by Diana Ngo
Space Kenya Networks Limited, a web design and application development agency based in a Nairobi, Kenya, has launched BitHub Africa, a blockchain technology-centric accelerator program that aims to become the country’s largest bitcoin startup incubator.
According to its website, BitHub Africa — not to be confused the Cape Town-based BitHub incubator — will help spread information and knowledge on Bitcoin and blockchain technology as well as enhance adoption of relevant technologies in Africa. BitHub Africa, which has started to take applications, seeks to accompany and help local startups proposing products and services that solve real problems.
“We believe that blockchain solutions will make substantial contributions to rethinking existing structures in the following political, social and economic sectors,” the company wrote in a blog post.
BitHub Africa is particularly interested in startups that are applying blockchain tech to sectors that include data management and storage, legal and governance services, identity management, financial services, and the Internet of Things, to name a few.
For the African people, the potential of relevant technologies lies in three particular areas: political, through immutable voting systems for free and fair elections and decision making; economic, by allowing a more efficient and quicker way of transferring value; and social, through notarizing services to protect Cultural Rights and Intellectual Properties, and the Indigenous people in Africa.
The launch of BitHub Africa, an initiative that aims to boost the development of blockchain solutions in Africa, comes shortly after Safaricom, a leading mobile network operator in Kenya and the creator of M-Pesa, terminated its mobile money connection to Kipochi citing bitcoin’s non-recognition by the Central Bank of Kenya.
Kipochi, a bitcoin trading platform, used merchant provider Kopo Kopo to connect to the M-Pesa network. The service allowed users to trade and receive remittances in bitcoins through the M-Pesa network.
“It took us more than a week for us to find out that Safaricom had forced Kopo Kopo to shut us down,” Pelle Braendgaard, the former CTO of Kipochi, explained in a blog post a few days ago.
The company was forced to close operations in Kenya after more than a year of providing its services, Braendgaard told Business Daily Africa.
BitPesa, another Kenyan bitcoin startup that specializes in remittances, filed a lawsuit against Safaricom in November 2015, blaming the firm for intimidating its gateway partner Lipisha, forcing it to suspend its services without prior notice, according to reports from the Daily Nation.
“Safaricom moved to force one of our partners to cease doing business with us in order to keep us off of M-Pesa,” BitPesa said in a blog post.
“We, along with this partner, brought a court case against Safaricom because we believe its actions are an act of intimidation.”
John Karanja, the founder of BitHub Africa and the director of Space Kenya Networks, is the former Head of Sales Africa of BitPesa.