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BitPesa CEO Elizabeth Rossiello was interviewed by co-hosts Brian Fabian Crain and Sébastien Couture onthe most recent episode of Epicenter. During the interview, Rossiello was asked about how the price volatility, network congestion, and historically-high transaction fees associated with Bitcoin have affected her business, which is aimed at those who wish to transfer value on the continent of Africa.
The Problems with Banking in Africa
In terms of the potential issues with bitcoin’s price volatility, Rossiello pointed out that BitPesa also trades in the Nigerian naira, which has been subject to heavy volatility recently andfell 31% in a single day last yearafter its peg to the U.S. dollar was removed.
Accounting issues are also often brought up in terms of using bitcoin on a regular basis due to the fact that it’s a completely different currency, but Rossiello pointed out that BitPesa already deals with fifteen other currencies.
“The first two years we were in operation, we didn’t have a companycredit card; we couldn’t get one,” said Rossiello. “We had twelve bankaccounts, but our localbank would only let us have a $5,000 credit card and we had to put down $6,500 in cash, which means we had to prepay more than we were allowed to spend. With one plane ticket from Kenya to San Francisco, [it] would like break our whole balance. And then it took like four days to make the payment to get it back.”
Rossiello recentlytweetedabout the difficulties associated with taking more than $1,000 out of her localbankaccount. As she explained during her interview with Epicenter, Rossiello is only able to withdraw an amount greater than $1,000 in person from the specific branch where she opened her account, which is an hour and a half drive away from where she works.
Rossiello also discussed an issue one of her friends recently had when transferring $1.2 million via bank wires. The funds were effectively lost for a week, and the friend lost 1,000 clients per day while the money was in limbo.