As we’ve said before, the third world offers an unprecedented opportunity for Bitcoin to take up the slack left by failures of local governments and economies. Africa certainly qualifies as an underbanked region and prime target for Bitcoin adoption – up to 80% of African adults have no bank account. ZABitcoinATM, a company local to Johannesburg, South Africa, is trying to fix one problem in particular with Bitcoin – the problem of remittance fees.
Every year, African expats working abroad send back more than 50 billion dollars to support their families. This money is subject to major fees, as high as 12% in the case of Western Union. Bitcoin, in contrast, has very low transaction fees, and allows money to be sent very quickly from any country to any other with no paperwork or fuss to speak of.
Unfortunately, what’s generally lacking is an easy way to convert Bitcoin back into local fiat currency, or to spend it directly. ZABitcoinATM hopes to help with that. The plan is to deploy Bitcoin ATMs across South Africa, allowing users to exchange Bitcoin in both directions, making it easy to receive Bitcoin from overseas, or convert cash holdings into Bitcoin if necessary. This could be a huge boon to the unbanked, and help allow for tighter and more efficient international economics. ZABitcoinATM is explicitly targeting Western Union and its ilk, and attempting to provide a better way of moving money into (and out of) the country, and making cryptocurrency history in the process. The ATM will be the first on the continent.
The first Bitcoin ATM should arrive in the Midrand region of Johannesburg by the end of June.