Africa’s First Bitcoin ATM Ready for May Launch

Johannesburg is set to become the first African city with a permanent bitcoin ATM.

May 20, 2014 at 6:10 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 11, 2021 at 10:47 a.m. UTC

Johannesburg, South Africa, will reportedly become the first city on the continent to host a permanent bitcoin ATM this May.

The start-up behind the plan, ZaBitcoinATM, says it ordered a Lamassu machine in February, and that it expects to receive the unit within days.

ZaBitcoinATM revealed more details about the forthcoming launch in a Bitcoin Talk forum post, explaining:

"We are in discussions with several restaurants/coffee shops and will be coming to a conclusion as to the final location once we have shown the interested parties the device."

If all goes according to plan, Africa’s first bitcoin ATM will be in service by the end of the month.

Community feedback wanted

Johannesburg may seem like an obvious choice for the country’s first bitcoin ATM given its position as financial center, however, it may not have the only unit for long.

A second bitcoin ATM is reportedly on the way, and it’s coming to Cape Town.

ZaBitcoinATM has invited Cape Town’s bitcoiners to help choose the right spot for the unit via its Twitter account.

— 1st African BTC ATM (@ZABitcoinATM) May 20, 2014

The deployment is a sign of increasing bitcoin interest in Africa, as a number of charities and companies are looking at potential applications for bitcoin in the region.

Additionally, many view the remittance market as the biggest opportunity in Africa.

In a recent interview with CoinDesk, Kipochi co-founder Pelle Braendgaard explained why he believes bitcoin could make inroads into developing countries. Further, the work of companies like Robocoin to turn its ATM network into a global remittance service suggests a similar approach could be attempted in Africa.

Africa's hurdles

However, bitcoin is not the only option for tech savvy Africans.

Since the continent still has a relatively low smartphone penetration rate, SMS money transfer services that can be used on practically any feature phone are quite popular.

As such, some firms are expanding their operations and integrating with other money transfer services. One such hybrid service is 37Coins, which plans to offer worldwide bitcoin wallet access via feature phones, using its SMS-based wallet.

For more details on where you can find bitcoin ATMs in your area, view our complete Bitcoin ATM map.

Johannesburg skyline via Shutterstock 

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