BitMari

Bitcoin-Based Startup Aims to ‘Decolonize’ the Diaspora

BitMari, which uses the crypto-currency, could potentially do for the developing world what global banks could not, says co-founder Sinclair Skinner

by Ryan K. Smith, October 20, 2016

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BitMari

BitMari co-founder Sinclair Skinner describes its global potential during a lecture. Image: Tinashe Njagu

Entrepreneurs Sinclair Skinner and Christopher Mapondera want you to do one thing: decolonize your life.

The two say the African-American community and ultimately the global Pan-African diaspora should be the purveyor of its own finances, and they say they have the vehicle: a bitcoin-based financial solutions company, BitMari.

Using BitMari’s wallet, users can make transactions using funds in the form of bitcoins. All that’s needed is a smartphone or computer.

“We don’t control the means or the infrastructure of financing. We don’t control the banks,” Skinner told EBONY.com. “We don’t control the way money is moved. What bitcoin technology does, in a very strong way, is it allows you–without having a bank account–to be able to store your money and act as your own bank.”

It works through an app: The sender conducts a money transfer charged in bitcoins and the recipient collects the funds at an outlet of his choice.

BitMari also provides a bitcoin wallet, where bitcoin exchanges can be accessed. The exchanges can convert funds and handle transactions. “Because credit card companies charge a flat fee, you couldn’t do a transaction for 20 cents, because it’s going to cost you 30 cents. To do that transaction with bitcoin could cost less than a penny, because it’s almost free.”

“We think technology is a better method of solving problems than politics and a lot of these other things that we’re trying,” said Skinner, who co-founded the company with Mapondera in 2015. “Uber solved the problem for Black men who are discriminated against when we’re trying to get a cab. We could protest, we could tell the taxi people that they’re bad people, but when they came out with Uber, the technology made it not even matter anymore. The taxicab people became obsolete and so did their racism.”

Skinner and Mapondera are graduates of Howard University, both with degrees in engineering. Skinner learned of bitcoin while doing business in Zimbabwe from the United States. He was faced with the costly, time-consuming challenge of sending money overseas. A solution was needed for the lack of control he was experiencing. The two drew from their technical backgrounds to conceive BitMari.

Skinner was an early supporter of bitcoins in the United States. After he formed the African American Super PAC, 1911 United Political Action Committee, it became the first to accept bitcoins for contributions.  Mapondera says he has worked on projects with him in Zimbabwe since 2007 from an ethanol project to a cotton project with China.

Skinner intends for BitMari to be a catalyst for financial empowerment in the global Black community. Being familiar with how conditions are in the global Pan-African community, Skinner saw a common lack of development. The company has expanded to eight other African nations, as well as the U.S., Japan, Canada, Switzerland, the Dominican Republic and China. So far, the company has grown to 600 beta phase users in 10 countries

“Our goal with BitMari is not to just ease the pain of financial dependence and economic uncertainty,” said Mapondera. “We wish to bring an end to that pain by offering more monetary control to the people.”

The work in Africa has already begun, especially in Zimbabwe. There, BitMari is helping the nation adapt to its economic crisis. Due to hyperinflation, Zimbabwe ditched its dollar in 2009 and now uses a “multi-currency regime,” which includes U.S. dollars, rands and yuan. It is hard for people in the diaspora to set up bank accounts and send money back home because of high conversion rates. BitMari has stepped in to help with those remittance payments (which account for billions of dollars annually, worldwide).

Financial news program host Max Keiser has actually praised BitMari on his RT.com web show, “The Keiser Report.” He said a money remittance service like this can actually help developing nations push back against financial disadvantages they are frequently left in by global central banks.

“Africa’s no stranger to this, obviously. It’s been the victim of gross colonization and resource exploitation for centuries, and it continues to this day. But if you can have your own crypto resource, bitcoin is essentially digital gold. You can do battle with the forces of colonization,” Keiser said on his show earlier this month while speaking with Skinner.

The company has also started a crowdfunding campaign called the Zimbabwe Women Farmers Accelerator. The project aims to raise funds for 100 women farmers there with BitMari Wallets, so that they can access the resources/tools needed for success.

“We’re going to take women farmers through a close-to yearlong project to help them develop their skills and use technology to improve the quality of their crops and the capacity of their farming,” Skinner said. “We’re using bitcoin technology to help with the transactions.”

To Skinner, BitMari offers many opportunities for the Black community and people need to hop on it now, before it’s too late.

“We’re the most innovative and creative people out there. There are so many opportunities. This technology has only been around for about seven years. It’s still very, very early in the game. If you look at the Internet after its first seven years, people still didn’t even know what it was. We want to get as many of our people as possible with their brilliant, creative ideas and come up with solutions for how this could be used for the good of the community,” Skinner said.

To find out more, visit BitMari.com.

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