We reported in May that the first Bitcoin ATM in Africa was headed for Johannesburg and would be installed by month’s end.
Well, things got held up, and the time frame had to move back two weeks or so. However, the purchasers of that particular Lamassu machine announced Wednesday that the ATM had landed in South Africa and was waiting to clear customs:
Bitcoin ATM has landed in Kempton Park South Africa, from Germany. Thanks UPS, got the job done. Waiting for customs. – @zabitcoinatm
The Economist has picked up the story as well, although that publication framed the development more as a question of Bitcoin’s current ability to reach the millions of unbanked Africans and revolutionize the US$50-billion-a-year African remittances industry:
Bitcoin’s remittance pioneers face the same anti-money-laundering and cash security issues that drive ordinary transfer fees so high. Then there’s the unknown of local governments' reactions to such little-regulated exchanges.
According to Marcus Swanepoel, owner of the regional BitX exchange, the most immediate opportunity may be Bitcoin’s facilitation of cardless e-commerce. ATMs ease the casual consumer’s access to small sums for use online and off. It may be some time before Bitcoin ATMs and similar innovations reach the unbanked. But they have come a step closer to entering the formal economy.
The remittances market and reaching the unbanked are big fish to fry, as we have covered on more than one occasion. For now, let’s just celebrate that as of Friday every continent actually settled by people will have a Bitcoin ATM.
Researchers in Antarctica, you’re up next.