Innovating with the cellular network (GSM) can empower millions of Bitcoin (BTC) users who were previously unreachable by the Internet-based Bitcoin protocol. The new SMS-based service was built by South African developer Kgothatso Ngako, and is called Machankura, a South African slang word meaning money.
KG, as he is known to his friends, spoke to Cointelegraph from Pretoria, South Africa, about his fascination with Bitcoin and the hope that Bitcoin via text will bring BTC to millions of Africans.
An English speaker, when KG first learned about Bitcoin, he streamed audiobooks and podcasts religiously on his way to work. When he fell down a Bitcoin rabbit hole, his 20-minute ride became a two-hour walkthrough to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in South Africa, where he was working as a software developer.
In a separate interview, Master Guantai, founder of Bitcoin Mtaani, told Cointelegraph, “There are twice as many mobile phones in Africa as there are people.” However, the penetration of Internet-enabled smartphones is still low.
In Kenya, home to Guantai, he explained that adding time on the phone to the phone is as common as credit card payments in the West. A report by Caribou backs up the statement: 94% of financial transactions in Africa are done through USSD, the protocol used to send text messages, while only 6% of these transactions are done via mobile apps.
In short, although there are millions of phones in Africa, they are mostly used for texting. KG has found something that could be huge for Bitcoin adoption in Africa.
“This year there has been a lot of conversation in the space about USSD or making Bitcoin available on feature phones – this could be a part-time project – let me just set it up. And that’s exactly how I became glorified!”
KG started by building the Exonumia African language translation project. Now offering Bitcoin-related education in dozens of languages, he explained to Cointelegraph that if we make Bitcoin accessible to Africans, they will learn about money and find a way to improve their quality of life as a result.
Once Exonumia gained traction, he asked, “What are the other barriers to accepting Bitcoin? The language is one — the other is internet access.” He summarizes Africa’s internet as a space dominated by big apps like Instagram and Facebook. The inherent problems of smartphone users are having enough space on the phones, internet connection and price.
KG shares footage of Machankura in action.
KG coded Manchakura to solve these issues, explaining, “The main focus is on spending and receiving Bitcoin.” KG explains how it works: Users ask for a number and are then presented to a list where they can learn more about Bitcoin or register an account. “All you need to register an account is a 5-digit PIN, and from there, you will be presented with a different menu: send and receive Bitcoin.”
Here’s Baku, the bitcoin traveler who won’t stop teaching people about bitcoin all over the world, as Machankura explains to a teacher in Nigeria, as requested by Cointelegraph.