SA Bitcoin exchange debuts mobile wallet

South Africa’s largest Bitcoin exchange, BitX, has launched a Bitcoin mobile wallet that makes storing and using the cryptocurrency easier and safer for consumers in emerging markets. By Regardt van der Berg.

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BitX, the Bitcoin exchange launched last year, has released a mobile application that it hopes will help emerging markets better understand and use the cryptocurrency.

The app allows anyone to buy or sell Bitcoin and functions as a wallet to store the virtual currency.

BitX is headquartered in Singapore, but most of its development is done in Cape Town. The company operates exchanges in South Africa, Malaysia, Kenya and Namibia. It’s the largest Bitcoin exchange in Africa and in 2013 was acquired by Stellenbosch-based Switchless, a company that develops enterprise cryptocurrency software for banks, private wealth managers and brokerage firms.

BitX CEO Marcus Swanepoel co-founded Switchless in 2013. “We believe there is very strong future for cryptocurrencies to disrupt financial markets and financial systems in a very positive way,” says Swanepoel. “As a long term hypothesis, we believe that cryptocurrencies in emerging markets are going to play a really big role because of inefficient financial systems.”

Swanepoel says BitX is building an emerging-markets platform for distributing cryptocurrency products — at the moment Bitcoin is simply the one with the highest demand.

In July, BitX partnered with PayFast, one of South Africa’s largest payment gateways, to offer e-commerce companies the option of accepting Bitcoin payments from their clients. Today, many of PayFast’s 30 000 e-commerce sites accept Bitcoin, including Takealot, one of South Africa’s largest e-retailers.

Simon Dingle

Simon Dingle

“Our focus is primarily making Bitcoin safe and easy to use,” BitX business advisor Simon Dingle says on the new app. “We operate a number of exchanges around the world, but our biggest Bitcoin exchange operates in South Africa.”

He says the app, launched last week, is a big part of the company’s strategy. “This is especially true for emerging markets where we know that the future is mobile. We don’t think mobile first, we think mobile only.”

Dingle says that while the market for Bitcoin is still small, anywhere in the world, it is growing rapidly. “We have seen some interesting things happen in the Bitcoin space in South Africa. We have seen numbers beyond our wildest expectations from retailers like Takealot, in particular.

“Because Bitcoin is so efficient, you can use BitX to make transactions for very small amounts of money that would not make sense to do through traditional switching systems.”

This means anyone can spend any amount of money to acquire or spend Bitcoins without the expensive fees that are often associated with traditional banking systems.

BitX is also the first Bitcoin app in the world to support KYC, or “know your customer”. By verifying customer details — done by scanning in their ID — BitX aims to prevent money laundering. User’s who want to buy and sell Bitcoin via the app will need to verify their account.

Although BitX can be used in any country, trading Bitcoin on this platform is only supported in the countries where BitX runs an exchange. Dingle says BitX has plans to expand to other regions in future.

The BitX app is available for Android and iOS.  — © 2014 NewsCentral Media

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