The SMS service allows you to send BTC by text

An innovation using the mobile network (GSM) could connect millions of Bitcoin (BTC) users previously unreachable by the Internet-dependent Bitcoin protocol. The new SMS-based service, founded by South African developer Kgothatso Ngako, is called Machankura, the South African slang word for money.

KG, as he is known to his friends, spoke to Cointelegraph from Pretoria, South Africa about his fascination with Bitcoin and his hope that Bitcoin will bring BTC to millions of Africans via text.

When English-speaking KG first learned about Bitcoin, he religiously streamed audiobooks and podcasts on his way to work. As he fell down the Bitcoin rabbit hole, his 20-minute commute turned into a two-hour trip to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in South Africa, where he works as a software developer.

Bitcoin Mtaani founder Master Quantai told Cointelegraph in a separate interview: “The number of mobile phones in Africa is twice the number of people.” However, the penetration of internet-connected smartphones remains low.

In Guantai’s home country of Kenya, he explains, top-up with airtime is as common as credit card payments in the West. Caribou’s report supports this statement: 94% of financial transactions in Africa are made via USSD, the protocol used to send text messages, while only 6% of these transactions are made via mobile apps. –

Altogether, although there are millions of phones in Africa, they are mostly used for messaging. KG has come across something that could be huge for Bitcoin adoption in Africa.

“A lot of the talk in the space this year has been around USSD or making Bitcoin available on feature phones – that might be a part-time project – let me build it. And that’s basically how Machankura was born!”

KG started by setting up Exonumia, an African translation project. Now teaching Bitcoin in dozens of languages, he explained to Cointelegraph that if we make Bitcoin more accessible to Africans, eventually they will learn about money and find a way to improve their quality of life.

After gathering steam, Exonumia asked, “What other barriers are there to Bitcoin adoption? Language is one thing, the other is access to the Internet.” He concludes that the internet in Africa is dominated by big apps like Instagram and Facebook. Issues specific to smartphone users are space availability, internet connectivity, and price.

KG shares screenshots of Machankura in action.

KG coded Manchakura to solve these problems and explained: “The main focus is to spend and receive Bitcoin.” KG explains how it works: Users dial a number and are then presented with a menu where they can learn more about Bitcoin or register an account. “All you need to register an account is a 5-digit pin and after that you are presented with a different menu: Send and receive Bitcoin.”

Here is Paco, the Bitcoin traveler who never stops teaching people about Bitcoin around the world, demonstrating Machankura to a teacher in Nigeria at the request of Cointelegraph.

As a result, Lightning wallet-compatible apps on phones or computers can send Bitcoin to a phone number via the Lightning Network—effectively a Lightning address. Machankura has integrated with Bitrefill, an increasingly popular prepaid gift card service for Bitcoin in Africa. What’s more, from Wednesday, South Africans will be able to top up Lighting Wallets with credit from grocery stores in partnership with voucher provider One for You.

As Ngako summarizes, “a person without internet access can have bitcoin from someone who doesn’t have Bitcoin, and then spend Bitcoin.”

Related: Bitcoin is in the billions: Fedimint on scaling BTC in the global south

Master Guantai also shares that he is doing well in six African countries. Moreover, the popular exchange Paxful has already shown interest, Guantai explains, because it is not easy for people to be able to access the plane using GSM.

KG notes potential concerns with the innovation, such as government banning or reacting negatively to Bitcoin. Commission fees for check purchases can put people off, and KG understands that when a centralized company offers to get people into Bitcoin, there is a risk of not taking the time to learn the technology.

Plus, the service is custodial, a point that works against Bitcoin’s ethos of “not your keys, not your coins.” So he is looking for a way to use SIM cards as private keys.