Meet Africa’s Blockchain Startups: ChamaPesa

ChamaPesa is a Kenyan blockchain start-up that focuses on helping chamas to significantly improve their bookkeeping systems. ChamaPesa was initially registered back in November 2012 after conceptualization as a self-help group. This self-help group ran for three years and was made up of members from Kibera and Karen, Nairobi. The original version of ChamaPesa was created by Ian Grigg and Ken Griffith who worked together with the Kenyan developers Lee Mungai and Julius Sekah.

Simone Bean and Marc later joined Grigg and Griffith. Marc, Grigg, and Simone are the founders of Solidus, one of the most popular Bermuda-based mobile payments and clearing platforms. Solidus comes after the development of ChamaPesa. Griffith stands as the business development lead of Solidus. In 2017, Michael Kimani, the chairman of Blockchain Association of Kenya, willingly joined ChamaPesa as the Kenya team leader.

Simone and Marc, who are natives of Bahamas and Bermuda, were highly pleased to join ChamaPesa because chamas are common on these islands. Note that the Bermuda version of a chama is called a “club hand”. In simple terms, a chama is an informal cooperative group that pools together in an efficient way savings and investments. It is generally organized and governed by the local community members – usually women. A chama acts as an informal bank in a local community.

The ChamaPesa App

Today, the ChamaPesa App allows you to create a profile and join or create a Chama. Note here that all Chama members have the options to open accounts in different contracts or other instruments. However, the first two accounts of a member are for shares and Kenya shilling. Hence, you can easily move money between accounts and use it for various purposes. In addition, the ChamaPesa App was skillfully engineered to ensure transparency within a chama. That is, all members can consult the treasurer’s account as well as information regarding spent money.

The ChamaPesa DApp

The ChamaPesa Distributed App (CDA) enables the effective distribution of chama information on an entire blockchain. Hence, if a chama member loses their phone, he/she can easily recover their information through a secret passphrase. In addition, this App fights against the centralization of information. That is, the chamas create a decentralized distributed Kenya Shilling.

The Future of ChamaPesa

As days go by, innovative features are being added to the ChamaPesa App. It is said that in times to come, a special type of contract will be added to the App to enable an automatic “merry-go-round” chama. This feature will allow all members to directly send money to the member who is supposed to receive it that month.

ChamaPesa has plans to create local versions of the Chama around the world. Michael Kimani, Chairman of Blockchain Association of Kenya in his own words, said: “It is important to understand that Solidus and the ChamaPesa team believe that the Kenyan formula for chamas is so significant and important that it should be shared with the rest of the world. So, yes ChamaPesa is a Kenyan app, made by Kenyans and for Kenyans. But we also want to make it usable for people in the rest of the world. We believe that Kenyans can help teach people in other countries how to use chamas and make them work successfully.”

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