ZIMBABWE – Bitkesh, a Zimbabwean cryptocurrency startup has launched a WhatsApp-based digital wallet called UhuruWallet to help unbanked foreign nationals in South Africa make payments. 

Co-founded by Reginald Tsvetu, Bitkesh launched its platform in 2017 and uses cryptocurrency to help people send money back home, cutting out the need to visit an exchange bureau.  

The startup’s new product, UhuruWallet, is a WhatsApp-based digital wallet developed on the Stellar blockchain. Bitkesh said that UhuruWallet target market is primarily unbanked foreign nationals in South Africa. 

Since launching its beta version, Tsvetu said UhuruWallet had received over 750 signups and was on its way to moving ZAR1 million (US$53,000) in its first month. It currently allows people to do things like send and receive money, and pay for DStv, reports DisruptAfrica

Tsvetu said the launch of UhuruWallet had come at an opportune time as Bitkesh had begun to slow down. However, it has now started receiving a lot of traffic again post-launch and as a result of the COVD-19 national lockdowns. 

“Bitkesh is now going to focus on payments in local currencies, like school fees, as well as acquiring corporate clients, since they accrue a lot of local currency but still need to make foreign payments,” Tsvetu said. 

“Uhuru will be a more casual wallet for peer-to-peer transactions. People have already started testing the send money option with their recipients exchanging the balance for hard cash with other peers looking to make payments such as DStv, Avon and INUKA. We plan on spreading to the rest of the SADC region within six months.” 

Although mobile wallet adoption is slow, activities are picking up the pace, and the main players are not the incumbent banks. Digital wallets have been projected to dominate payments as the sub-sector continues to rank among the hottest area within fintech for more than a decade.

This technology has been continuously advancing throughout the past few years. Many new payment options have been added to the digital payment system, starting from online transactions, swapping cards to tapping Near Field Communication (NFC) cards, and scanning codes.

The growing of internet connection at every place possible coupled with the penetration of smartphones across all market have been cited as some of the major drivers boosting the adoption of the digital payment.