Category Archives: Blockchain Association of Kenya

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Crypto Lessons and Roast Goat in This Kenyan Restaurant, All Paid in Bitcoin

“Eat at Betty’s” is the word in Nyeri, Kenya, as not only can you pay in crypto, but you can hang around for a tutorial afterwards.

At the foot of Mount Kenya about 150km (90 miles) outside the capital, Nairobi, Betty’s place cooks a fantastic barbeque, known to locals as “nyama choma” and if your Swahili is lacking, it is usually roast goat served with kachumbari salad and ugali, washed down with local beer.

The goat may be standard local Kenyan fare, but the mode of payment certainly isn’t. Owner Beatrice Wambugu has gone crypto, something not common in these parts, happy to take Bitcoin and Dash rather than the usual cash or card. It’s the way to go she says, arguing “since the world is becoming more global, my place is also becoming a global restaurant.”

In fact, Betty’s is really flexible when tourists arrive at her place, “I attract different customers from different parts of the world, whichever coin they have. As long as it’s a viable coin we accept it,” she says.

Ok, so she hasn’t done a roaring trade in crypto till receipts, with, so far, only about 30,000 Kenyan shillings (£230, $300) in sales from about 20 people. But, she has another plan to make up the numbers; crypto lessons. Every Sunday Beatrice runs cryptocurrency tutorials at Betty’s to spread the word on how to empower locals towards a new way of doing things. She says:

“I’ve set aside one day where I can teach my customers. Whoever asks about cryptocurrencies: ‘How does it work? What is Bitcoin?’ I train them.” At my place, it’s ‘nyama choma’ and ‘nyama Bitcoin.’ The restaurant is expanding, having taken over a nearby two-story hotel in just over a year since opening.

Kenya is a difficult proposition when it comes to opening a business due to a high level of local corruption. Recently, Kenyan Distributed Ledgers and Artificial Intelligence task force chairman Bitange Ndemo said that the government should consider tokenizing the economy to deal with “increasing” rates of corruption and uncertainties. James Preston of SA Crypto sees Bitcoin as a way of “banking the unbanked” a term now familiar with many on the African continent, referring to Africa’s 350 million with no access to traditional banking.

“There’s been such a history of poverty in Africa that so many rural communities are yet to be developed with normal banking infrastructure,” he told the BBC.

The new task force chairman Bitange Ndemo, speaking at an Information and Communication Technology Ministry (ICT) stakeholders meeting agrees with that perception and argues:

We must begin to tokenize the economy by giving incentives to young people to do things which they are paid through tokens that can be converted to fiat currency.”

Betty’s goat dish is on the right track.

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Crunch Time for Crypto in Kenya as Legal Status Deadline Looms

Kenya’s Treasury Secretary Henry Rotich reportedly has two weeks make a decision regarding cryptocurrencies’ future as legal tender, according to Coingape.

Since 2015, the status of digital currencies in the African nation has been tenuous, with both the central bank and the government taking a prohibitive stance, the latter sending circulars to banks to warn them of the dangers of becoming involved with cryptocurrencies. The outcome of years of indecision regarding cryptocurrency legislation has unintentionally created a vibrant market, largely ignored by the government… until now. The circular warns banks to keep away:

“The purpose of this circular therefore is to caution all institutions against dealing in virtual currencies or transacting with entities that are engaged in virtual currencies. You are advised not to open accounts for any person dealing in virtual currencies such as Bitcoin. Failure to comply with this directive will lead to appropriate remedial action from the Central Bank.”

It wasn’t until May of this year until any concrete measures were proposed in order to legislate the space with the idea of a special unit. The Capital Markets Authority (CMA) in Nairobi, Kenya proposed the creation of a unit to handle cryptocurrency related issues, which would include the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) although it remains unclear what, if anything, has materialized from the proposal.

Despite the announcement, it appears that Kenya has met with strong resistance from banks to legalizing digital currencies despite positive positions taken by legislators regarding blockchain technology.

The Kenyan Parliament now wants Secretary Rotich to explain why trade in Bitcoin and other virtual currencies have continued to take place without legislation over time. The Finance and National Planning Committee’s Chair Joseph Limo recently called for explanations.

“We are surprised to hear that even the CBK is not aware that there is a lounge at Kenyatta University, an ATM in town, and a hotel in Nyeri which trade in Bitcoins. There is a bigger problem in Kenya since people are trading billions in virtual space yet the Treasury has not licensed and taxed it…”, said Limo.

Rotich explained to MPs that discussions were ongoing globally regarding minimizing risks due to cryptocurrency misuse and money laundering, while Kenya’s government was still considering its own options. He stressed the instability of digital currencies, speaking of maintaining a “delicate balance between supporting innovation and killing it”, also adding he wasn’t aware of exchanges operating locally.

The black market in cryptocurrencies is actually vibrant in the country despite the Treasury Secretary’s claims. As Michael Kimani, Chairman of the Blockchain Association of Kenya, explains, lack of legislation has led to this market which many locals profit from because of Kenya’s somewhat simple definition of what it regards as “currency”.

Under the Central Bank of Kenya Act, Chapter 491:

  1. “Currency” is defined as the currency of Kenya or foreign currency;
  2. “Currency of Kenya” means banks, notes and coins issued by the Bank under section 22(1); and
  3. “Foreign currency” means bank notes or coins which are or have at any time been legal tender in any territory outside Kenya.

The loophole for cryptocurrencies in Kenya is that there is no existing definition which would enable them to find a place in law under the central bank’s guidelines. Kimani clarifies the governments’ problem:

“Virtual currencies fall of short of these antiquated definitions of currencies. They are digital representations of value that are not issued by a central bank, public authority and not necessarily pegged to units of domestic or foreign currencies. Often, they are denominated in their own units of account and have no physical paper equivalent.”


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