Werner van Rooyen, head of Business Development and Growth at Bitx, one of Africa’s biggest Bitcoin exchanges, spoke to Cointelegraph about the problems and potential of Bitcoin in Africa.

Cointelegraph: Bitcoin use in Africa has improved in the last couple of years. What has really changed?

Werner van Rooyen: Bitcoin, as measured in the amount of transactions per day, is steadily rising in Africa as it is in the rest of the world.

Trading between local currencies and Bitcoin is higher today than it had been a few years back and there’s a big increase in Bitcoin awareness and discussion, both by governments and consumers.

CT: South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria are the three main markets for the virtual currency in Africa. Do you think the distribution pattern will remain the same for a long time or something is likely to change very soon?

WR: I don’t see this changing anytime soon.

Werner van Rooyen, head of Business Development and Growth at Bitx

Hurdles ahead

CT: There is so much talk about how Africa is likely to benefit from Bitcoin. What's your take?

WR: I do believe that Africa is very likely to benefit from Bitcoin, but probably not in the immediate future. Africa will surely reap the benefits of Bitcoin - fast transactions, global interoperability, cheap micropayments - but there are still hurdles in terms of awareness, smartphone penetration, reliable and cheap data availability and enough liquidity, so that users get a fair exchange rate when they convert their Bitcoin back to local currency.

Just like early investors in telecommunication operations in Africa didn’t necessarily see huge numbers in their early days, they are truly industry giants today.

CT: Do you think banks and Bitcoin can work together in Africa?

WR: There is probably not a single banking group in the world that is not looking at Bitcoin right now. Many of them are only interested in exploring private blockchains, which can be compared to the time when a lot of companies tried to make private (and paid) versions of the Internet. We believe that banks will realise at some stage that the biggest, most widely adopted and open option will ultimately benefit them and their customers most (the same way AOL and Microsoft realised that nobody was going to use their private intranets)

CT: Not many Bitcoin wallets exist in Africa. What brought about the idea of Bitx in Africa considering the low level of awareness and issues of trust in Bitcoin?

WR: BitX wasn’t started to make a quick buck. There is tremendous potential for Bitcoin in Africa (and Asia, our other active market) and in fact the ability for it to leapfrog existing services; very much the same way that many African and Asian consumers skipped the part of owning a cumbersome and expensive land line and went straight to owning a mobile phone.

CT: What are you seeing now about Bitcoin that most of us are yet to see? There so are many indicators that money - just like email or most information on the Internet - will be digital, free to send and receive and internationally available.

WR: Bitcoin ticks all of those boxes, is growing the fastest and is in our mind the most likely way for us to reach that point.

The best way to respond would be to just participate! It’s so simple to buy just a small amount of Bitcoin and learn more about how it works.