Botswana’s first Bitcoin ATM, a Skyhook model, has landed in the country. Originally owned by the Taurus Bitcoin Exchange, its relatively-long processing time was considered untenable in the saturated Canadian market. Its small size and extreme affordability, however, made it perfect for donating to send to Africa.
It’s headed to Satoshi Center in Gaborone, a cryptocurrency incubator soon to be established. The tech team there–eager to get their hands on relatively-expensive technology–will retrofit it to accept South African rands (commonly resorted to in the region) until the Botswana pula can be added.
The Skyhook machine is open source, so when firmware for their local currency is created, it will be easy to install. The only major downside is that the Skyhook machine is 1-way, capable of selling but not purchasing bitcoins.
The Skyhook is not the first Bitcoin ATM in Africa. The titles of first and second go to Johannesburg and Cape Town, respectively. Their Lamassu models reside in fairly developed areas, but that’s not as helpful to the unbanked, who largely reside in the African interior.
Getting a Bitcoin ATM there is expensive and difficult. “Botswana doesn’t have the technical infrastructure for us to track the package there,” Keirnan Wright was told when he shipped the Skyhook from Vancouver city, BC. “Once it arrives, all you can do is pray.”
This feat has been made possible with the help of multiple parties. Various members of the Bitcoin Co-op donated generously, and the general Bitcoin community has been very supportive of ongoing related efforts. Some companies, like ASICSPACE, have given multiple bitcoins to the cause.
The ATM in Gaborone will be unveiled at CoinFest Africa, which came about due to Africa’s inability to participate in CoinFest 2015 because of shipping delays. Ghana decided to delay, as well, and the announced spurred other organizers to join the movement. It now includes 4 events in 3 countries!
It has long been a tradition to install Bitcoin ATMs at CoinFest. The first CoinFest event was held at the Waves Coffee House in Vancouver, where the world’s first Bitcoin ATM was placed by CoinTrader. Manitoba’s first Bitcoin ATM was installed in Winnipeg during CoinFest 2014, and CoinFest 2015 had ATM demos all over the world.
Now they’re hoping to bring that same energy to Africa. A Meet Up will be held in Vancouver in solidarity, at which global planning and further development of the DAO will occur. Elsewhere in Africa outside of Botswana, there will be Meet Ups, workshops, presentations and give-aways.
All of this is just in time for a continent struggling with hyperinflation and poverty, and little access to the traditional financial system. Lack of finances and infrastructure are huge obstacles, but with most Africans already familiar with mobile money, their transition to Bitcoin seems inevitable. Hopefully it brings the change they need.