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Bitcoin Helos Zimbabweans Buy Food & Other Basic Amenities in Affordable Rates Amid Foreign Currency Crisis

November 21, 2018 18:10
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Despite cryptocurrencies being banned in Zimbabwe, Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies based transactions are on the rise and Study263, a zibabwean-owned fintech startup which is operating from south Africa is making the best of opportunity to cash in on market while also making the life of Zimbabweans better via their online store allowing them to by food hampers that are delivered directly to their homes. Shoppers have the option to pay for items like cooking oil and baked beans in BTC, Paypal or Ecocash, a local mobile money payment system. The southern African country of Zimbabwe, which adopted the U.S. dollar after abandoning its currency at the height of hyperinflation in 2009, is gripped by a shortage of foreign currency which has seen prices of imported goods spiral in recent weeks.

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Despite the Zimbabwe government announcing import licenses suspension – enacted as part of efforts to ease basic food shortages to facilitate holders of free funds to bring in select number of goods from other countries license-free, Some supermarket shelves have emptied as shoppers panic buy, stocking up on essential goods such as mealie meal, beef, bread and cooking oil in fear of a return of the 2008 food and prices crisis. Until recently, fuel was in short supply, and basic foodstuffs remain scarce or are priced out of reach of ordinary people. According to Tinashe Jani, co-founder and chief operating officer of Study263, the idea to start up the online venture was conceived early October when “Our regular customers for sending money back home started hinting that the money they are sending isn’t buying much anymore and that if only they could send groceries with someone they trust”, whose company was originally founded in 2017 to help Zimbabweans studying abroad pay fees with ease using cryptocurrency.

He also told news.Bitcoin.com that  they said “when colleagues and family in Zimbabwe started complaining of shortage of basic commodities as prices increased daily” as the price of commodity varied depending on availability citing price of cooking oil as an example which wet from $3.20 to $20 per two-liter bottle depending on availability. Around mid-October, Study263 tested out the market and received a positive reception. People suggested what grocery items they would want included in the hampers, which are designed to cater for different types of family setups according to income levels. Jani stated that “We analyzed other players in the market and realized our strength was in our acceptance of all forms of payment, including bitcoin. We have the mini blue, blue and mega blue hampers, which contain the most basic food commodities. The red hamper caters for toiletries and the purple hamper caters to those who want the more expensive products.”

Study263 will have to pay taxes on imports. But the waiver on import licenses announced by the Zimbabwe government a few weeks ago allows the company to operate without one. To make payment in BTC, shoppers typically send the bitcoin equivalent to a given address, which the company converts to fiat to facilitate purchase of the product on order, he also mentioned that “In terms of payment, our packages are pegged against the U.S. dollar and upon need to transact we convert to whatever the client wants to use to pay from Paypal, cryptocurrency and Ecocash” which helps people order hampers with any available mode of payment. The goods are imported from neighboring South Africa before they are delivered to the buyer’s home within 10 days of payment. A deal by Study263 with a Harare-based logistics company ensures safe delivery. Jani said customers have slowly been coming on board since the service was launched earlier this month. “Our hampers are selected from a variety of shops to ensure affordable pricing. They are also flexible to allow other customers to pick and drop items,” Jani detailed.

Bitcoin is helping ordinary folk make payments bank-free and also makes for a great fit for the more than 10 million Zimbabweans who lack access to basic banking services. And it’s even more beneficial to the banked few, a distrusting lot who are keen to protect their savings against bank failure, inflation or even political turmoil. Bitcoin is also being used to pay for TV subscriptions (a service offered by Study263) and accommodation rentals. But above all, it is looked at more as a store of value against fiat currency devaluation, rising inflation and policy uncertainty, as is the case is across much of Africa. Bitcoin based payment are also catching up on other major African countries paving way for making their life and future a better one.

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