Last month, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has funded Ghana based blockchain startup Bitsoko in a startup competition called Gran Challenges Explorations, which focused on promoting wide spread acceptance of mobile money by small merchants.
Bitsoko received a research grant of US$100,000, and with it, Bitsoko aims to expand its bitcoin merchant payment processing and bitcoin wallet services to Zimbabwe and Sierra Leone. The project is entitled "Enable Universal Acceptance of Mobile Money Payments," and if the project is successful, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will offer another research grant of US$1,000,000.
Bitsoko has already begun to attract local businesses to accept bitcoin, including restaurants and cafes. "We have signed up local businesses including restaurants, cyber cafes, and mama mbogas (roadside vegetable vendors). If you go to a restaurant and pay using bitcoin, the owner of the business will send us the bitcoin and receive mobile money in exchange. We are trying to build the infrastructure around bitcoin, which is lacking here," the Bitsoko team announced.
Several businesses in Kenya have already started to accept bitcoin through Bitsoko, including Bejo's bar and restaurant and Chase Cyber Café, where people can pay their fees in bitcoin.
The technology and opportunities that Bitsoko will bring to Africa will fuel the on-going development and improvement of the financial infrastructure in Kenya and Africa that MPesa, Africa's most popular mobile payment platform, initially began.
By using bitcoin's blockchain technology, the underbanked and underserved states, countries and cities can send payments across borders easily and quickly, and accept payments with low transaction fees.