Bitcoin 'not accepted' here

Mid-June, the above picture made rounds on Ugandan social media. With many crypto-enthusiasts expressing their excitement about Bitcoin becoming acceptable downtown. The signpost is on a wine and spirits shop located in Cornerstone Plaza along Kafumbe Mukasa road.

It was put up by Abel Namureba, a university student at Uganda Christian University in Mukono, to allow people to pay for their merchandise using Bitcoin. “In case someone wanted to use Bitcoins for payments and I am there, I can be able to do the transaction,” Abel told me on phone. But that hasn’t been the case, yet.

Put in place in January, Abel informed me that no one has ever paid for their products using Bitcoin or cryptocurrency to-date. “There’s nobody yet, to be honest,” Abel said.

However, he noted that most people call him to “invest” in Bitcoin. “Most people call to invest in bitcoin but not to transact.” Estimating that in the past month, around 5 people called him looking to exchange Bitcoins into Uganda shillings or Uganda shillings into Bitcoin.

These exchanges range in the figure of UGx. 2M and UGx. 7M. He either links up with the clients or they carry out the transaction using Mobile Money.

“I am more like a forex exchange for Bitcoin,” Abel referred to himself. In a very rudimentary way, Abel and his clients agree on the rates using a third party platform. On top of which he marks up to earn his revenue.

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“There’s a site called the Coin Market Cap. It shows the prices of Bitcoin at that time. I add on 3% which is my commission. Then we calculate. Basically, I am like a forex bureau for cryptocurrencies.”

We had the conversation with Abel two weeks after the Blockchain conference took place in Uganda where Changpeng Zhao, the Binance CEO, headlined. And, exactly two weeks later, Binance - world’s largest crypto-exchange platform - launched Binance Uganda. The very first fiat-to-crypto exchange platform.

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