Zimbabwe is once again finding itself in a disastrous economic situation as the country is suffering from the worst drought in 35 years and an acute shortage of cash to uphold an already fledgling economy.
BTCManager reported on November 30 that, in an attempt to provide some stability in Zimbabwe’s economic system, President Mugabe’s cabinet introduced a new currency called ‘bond notes’ that are meant to be at par regarding value with the US dollar. However, Zimbabweans have little confidence in the new currency and worry that it will come to the same demise as the Zimbabwean dollar, officially abandoned as legal tender in 2015.
Over 15 years of economic distress and the lack of a stable, sovereign fiat currency makes Zimbabwe an ideal breeding ground for the adoption of the digital currency bitcoin. Not surprisingly, therefore, there is a small but growing bitcoin community that includes several startups that are aiming to promote the much-needed alternative digital currency.
One startup that has caught the media’s attention in recent months is the bitcoin wallet and remittance services provider BitMari.
BitMari Empowers Female Farmers Using Bitcoin
The severe drought in Zimbabwe is causing local farmers to suffer as their livestock is dying and crops are not growing. To promote bitcoin and to make a positive impact on the rural community in Zimbabwe, BitMari has launched the Women Farmers Accelerator Program that aims to give financial support to 100 female farmers in rural Zimbabwe through the use of bitcoin.
BitMari decided to focus its bitcoin-based accelerator program on women as they find it harder to receive access to assets, credit, and training in Zimbabwe, despite making up around 70 percent of the agricultural workforce. The idea is something like a combination between microfinance and Bitcoin.
The way the accelerator program works is that each female farmer, carefully selected before the program, receives $255 in a mobile bitcoin wallet. That money can then be used to purchase goods and services required to operate their farms profitably. Each farmer then has one year to repay the full amount and nominate a future female farmer to receive the amount. Thereby, through a virtuous cycle of empowerment, digital currencies are promoted as an alternative means of payment.
BitMari’s bitcoin-based accelerator program, however, is not the only positive Bitcoin news coming out of Zimbabwe.
BitFinance Raises Additional Funding from Local Angel Investor
BitFinance, the Zimbabwean bitcoin startup behind the bitcoin exchange BitFundi, announced that it was able to secure funding from local Zimbabwean angel investor Taurai Chinyamakobvu to open up its exchange to other African countries and to work on new innovative blockchain projects.
Chinyamakobvu believes that “Zimbabwe needs to be on the cutting edge of innovations around blockchain technology” and that the investment was primarily motivated by the passion that BitFinance’s team demonstrates to make this happen. This does not just include payments or remittances, but AgriTech as well, with the agricultural sector taking the lead with blockchain adoption in Australia, another nation abundant in land.
BitFinance’s ability to raise capital in a tough local startup ecosystem is a testament to bitcoin's potential as an alternative store of wealth, and as a means to make and receive payments in struggling economies.
Bitcoin Adoption in Zimbabwe will Take Time
While Zimbabwe seems like an ideal breeding ground for Bitcoin adoption with its multi-currency economy, the lack of a stable, sovereign currency as well as high mobile phone adoption, which stands at 95 percent, the reality is that most Zimbabweans have little to no knowledge about Bitcoin.
Much like in the rest of Africa, bitcoin remains centered around small, albeit growing, communities of tech-savvy young entrepreneurs, programmers, and freelancers. In Zimbabwe, startups such as BitMari and BitFinance are looking to change that. However, it will most likely be a long journey before bitcoin becomes a popular alternative currency in Zimbabwe.