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Bitcoin Exchange Igot Launches in Kenya via M-Pesa Integration

NEW YORK (InsideBitcoins) — Australia-based bitcoin exchange Igot is launching in Kenya today, and the platform will be using M-Pesa for customer deposits and withdrawals in the African nation. The international exchange is available in more than forty countries worldwide after raising funds from a prominent US investor last summer. Cryptocurrency adoption in Kenya has been a major talking point for bitcoin evangelists over the past couple of years, partially due to M-Pesa’s penetration in the country.

[Read More: Why Bitcoin Should Master Mobile Payment Provider M-PESA]

Bitcoin’s promise in Kenya

I was able to ask Igot founder Rick Day about the importance of bringing his exchange platform to Kenya, and the first thing he brought up was international remittances. Day is aware of the serious issues that Kenyan emigrants face when attempting to send money back home, and he expanded on those problems with real numbers:

“Over 2.5 million Kenyan emigrants around the world send money home to their families. Igot aims to make these transactions as easy, fast, and convenient as possible. In 2014, remittance inflows to Kenya increased by USD 137 million or (11 percent) to USD 1,428.5 billion. The average remittance transaction costs the emigrant sender between 5 percent and 9 percent.”

Lowering the costs of international remittances has been touted as a potential use case for bitcoin by many believers over the years, but we are only now seeing the startups that could potentially deliver on this promise launch in places like Kenya and the Philippines. Day also commented on the importance of enabling M-Pesa for deposits and withdrawals. He noted, “M-PESA has over 15 million subscribers in Kenya, making it one of the most prolific money transfer on the mobile platform.”

Coming soon to the United States

After noticing that Igot does not currently accept American customers, I was curious to see whether or not costly regulations could have been behind this business decision. Bitcoin entrepreneurs Erik Voorhees and Chris Odom have spoken about their concerns with the regulatory requirements for bitcoin companies in the United States, but Day claimed Igot has no intentions of avoiding the US market:

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“We do not accept US customers at the moment as bitcoin exchanges in the US need to obtain a Money Services Business license. Technically, we could accept US customers as we’re an Australian entity, but we plan on launching in the US in [the] coming month or so and want to make sure we do everything by the book.”

[Read More: Chris Odom Explains Why Monetas is Not Based in the United States]

Day also explained that the exchange would only be able to accept international wires as a deposit method for US customers at this time. He stated, “[International wires] would cost [US customers] the bank fee as well as [the] exchange rate loss. It doesn’t make sense for US customers to use an international exchange.”


A growing bitcoin industry in Kenya

Due to the notion that bitcoin is most useful for the underbanked in developing countries, there are plenty of people waiting to see what will happen with the digital currency in Kenya. BitX is another exchange offering bitcoin access to M-Pesa users in Kenya, and BitPesa recently received a $1.1 million cash infusion to move forward as an alternative option for international remittances and low-cost payments. With all of these bitcoin companies making moves in the East African nation, it seems that we’re about to find out exactly what cryptocurrency can do for “the other six billion.”

[Read More: BitPesa Lands $1.1 Million in Additional Funding]

You can follow @kyletorpey on Twitter.
Photo credit: “Mobile banking” via

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