Bitcoin conference in South Africa convenes to discuss challenges and opportunities

B Holmes , 02 Mar 2016 - AfricaBitcoinConference

The 2nd Annual Blockchain and Bitcoin Africa Conference starts today, in Johannesburg, South Africa. The two day event is being co-hosted by Bitcoin Events Pty Ltd and Absa, a member of Barclays bank.  

Barclays Africa Group Limited“We see huge potential for financial institutions in Africa to embrace disruptive technologies like blockchain, and use them to empower individuals and improve the lives of their customers.”

- Ashley Veasey, CIO for the Barclays Africa Group Limited

Barclays Africa was the first bank based out of Africa to join 41 other banks to form the R3 blockchain technology company consortium.  “We believe that this consortium, along with events such as the Blockchain & Bitcoin Africa Conference 2016, will be valuable platforms for sharing some of the insights and projects we are driving in this space,” said Veasey

Blockchain and Bitcoin Africa Conference 2016“Blockchain technology is disrupting not only the world of finance, but also a number of online and offline sectors.”

- The Blockchain and Bitcoin Africa Conference 2016  


The event brings together industry experts and leaders from around the globe, to debate real-world problems, and the solutions that digital currencies and blockchain technology can offer. The topics focus on the social, economic and political impact made by this cutting edge technology, and how it can aid development.

Several African countries will be represented, including Botswana, Kenya, Ghana and Zimbabwe, among others.

“I wanted people to learn more about digital currencies such as bitcoin & blockchain technology as I realised that people in South Africa were misinformed about this technology and payment system because of a lack of information.”

-  Sonya Kuhnel, co-organizer at Bitcoin Events Pty Ltd

The event is being organised by Theo Sauls and Sonya Kuhnel of Bitcoin Events Pty Ltd, who are both members of the Cape Town Bitcoin community. Kuhnel and Sauls believe the technology can provide many benefits for people in Africa, especially in the remittance market, but also with financial inclusion and transparency of ownership.

“The conference is necessary to provide information to people about what companies are doing with the technology and currency and how they are succeeding,” Kuhnel said. “It provides an opportunity for people in this space to meet each other and collaborate on potential ideas and information. It is also an opportunity for local and international VC's to network with startups and individuals in the space.”

Kuhnel expressed that the event speakers are considered successful start-up creators, who have experience with VC funding, legal, and compliance challenges. “We selected a combination of speakers who have started successful startups who can talk about bitcoin the digital currency,” said Kuhnel. “We will also have discussions on other blockchain technology and the differences between permissioned and permissionless blockchains.”

- Kuhnel

Among the speakers will be Elizabeth Rossiello, the CEO and Co-Founder of BitPesa, a remittance platform using Bitcoin's distributed ledger to offer a cheaper and faster means to send money to East Africa.  

BitPesa is licensed by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) as an Authorized Payment Institution. The company accepts bitcoin and exchanges it for local currencies in Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda and Tanzania. The company also sells bitcoin in these countries, and Uganda.

BitPesa recently received investment from BitFury Group, a private Bitcoin Blockchain infrastructure provider and processing company. “Our mission is to make global transacting easier, especially for those who continue to face obstacles to financial growth,” said Valery Vavilov, CEO of BitFury. “A secure, transparent and trusted form of exchange is being made possible by BitPesa, and our investment will allow us to work together to leverage the innovative power of the Bitcoin Blockchain for the benefit of the entire pan-African continent.”

Solutions such as BitPesa may alleviate some of the recent financial woes in countries such as Nigeria, where falling oil prices have been undermining economies. Nigeria's Central Bank also banned the use of its debit and credit cards for overseas purchases earlier this year, which has made it difficult for businesses and customers to make overseas purchases.

“On the social impact side: blockchain technology can be used by governments for more transparent voting as well as storing of title deeds and personal information so that it is accessible to citizens of a country without the need of having to go through corrupt government officials.”

- Kuhnel

Tiana Laurence will also be speaking at the event. The Chief Marketing Officer at Factom, a scalable data layer for the blockchain, will be focusing on innovation and helping developing nations with land titles and government transparency.

“Corruption creates and increases poverty and exclusion. While corrupt individuals with political power enjoy a lavish life, millions of Africans are deprived of their basic needs like food, health, education, housing, access to clean water and sanitation. We call on governments and judges to stop corruption, eradicate impunity and implement Goal 16 of the Sustainable Development Goals to curb corruption. We also call on the people to demand honesty and transparency, and mobilize against corruption. It is time to say enough and unmask the corrupt.”

- José Ugaz, Transparency International Chair

Kuhnel hopes the conference will connect individuals and companies, as well as provide information on the “opportunities and challenges the technology and currency offers, especially for people in Africa,” she said.

“A great deal of interest has been shown recently in blockchain technology by both financial and non-financial institutions alike. Some of the world’s largest banks are partnering with tech companies to explore how they can use this technology to potentially save billions of dollars and streamline their systems.”

- The Blockchain and Bitcoin Africa Conference 2016