As Bitcoin adoption increases around the world, Kenyans are seeing the benefits of using Bitcoin to expand their business and services in a safe and secure way, as well as protecting their savings by exchanging Kenya Shillings.
In Kenya, you are legally allowed to buy and sell, exchange, hold and store cryptocurrencies; however, the laws can sometimes be confusing or even contradictory.
If you are new to buying Bitcoin in Kenya, we outline several recommendations that we suggest you follow. To make it easier for you, we’ve also detailed an Easy to Read Step by Step Guide on How-to Buy Bitcoin in Kenya.
For the experienced Kenyan Bitcoin trader, although we cover a lot of the basics, there are other helpful tips and tricks in this article.
Table of Contents
Choose a Bitcoin Wallet
Before getting started with How to Buy Bitcoin, you need to consider a wallet.
When buying Bitcoin, you will be asked to swap your Kenyan Shillings for Bitcoin (in theory you could swap anything for Bitcoin, but let’s stick to Kenyan Shillings). How you choose to settle the swap is up to you and the seller of Bitcoin. You can give them cash, perform a bank transfer, mobile transfer, or airtime. In order to receive Bitcoin in return, the seller will ask you for your Bitcoin address – a long hexadecimal string that lets Seller deposit Bitcoin to your “digital wallet”.
Just like when you have cash in a physical wallet, you need to have a digital wallet for your digital currencies. Digital wallets are also known as blockchain wallets, or more specifically, Bitcoin wallets.
There is one key difference between a digital wallet and a physical wallet though. While a physical wallet holds and carries the physical cash, a digital wallet stores the key (password) to unlock your Bitcoin. Often users mistake a digital wallet for carrying the digital currency. This is NOT true. The digital wallet is actually a repository of keys, and you use the keys to then transact with other users of Bitcoin.
There are various ways that you can maintain the keys. These include:
Paper Wallet– yes, you can use the old school way of writing down your key on a piece of paper. This is a fantastic way of storing your Bitcoin key because no one is able to steal it via the internet! Of course, keeping record of your key via a piece of paper can be inconvenient. When you wish to exchange the Bitcoin or transfer it to another person, you will need to provide the key online. To do this, you will need to manually enter the key. Inconvenient, but this is by far the safest way of safe-guarding your key from online hackers.
Digital Wallet Apps – there are many Android and Apple applications that can be downloaded to your phone or PC, which will hold the keys for you. These apps are a very convenient way of storing your Bitcoin keys because they can be used seamlessly after you have bought your Bitcoin. The keys to your Bitcoin can be easily recorded on the App, and then when you sell or transfer the Bitcoin, they can be accessed promptly and quickly. The danger of using a digital wallet app is that it is connected to the internet. If proper precautions are not in place, online hackers can steal the keys and use your Bitcoin.
USB Stick/Hard Drive – you may have heard of the term “Hot” or “Cold” wallets. A hot wallet is a digital wallet that is connected to the internet and is therefore easily accessible online. A cold wallet is not connected to the internet. For example, if you switch on your laptop and DO NOT connect it to the internet. But you transfer files to it via your blue tooth; then your laptop is cold. It is not connected to the internet.
If you use a USB stick and transfer files to it that contains your Bitcoin keys, and then remove your USB from your drive, then it is a cold wallet.
Exchange Wallet – Many exchanges, platforms where buyers are connected with Bitcoin sellers, will also have their own digital wallets that users can use. This is the most convenient wallet to use, especially if you are a user of the exchange. Your exchange wallet will connect directly to the platform, and when you buy and sell, your keys can be released or obtained with a few clicks. The dangers of using an exchange wallet are that some are not safe. They could be insecure, and if you use large exchange online hackers normally them because they know they hold a lot of Bitcoin keys, i.e. it’s like robbing a big bank. Having said that, the larger the exchange is, the more developed is their cyber security for their users.
How to Buy Bitcoin
Once you have chosen a Bitcoin Wallet, you can then move forward with deciding how to buy Bitcoin. There are various ways to Buy Bitcoin in Kenya; the most popular is using an online peer to peer marketplace, called an exchange. This is where you can exchange your Kenyan Shilling (KES) for Bitcoin. A peer to peer exchange connects buyers with Bitcoin sellers. It’s like eBay, but for cryptocurrencies.
There are, in fact, other types of exchanges that are not peer to peer (which we will explain later). But for the moment, we will stick to the peer to peer exchange.
What To Lookout For When Choosing An Exchange In Kenya
There are many exchanges to choose from, and therefore consideration should be given to the below features:
Safety and Security – Consideration of safety and security is very important. There have been investors who lost their hard-earned money due to an exchange being hacked. Mt Gox was a highly used exchange that was established and founded in Japan. They failed to provide security for their users and therefore were attacked by hackers, suffering significant losses/theft of Bitcoins. The theft amounted to 2,000 Bitcoins.
Kenyan Shillings – If you are new to buying bitcoin and cryptocurrencies, then we are assuming that you will need to exchange Kenyan Shillings for Bitcoin. If so, you will need to use an exchange that accepts Kenyan Shillings and will facilitate swapping Shillings for Bitcoin. How you deposit your Shillings to the exchange is important. Some exchanges charge a high fee for depositing Shillings, and sometimes the fee is different for each deposit method, for e.g., Credit Card vs. PayPal vs. direct bank transfer. Suppose you accidentally choose an exchange that does not accept Shillings, and you attempt to make a deposit. In that case, you may discover that the Shillings would automatically convert to USD at an abysmally poor exchange rate or, even worse, lost in transit.
Fee Structure – Every exchange charges its users differently, which is critical when choosing a cryptocurrency exchange. Some exchanges offer discounted fees. This occurs when an exchange native token is used to complete a transaction on their exchange. Also, it can relate to how many tokens are held. Others only charge a transaction fee on sales, permitting purchases free of fee.
User Interface and Experience – For the average cryptocurrency investor, one of the most important aspects is the user interface and functionalities. Whether you are an experienced cryptocurrency trader or buying bitcoin for the first time, an intuitive interface and good user experience aid user actions on the exchange to be more informed and more efficient. User experience is subjective and different people will enjoy different interfaces.
Track Record – The cryptocurrency space is still relatively new compared to the traditional financial markets, which are heavily regulated and monitored in most countries. So, sign up for a cryptocurrency exchange with a good history of being trustworthy.
How to Buy Bitcoin in Kenya [Step-by-Step Guide]
Once you have decided on an exchange to use, you will need to create an account, in which there are three key elements:
● Sign up for an account, submit proof of ID, and validate your account.
● Make your first deposit
● Transfer the keys to your digital wallet to store your bitcoin.
Our two favorite peer to peer exchanges are Localbitcoins.com and Binance.
For ease of explaining the steps, we will use Binance as an example. Binance is our top recommended exchange for Kenyans. Binance supports KES (Kenyan Shilling), which means there are no conversion fees when making a deposit or withdrawing your earnings.
LocalBitcoins.com is also a great alternative for Kenyans, only that they charge transaction fees that are more than Binance.
To register on Binance, visit Binance.com or downloading the Binance Desktop Client.
To buy Bitcoin with KES, you need to complete level 2 identity verification (Know Your Customer – KYC), which will increase account security and increase your daily withdrawal limits.
Then add at least one payment method. Binance P2P now supports over 60 payment methods, including M-PESA.
One of Binance P2P’s significant advantages is that you can trade wherever and whenever you need it because it is available on the Binance App.
Here is how to buy Bitcoin step by step on Binance P2P:
Buy Bitcoin with Kenyan shilling
Step 1: Specify the search criteria.
● Open the Binance App and select “P2P Trading.”
● Click the Buy tab and select BTC.
● Click the filter icon at the top right of your screen and select the Bank payment method and the KES currency to buy the crypto. Then, tap “Confirm.”
Step 2: Select the best offer.
● Now you’ll see a list of offers where you can pick the one that works best for you.
● Enter the amount of BTC you wish to purchase or the amount of KES you want to spend.
● Transfer the money directly to the seller based on the seller’s payment information provided within the payment time limit. You can use the chatbox to communicate with the seller.
● Make sure that you send the money to the seller and tap on “Transfer “next.
Step 3: Receive your Bitcoin.
● Tap on Confirm. Please do not click Confirm if you have not made any transactions. Doing that will violate the P2P User Transaction Policy.
● The status will change to “To be released.”
Congratulations! You have completed a trade, and get your Bitcoin!
Other Ways To Get Bitcoin In Keny
BitClub Network runs the only Bitcoin ATM in Kenya. The ATM supports Bitcoin and Litecoin withdrawals of up to 500 Kenyan Shillings and can be found at Westlands, Kenrail Towers, 3rd Floor, BitClub Offices. The ATM allows you to only buy cryptocurrencies as it is a fiat to cryptocurrency machine.
Buy Bitcoins Through LocalBitcoins
With LocalBitcoins, you can buy Bitcoins through M-PESA or bank.
Below is how to go about it:
- Visit the Local Bitcoin website and Create an account: https://localbitcoins.com/country/KE
- Create an account for free
- Select a seller that meets your limit. Some traders limit the selling of Bitcoins to Ksh. 1,000 others to Ksh. 20,000.
- Click on Buy. You will be directed to a page that shows the terms and conditions of the trader.
- Carefully read his/her terms and conditions (they are normally short)
- Enter the amount of Bitcoins you wish to buy in KES.
- Make Mpesa Payment
- Confirm payment, and you will receive the Bitcoins from the seller.
You can also get Bitcoin by mining it. If you successfully mine Bitcoin, you would get paid in Bitcoin. However, the cost of mining Bitcoin is rather on the high side.
Get Paid In Bitcoin
As a business person, you can request your customers to pay for your goods or services with Bitcoin. All you need is a digital wallet to receive the Bitcoin.
Kenya’s Legality and Regulations for Buying and Selling Bitcoin
The Kenyan government is neither receptive to Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies nor does it prohibit them. The Central Bank of Kenya (CBK), through its governor, in December 2015 issued the following statement to the public:
“The attention of the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) has been drawn to media reports on the use, holding, and trading of virtual currencies such as Bitcoin in Kenya.
Bitcoin is a form of unregulated digital currency that is not issued or guaranteed by any government or central bank.
Domestic and international money transfer services in Kenya are regulated by the Central Bank of Kenya Act and other legislation. In this regard, no entity is currently licensed to offer money remittance services and products in Kenya using virtual currency such as Bitcoin.
“This is to inform the public that virtual currencies such as Bitcoin are not legal tender in Kenya and therefore no protection exists in the event that the platform that exchanges or holds the virtual currency fails or goes out of business.”
In quick succession, the CBK issued another warning to banks and other financial institutions, cautioning them from dealing with virtual currencies or transact with institutions that engage or deal with virtual currencies.
On February 21, 2018, the Capital Market Authority (CMA) also issued a cautionary notice, warning investors to stay off Bitcoin and initial coin offerings (ICOs), indicating that the CMA has not approved any ICOs and that the offerings were unregulated and speculative investments with considerable risk exposure to the investor.
Today, cryptocurrencies are not regulated, nor are they backed by the government or the Central Bank of Kenya.
However, recent events in the country indicate that cryptocurrencies might be treated as securities and not as currencies.
Blockchain Association of Kenya
The Blockchain Association of Kenya (BAK) is a non profit organisation that is educating Kenyans on the opportunities and implications of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. The body has regularly organized seminars to educate Kenyans on what’s really going on with bitcoin.
The Blockchain Association of Kenya (BAK) disagrees with some of the Government policies that defines the treatment of Bitcoin, and works as a lobby group to influence progress change for the benefit of Kenyans.
BAK states “virtual currencies can greatly reduce the cost of transactions and enable people without bank accounts to quickly make and receive payments”.
According to BAK, there are many things Kenyans have realized they can use Bitcoin for – whether it is to pay merchants in China for goods, or to enable Nigerians to pay to send their children to school in Kenya or to enable young African freelancers to be easily paid for their work online.
Why can’t young people tap into this new economy and create jobs and wealth? Why should we not be part of this?
Part of the reason cryptocurrency penetration isn’t growing is that Kenya’s central bank has forbidden banks from dealing in virtual currencies. Banks are not allowed to open accounts for people who are known to deal in any virtual currency, which means that the population cannot easily convert Bitcoin payments into cash or mobile money.
Kenya Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Market Developments
Interest in virtual currencies is rising across the African continent, especially in Kenya, Africa’s Silicon Valley.
Despite warnings from Kenya’s central bank about the volatility of cryptocurrencies, some businesses in Nairobi are now accepting Bitcoin payments. The total number of Bitcoin transactions in Kenya is estimated to be worth over $1.5m, according to the Blockchain Association of Kenya (BAK)
Cryptocurrencies are virtual money that can be used to pay for things in the real world, such as a hotel room, food, or even a house. Digital tokens are held in online wallets and can be sent anonymously between users.
Currently, cryptocurrencies Bitcoin, Dash, and Lisk are used in Kenya for payment of goods and services.
Blockchain is also being implemented by start-ups and tech conglomerates in Kenya to help solve problems, such as IBM’s platform to help small businesses prove their creditworthiness for loans.