SA’s Bankymoon launches bitcoin crowdfunding platform for African schools

Money Transfer

South African startup Bankymoon has launched a crowdfunding platform that allows public schools in Africa to use blockchain technology to gain electricity credits.

Disrupt Africa reported in May on Bankymoon, a bitcoin integration startup that primarily focuses on providing bitcoin payment gateways to smart metering vendors, allowing the vendors to accept bitcoin payments for utilities.

The startup has now extended this idea, applying blockchain tech to create a crowdfunding platform named Usizo for schools in Africa. Schools are supplied with a Bankymoon meter with an assigned bitcoin address, to which donors are able to send funds that are immediately converted into electricity or water credits.

Donors are able to view information about students, teachers, infrastructure, focus and estimates of utility usage at certain schools, and make decisions as to who to donate bitcoin to.

Bankymoon founder and chief executive officer (CEO) Lorien Gamaroff told Disrupt Africa public schools in South Africa were allocated budgets which do not cover all of their running costs.

“To make up for the shortfall they must engage in independent fundraising efforts. If they cannot raise enough money to balance their books they either default on their utility payments or limit spending for school amenities. Amenities might include textbooks, equipment, maintenance and upgrades,” he said.

“This can have a large negative impact on the quality of education received by the students. I recently visited a school which teaches students practical skills like engine mechanics and architecture. Their utility bill is far in excess of what they can manage and so have not been able to purchase equipment. Their work rooms had boards which were meant to hold tools but which had none. This example is one of many I have encountered.”

Usizo, which means “help” in Zulu, is designed to allow people from around the world to view needy schools in Africa and donate using bitcoin or any of the other major cryptocurrencies that the site will support. This will be directly linked to the meter using Bankymoon’s blockchain metering technology.

“When they make a payment it will be translated into an energy or water amount, depending on the meter, and directly loaded onto the meter,” Gamaroff said.

“Because of the nature of Blockchain transactions the donation will be completely transparent. Donors will be able to see exactly where the money is being used.”

He said the platfom would allow schools to meet their funding requirements and afford basic amenities, greatly enhancing their effectiveness and improving the quality of education received by children.

“This is truly a revolutionary concept with regards to foreign aid. Never before has it been possible for donors to directly make payments to the causes they believe in without needing to trust an organisation to act as middlemen. Organisations which must take a large percentage of the funds to pay for their administration and other costs,” Gamaroff said.

This is the latest example of bitcoin being used for crowdfunding purposes in South Africa, with Disrupt Africa reporting in July Cape Town-based social impact incubator RLabs had launched mToto, which allows users to donate to projects focused on the early childhood development (ECD) and education sectors using cryptocurrencies.

The initiative is the result of a partnership with Uusi, and aims to develop new tools and innovative models to address challenges in the ECD and education spaces, with a specific focus on providing tools and support to underserved educare centres in marginalised and under-resourced communities in South Africa.

The crowdfunding platform will allow users to donate bitcoin to a number of projects listed on site, with RLabs founder Marlon Parker telling Disrupt Africa the organisation was looking to help activate ECD projects on the continent by tapping into the power of the blockchain community.
Source: Disrupt Africa 30 September 2015