Bitcoin in Kenya: A Beginners Guide to Investing in 2021

Bitcoin in Kenya is still relatively unknown. Most people know Bitcoin exists and that it’s some form of digital currency. But to many, Bitcoin sounds like an elaborate scam that’s just waiting to implode. 

Well, in this article we will dig into the subject, and hopefully, after you see how it works, you’ll realise it is not an elaborate scam. It is a window into the future.

There is a high level of finance, technology, and reasoning behind Bitcoin. We have taken as much information about it as we can and narrowed it down so you can get some quick working knowledge about Bitcoin and cryptocurrency in Kenya. So whether you want to get into trading cryptocurrency or are just curious about it, this guide covers the basics.

Because cryptocurrency can get very complicated very quickly, let’s start with a quick guide and then answer some frequently asked questions.

Quick Guide: 4 Places to Buy Bitcoin in Kenya

Coinbase

Coinbase is an easy-to-use platform and does a good job taking you through every aspect of the process. It also has some form of insurance on your crypto.

Binance

Binance tells you everything you need to know about the crypto market. You need a bit of experience to understand it all but it has a lot of options to get you going.

eToro

Etoro is one of the most experienced and trusted platforms for crypto. However, they also deal with other forms of trade and because there is so much going on, I initially struggled to navigate the website.

Paxful

Paxful lets you quickly buy Bitcoin with M-Pesa. The site is also clean and easy to use but it doesn’t guide you through the processes so you need a bit of experience with cryptocurrencies to navigate.

Frequently Asked Questions About Bitcoin in Kenya

What is Bitcoin?

Bitcoin is a completely digital currency that can be traded online for goods, services, and software where it is accepted. There is no physical coin or banknote.

The difference between Bitcoin and traditional money is that Bitcoin is not regulated by central banks or governments – it is completely decentralised. Bitcoin exists as multiple identical records (called ledgers, just like accounting ledgers) stored on over a million computers worldwide.

How Does Bitcoin work?

Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency that is based on Blockchain technology.

Blockchain Technology

Think of how your bank account balance is based on your history of transactions with that account. Money comes in from sales, salaries, or earnings, which the bank adds to your account balance. When you spend, the bank deducts from your balance and lets you know a certain amount of money has been used to pay for something. 

This record of transactions stays with the bank. You have access to it on the bank’s network, but it’s secured on the bank’s servers so that no one can tamper with it. Your history of transactions and therefore the amount of money you have with that bank are all stored in one place.

Blockchain technology works by taking this record of transactions and storing it on all the computers connected with the network.

If you buy transact with Bitcoin, 3 pieces of information are created to make this transaction go through:

  1. The amount of money you are transferring to someone else
  2. An encrypted reference to this transfer is called a Hash
  3. And the Hash of the previous transaction you made

These 3 pieces of information are contained in what is called a Block. This block is then saved on every computer on the network, which could be millions. 

So instead of having your transaction and the history of your transaction stored on one server (like with a bank), it’s stored on over a million computers worldwide. 

For a transaction to be completed, over 50% of all the computers with this record have to agree that the records stored on them match, and then make the changes in balance necessary for the transaction to go through.

To tamper with the blockchain, a hacker would have to change the records of 500,001 (assuming there are a million) computers to agree with the false value. This is currently impossible.

Back to Bitcoin and How it is Created

Bitcoin is created when computers are used to execute and store blockchain transactions. This is called mining.

As you can imagine, it takes a lot of computing power to refer to millions of copies of the same document and make sure they are the same, write new entries to the documents and then verify and encrypt them all at once. 

The people who allow their computers to do this, miners, are rewarded in new Bitcoin (ie. Bitcoin that is being introduced to the network for the first time. The way digging for gold would introduce new gold to the market for the first time.)

Bitcoin was created with a limited supply. There will only ever be 21,000,000 coins available.

Is Bitcoin legal in Kenya?

There is no law banning Bitcoin in Kenya.

Bitcoin is not legal tender in Kenya and the Central Bank of Kenya discourages people from trading in it. And even though the CBK issued a public warning in 2015, Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are not outrightly illegal in the country.

How many cryptocurrencies are there?

There are over 6,000 cryptocurrencies in the world. Because Bitcoin’s source code is open source, anyone with technical knowledge and resources could replicate it and add innovations to create new cryptocurrencies. 

However, there are only a few that can be referred to as trusted coins. We’ve listed ten below.

Ethereum

Ethereum is the largest blockchain for decentralised finance in the world. 

Decentralised Finance (DeFi) refers to financial products that are available on public blockchains. These products cut out the middlemen like banks when you’re buying, selling, borrowing or loaning, or brokers when buying insurance.

Binance Coin

Binance coin differs from both Bitcoin and Ethereum in that the transaction ledgers are only kept by 21 people, not anyone participating in the network. These 21 people are known and validated by the financial company Binance and can be added or removed at the will of the company. 

It is therefore a form of regulated cryptocurrency.

Tether

Tether is a cryptocurrency that is backed up by the US Dollar. This means that its value cannot go below the value of the US Dollar at any point. This is kind of cryptocurrency, where the coin is backed up by traditional money or other types of assets like gold, is called a Stablecoin.

Cardano

Cardano is a cryptocurrency generated from blockchain work on smart contracts. Smart contracts are contracts that execute when all conditions described in the contract are met. These contracts can be useful, for example, when tracking online orders.

Cardano is a type of Ethereum coin. 

XRP

XRP was created for banks. It is meant to be a more efficient way for banks to transfer assets between each other, a replacement for SWIFT and the other systems banks currently use.

Polkadot

Polkadot enables the transfer of information between different cryptocurrencies.

Dogecoin

Dogecoin was created as a joke coin following the international explosion of Bitcoin. Interest and investment in the coin by the online community gave it value and popularity. Transactions using the coin are faster and cheaper than Bitcoin.

Dogecoin is not limited in availability and because it is hugely influenced by public interest, it is very volatile (its value can rise and fall very suddenly).

Litecoin

Litecoin is very similar to Bitcoin but it differs in how the base technology works. It is also has a limited supply in the market but its limit is much higher than Bitcoin’s. It is also faster and cheaper to transact using Litecoin.

Monero

Monero works the same way as Bitcoin but offers more privacy and anonymity. When transacting using Monero, the sender cannot see the recipient’s cryptocurrency holdings.

Avalanche (AVAX)

Avalanche was formed in 2020 to utilise Smart Contracts (like Ethereum), create decentralised apps and custom Blockchains. The platform aims to be faster and cheaper than Ethereum.

How to Buy Bitcoin in Kenya

  1. Read through the next section in this article and do your research on Bitcoin wallets and exchanges to find the wallet that is right for you. Some exchanges and wallets have strict rules about withdrawing and depositing from other platforms. So consider this when choosing one.
  2. Once you’ve decided on your platform, create an account. I suggest using Lastpass Password Manager when creating a password. It saves you the trouble of remembering the password and your password will be very strong.
  3. All good trading platforms will have two-factor authentication for additional security so make sure you have your phone with you.
  4. After verification, you will have an account.
  5. Some wallets require further verification so check into your profile and see what’s needed to complete your sign-up. 
  6. As you go through your profile, you can attach your card or bank account to the site. I suggest using a pre-paid card. 
  7. After that, I suggest going through whatever tutorial the platform offers you. It takes just one mistake to lose a lot of money. Be thorough.
  8. Depending on your platform you should now be able to buy Bitcoin. I repeat, go through all tutorials.

The Best Bitcoin Wallets and Exchanges in Kenya

Coinbase

Coinbase

Coinbase gives you access to over 100 cryptocurrencies and the site is easier to use than most other platforms. There’s also a Coinbase Prime version that has more features and data for more advanced trading.

Your portfolio is easy to manage on both computer and mobile and the security is similarly good on both.

However, as with all crypto platforms, hacking and mistakes remain a great risk. And Coinbase does not have good customer service. Users report rarely talking to a human and the automated system is horrible.

Advantages

  • Friendly for beginners.
  • Two-step verification to log in.
  • Protected by insurance.
  • Has a self-hosted wallet.
  • You can borrow cash against your Bitcoin.
  • You can gain interest on your coin balance.

Disadvantages

  • Transaction fees are high.
  • Advanced features are not available on the base platform.
  • Customer service is mostly automated.
  • Has a poor trust rating, mostly because any issues that arise are not dealt with properly.
  • Unclear fee structure.
Binance

Binance

The moment you enter the Binance website, a lot of information is thrown right at you at once. It’s almost like working in a stock exchange where it can look like a lot of gibberish if you don’t understand the information.

However, as you mature in cryptocurrency trading, this at-a-glance format becomes critical in decision-making. Cryptocurrency can be volatile. Buying and selling at key moments can be the difference between making a profit or suffering a loss.

Advantages

  • Low transaction fees.
  • Fees are even lower if you use Binance coin.
  • The site’s comprehensive front-page information is easy to digest if you know what you’re doing.

Disadvantages

  • The site as a whole can be difficult to use.
  • Anonymity is uncertain. Binance is not clear about its security and connection to regulatory bodies.
  • The platform is not friendly to beginners even though it has an easy buy/sell option.
Etoro

eToro

eToro is a professional trading platform. They deal with various other investments like stocks and money markets, not just crypto. Navigating the site for the first time can be a bit tiresome.

But once you get to the main crypto page, it gets better. Like Binance, there’s a lot of information but, because it is better organised, it feels less overwhelming. It is still a lot of information and you will need a guide.

Luckily, eToro provides just that. The website has an academy that has tutorials for even the very freshest of beginners.

Advantages

  • The platform allows users to copy other traders with great track records.
  • It has a low minimum amount needed to start trading on the platform.
  • eToro academy can take you through the basics of every form of trading offered on the platform.

Disadvantages

  • The website tends to lag a lot. It can take a while, for example, for the crypto page to load.
  • Crypto transferred from the platform to another wallet cannot be transferred back.
  • Paid (subscription-based) customer service.

Paxful

Paxful is a peer-to-peer crypto trading platform. This means to trade, you have to find a willing buyer or a willing seller. 

The site has a simple and clear interface. The platform exists to make crypto trading easy, reliable, and fast. You will find options to buy crypto using M-pesa, PayPal, and bank transfer right on the landing page.

What’s more, Paxful takes advantage of escrow accounts (accounts in which assets from both buyers and sellers are held before being exchanged after each other’s conditions have been fulfilled) which gives a bit more assurance to the individuals trading crypto.

Paxful also has 24/7 customer service that is quick to solve any issues that may arise. 

However, there have been incidents where in-person trades have occurred and one party or another have gotten scammed or worse. So be careful and apply best practices when dealing with strangers on the internet.

Advantages

  • Easy for beginners.
  • Simple, clean and direct user interface.
  • Customer service is better than most.
  • Has an active and supportive online forum.

Disadvantages

  • Paxful charges 1% in fees from the sellers which naturally raises the price of the coin for the buyer.
  • They only trade in Bitcoin, Tether and Ethereum. No other crypto.
  • Paxful is peer-to-peer. Open market advantages do not apply. It is therefore not for the more advanced traders.

Bitcoin versus US Dollar: Which is a Better Asset?

The great debate going on right now is whether Bitcoin will replace major currencies in the world as the preferred means of international trade, savings, and investment. While Bitcoin is popular and has a few benefits over traditional currencies, it still has a long way to go before it can serve the functions traditional currency does, especially the US Dollar. 

For now, the US Dollar wins because it is more applicable, acceptable, and stable than Bitcoin.

Here are some advantages and disadvantages of both Bitcoin and the US Dollar.

Advantages of Bitcoin

  • There is the potential for higher returns than you would find in any traditional market.
  • International settlement of Bitcoin is immediate and incurs low fees.
  • Because of how blockchain works, there is increased protection from payment fraud.
  • You can acquire Bitcoin by simply allowing your computer to be used in processing (mining).

Disadvantages of Bitcoin

  • Bitcoin is not backed by any government and isn’t secured. One mistake, even a typing mistake, is all it could take to lose your money. No refunds!
  • Bitcoin is not widely accepted even by online merchants
  • Bitcoin is volatile. There is as high a chance for loss as there is for profit. For example, on the night of Dec 3-4, 2021, Bitcoin lost $10,000 which is 17% of its value.
  • Bitcoin is currently not a viable future investment (eg. a pension investment) because of the volatility.

Advantages of US Dollar

  • The US Dollar is accepted by virtually every merchant online.
  • Investment options are unlimited. You can buy any asset in the world using the USD.
  • The USD is one of the most stable currencies in the world and has been historically. You can make fairly accurate future estimations about your investments.
  • The USD does not depend on peer-to-peer trade ie. you don’t have to find a willing buyer to sell your USD.

Disadvantages of US Dollar

  • All transactions using the USD can be tracked and traced back to you.
  • There is a higher possibility for fraud and hacking.
  • Investment in the USD does not yield as much return despite being more secure.

Blockchain Startups in Kenya

Blockchain technology can be used in many ways. Sure, right now, it is primarily used in finance. But the way the technology uses multiple computers all over the world to complete calculations and the fact that it is virtually tamperproof can be applied to physics, medical research, communication, and many other sectors. 

Kenya, or to be precise, Kenyans are early adopters of technology. It is no surprise then that blockchain has already inspired the start of new businesses. Here are a few:

UTU – Utu uses blockchain to provide security for online reviews and ratings. This makes them harder to manipulate and therefore more trustworthy.

Grassroots Economics – Grassroots is a non-profit organisation that’s using blockchain to create financial systems for marginalised communities in Kenya like people living in slums. The group has developed Sarafu Coin to boost trade among people in these communities.

Extra Tools For Buying Bitcoin in Kenya

Lastpass Password Manager

Your password is vital when trading in Bitcoin. Blockchain technology secures every other phase of cryptocurrency trading except access to your account. That part is on you. You need a very strong password to make it difficult for hackers to access your account. 

Lastpass Password Manager can assist in generating strong, random passwords consisting of upper and lowercase letters, symbols and numbers. The password manager then encrypts the passwords and stores them for you online.

Because you will not be able to remember this password, Lastpass will automatically fill it into the form when needed. The service is the best password manager in the world and I recommend using it when setting up your cryptocurrency wallet.

Final Thoughts

Blockchain technology is revolutionary and Bitcoin in Kenya is going to erupt. Early adopters already had something to smile about and it might not be too late for you. However, be very careful. Bitcoin will stabilise someday but it might stabilise at 0 or a dollar. For now, only invest what you are prepared to lose.

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