grants was awarded to a project built around Bitcoin.

The GCE competition was chartered and funded by the Bill Melinda Gates Foundation. Launched in October 2007, the Foundation has awarded more than 1140 Grand Challenge Explorations grants in more than 60 countries. The Foundations website explains that it “has committed $100 million to encourage scientists worldwide to expand the pipeline of ideas to fight our greatest health challenges.”

The bitcoin-using winner was a Kenyan startup named Bitsoko, a mobile wallet that uses bitcoin’s blockchain to both lower the cost of transferring money between two individuals, and to increase access to payment services.

Bitsoko’s approach is to integrate bitcoin into the current mobile money platforms in Africa, starting with the local service providers. The service allows users from any country to send funds, in the form of bitcoin, which will supplied to the recipient as mobile money, an increasingly popular option in African nations.

Allan Juma, Bitsoko Co-Founder and Lead Developer

To date, Bitsoko is only available in a Beta version in Nairobi, Kenya. With the support of the GCE funds, Bitsoko plans to expand its services to Ghana, Zimbabwe, and Sierra Leone

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