On Tuesday, November 24, 2015, Uhuru Kenyatta, the president of the Republic of Kenya, reshuffled his cabinet, dropping five cabinet secretaries and replacing them with new faces to give his government new impetus. Among the nominees is Joe Mucheru, who is a board member at Bitpesa, a Bitcoin exchange that leverages on mobile money services such as Mpesa.
Nomination Amidst Legal Storm
If the nomination is approved by the national assembly, Joe Mucheru will become the Cabinet Secretary for ICT and, therefore, guide and implement policy on the sector in the East African country. Currently, he is also the Google “Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) ambassador” and Country Manager Kenya.
Before joining Google, Mucheru was the Co-Founder of Wananchi Online, which is one of the first internet and TV service providers in Kenya.
“It is great to have someone who understands Bitcoin and the Blockchain at such a position in government.” – Michael Kimani, Bitcoin enthusiast
His nomination to the Cabinet came at the time when Bitpesa’s use of Mpesa to exchange bitcoins for Kenyan shillings and vice versa had been discontinued. Safaricom, the company behind the mobile money service, asked Lipisha, a mobile money payment processor, to drop the Bitpesa from its clientele because, in its opinion, Bitcoin is illegal in Kenya.
Lipisha and Bitpesa have gone to court. On Tuesday 24th November, the same day Mucheru was nominated, the judge listened to both sides of the argument and promised to deliver a ruling on the 14th of December 2015 as to whether Safaricom’s actions justified.
Mucheru’s Nomination Brings Optimism
Many Kenyans have applauded Mucheru’s nomination. They believe that his experience in the ICT sector makes him the best choice for the post.
While it is still too early to see how this appointment will affect Bitcoin in Kenya, most members of the local Bitcoin community have expressed optimism. “This is very good for Bitcoin policy level,” said Michael Kimani, a Bitcoin enthusiast and trader. “It is great to have someone who understands Bitcoin and the Blockchain at such a position in government.”
Meanwhile, Elizabeth Rossiello, the Founder and CEO Bitpesa, where Mucheru is a board member, told Bitcoin.com that she was excited to see him nominated. “Like many other Kenyan start-up tech founders, I am so happy to see one of our own being recognized as the leader and champion he is,” she said, adding:
“I am truly excited for the progress I know he will bring, making Kenya continue to lead the way on innovation.”
Is this a positive sign from the Kenyan government? Do you think Mucheru’s nomination will help boost Bitcoin use in Kenya? Let us know in the comments below!