AS efforts to boost Diaspora remittances into the country continue, a local firm Bitmari, says it has launched an affordable platform that can be used to send money from the United States. Bitmari, which was founded about a year ago but went online almost 10 weeks ago, says it sends money using the blockchain technology, such as is used by crypto curriences such as Bitcoin, which is transparent.
Co-founder of the firm, Christopher Mapondera told The Herald Business yesterday that their main objective is to promote remittances from the US to Zimbabwe at affordable rates.
“We came into this business simply because we are trying to address what we see as the needs of our people. The realised that the bulk of remittances made by people in the Diaspora are probably between $50 and $200. But the fees being charged are not that attractive. For instance, if you send $20, some of the remittance companies charge $10 which is 50 percent of the total amount sent.
“So more people are discouraged from sending money and we decided that you can send that $10 for 50c or $20 for $1 and from $20, there is a whole lot that a person here can buy and we are trying to encourage people out there to send money to their relatives,” said Mr Mapondera.
Bitmari’s local partner is Agribank, which has a wider ranch network. Diaspora remittances have become crucial to economic development, and $180 million came in the first quarter of this year. The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe projects that $750 million would be raked in by year-end. Mr Mapondera said the Bitcoin technology is transparent and can be used in the agriculture and mining sectors, as it provides a mechanism for checks and balances.
For instance, a farmer who gets inputs can be tracked on how they would have used them. The agriculture sector had been rocked by cases where beneficiaries would divert inputs to the black market, and not channelled them towards production.
“The Bitcoin technology can be applied to any aspect of economic development here. It is a transparent platform; you can set it in such a way that all the stakeholders are aware of what each person is doing. We have already done one demonstration that farmers using the Bitcoin technology such as the women farmers we have, can get inputs but we track what they do with the inputs. When you get seed for 10 hectares, the technology helps us to tell how much seed you used per day and to cover how many hectares,” said Mr Mapondera.
He declined to say how much money has been remitted through Bitmari but said they have invested a “substantial amount of cash”, so that when money is sent, recipients should be able to receive their money. At the moment, Bitmari has just finished a 10-State campaign in the United States covering Washington DC, Maryland, Florida and Dallas, among others, targeting Zimbabweans living in those areas so that they remit funds back home.
Sinclair Skinner, an African-American, is one of the founders of Bitmari.