Financial wild west is here, and that’s alright

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Jeffrey Gogo
Golix has, for the lack of a better phrase, really brought the financial wild west ashore. That’s only because Bitcoin remains unregulated. And there’s no one to turn to in the case of it collapsing.

But the Harare-based crypto-currency start-up deserves significant applaud, not least for how the firm has over the past two years disrupted the country’s financial landscape, with remarkable outcomes.

Golix’s newest offering, a Bitcoin Automated Teller Machine (ATM) — and Zimbabwe’s first — has brought Bitcoin to life, illustrating that the digital coin is something much bigger than just an idea.

Buying and selling of Bitcoin has often been looked at as complex. And it is, for the uninitiated.

But through the ATM, Golix is trying to make that process a lot simpler, perhaps even more widespread.

Golix product manager Yeukai Kusangaya speaks of how the exchange was compelled to help the public understand or access Bitcoin, and how “we felt that the Bitcoin ATM would be a huge and necessary step towards engaging people on how they can use cryptocurrencies for their daily business.”

She underlines right there the philosophy that defines and drives business at Golix, the guys that gave Zimbabwe its first digital money exchange in 2015, that of financial independence at the individual level, underpinned by speed, convenience and affordability.

We know that consumers are used to transacting on ATMs, even when the machines here have long stopped issuing out cash due to the existing cash crisis.

So, it shouldn’t be much of a problem for new crypto enthusiasts — or those already in the game — to catch on.

Installed at the heart of Harare’s busy First Street Mall — Batanai Gardens to be precise — Golix’s machine has a large touch screen and makes the process of trading Bitcoin and Litecoin — the only two coins supported by the ATM — a piece of cake.

The Bitcoin ATM machine allows users to exchange their credits of the digital currency for hard cash and vice-versa.

You will need a smartphone to do this. And a crypto wallet application on the phone. And, of course, some money, either at hand or in your wallet. If you don’t have a Bitcoin wallet address, Golix will generate one for you. Golix charges $2 for each transaction.

The Bitcoin ATM is arguably the only Automated Teller Machine in Zimbabwe with money right now. Though it can’t be used at the weekends as a security measure.

A video from the exchange demonstrating how to complete a sale of cryptocurrency and withdraw $10 from the Bitcoin ATM using a smartphone lasts about two minutes — not exactly useful for the future of a currency and system built on the promise of speed as one of its building blocks.

The average person takes a fraction of that time to complete a transaction on a traditional ATM. But that’s also aided by the fact that unlike the Bitcoin ATM, there is no trading taking place on the regular machine, only a withdrawal.

And that the transaction time on Golix’s demonstration video clip was bound to take a bit longer, naturally – demonstrations are often slow going, for effect.

But we do not know of any other deposit taking ATM in Zimbabwe apart from Golix’s, a feature that puts it a country mile ahead of competition, and one allowing users to make a deposit and complete a purchase instantly.

Used for transfer purposes, say a relative sending money from abroad, the Bitcoin ATM completes the transaction within ten minutes, and a $2 withdrawal fee is charged. The maximum daily transaction limit is $2 500.

Now taking into account that deposits in banking halls could take anything between a few hours to 24 hours before that money can be accessed via the traditional ATM, the Bitcoin machine is, in this case, by far more convenient and faster.

Though there is still that concern over the number of transactions that the Bitcoin network completes in a second — under ten. That makes the system painfully slower and somewhat unattractive compared to the thousands of transactions completed each second on rival payment platforms like Visa.

This is also what has propped up Ripple, Bitcoin Cash, Ethereum, Litecoin and others as swifter, cheaper settlement options, in recent months. The Bitcoin splits from last year were designed for this purpose, too.

Golix is well aware of these limitations, including the volatility of the cryptocurrencies markets, which means that the exchange rate on the Bitcoin ATM has to change every five minutes to reflect the rapid swings and lows in crypto prices.

Whatever the case, Golix is in the early stages of making the financial wild west come full circle in Zimbabwe. And that’s alright. The regulators will eventually step in, like has and is happening elsewhere worldwide. If not only to regulate and claim tax, but to make the cryptocurrency space stronger and sustainable.

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