Works using USSD so no smartphone or mobile data / wi-fi needed.

Once set up, the user can receive via Lightning address, like:

⚡[phonenumber]@8333.mobi

And then using the USSD commands, they can send to any other number that has signed up, or can Send to any Lightning address.

But this service does not yet have Spend (LN invoice) withdraw implemented yet.

Serves six countries (in Africa) with a total population topping 400M people.

  • Ghana
  • Kenya
  • Malawi
  • Nigeria
  • South Africa
  • Uganda

There is a post, here on SN, with some info on USSD:

What is USSD (Unstructured Supplementary Service Data)? https://stacker.news/items/40458 https://www.techtarget.com/searchnetworking/definition/USSD

There are charges for using USSD service. These charges will vary country-to-country, or these charges can even vary between mobile network providers, and subscriber plans (i.e., pre-paid versus post-paid). In Kenya, for example, a pre-paid subscriber will pay KSh 1 (about $0.01) per USSD command on Safaricom, the largest mobile network provider in the country.

120 sats \ 0 replies \ @kobie 4 Jul

I can't believe the MNOs charge for USSD. What a ripoff. Boo

120 sats \ 1 replies \ @nice 6 Jul

That is actually cool. Though being custodial does take away some of its shine though. Would it be possible for this system to work for a non-custodial LN wallet?

If I had to guess, probably not for feature phones.

Since every user has a Lightning address (their [phone number]@8333.mobi and optionally, [username]@8333.mobi, thus anyone can send from to a Machankura user, including from non-custodial LN wallets.

For receiving, for a non-custodial wallet, I suppose the service could add a way you could provide an LNURL-Pay so then any payments received at your [phone number]@8333.mobi just get forwarded (sent again) to your own node. There's custody by 8333.mobi, but for just a short moment till the payment is forwarded.

I don't think they've decided how best to accommodate this, but I did heat that topic discussed on the Twitter spaces for this.

There is another post, here on SN, with a guide:

How To Transfer Bitcoin Via USSD Code https://stacker.news/items/41321 https://thebitcoinmanual.com/articles/transfer-btc-ussd

242 sats \ 0 replies \ @iguano 3 Jul

this look fucking amazing, thanks for sharing!

i really like the development in Africa!

Looks good but could do with options to go back instead of having to redial every time.

Indeed, there are ways to improve the USSD menu as well as incorporating SMS into it too, and with RCS now you could even do QR codes via this service

Looks interesting

I'd like to hear more from people using it. & also if other countries will be available in the future

Its LN enabled, basically a wallet of satoshi with a USSD menu instead of an app, so is interoperable with all LN wallets, just reduces the barrier to entry and gives feature phone users a custodial LN wallet

The service is using Africa's Talking USSD short codes, (the "shared" channel, not a dedicated). So this means they could add support for another three countries, Rwanda, Tanzania and Zambia. Since there are usage and monthly charges for the service Machankura has likely chosen just the six largest markets (for bitcoin adoption) to have at launch.

5 sats \ 0 replies \ @pi 9 Jul

This is an amazing and promising project that I'm watching very closely...

Sounds awesome! The big question is what is the future of 3 million mobile money agents across Africa?

What is the planned launch date for buying services from the platform?

Here's a Twitter spaces discussion by Machankura:

Thank you to everyone that came through to the Space. If you didn't manage to make it feel free to listen to the recording.

https://twitter.com/Machankura8333/status/1543597495611260930

This discussion provided some additional information.

  • Operated by a South African, who spent under one month from ideation to launch.
  • The LN Nodes (Core Lightning) run on Raspberry Pi
  • Due to load shedding by the power utility, but on a schedule, an nginx reverse proxy is used to ensure traffic goes to a node that is expected to have power
  • The Machankura service charges a 1% fee on transfers (out ?) to cover USSD fees they pay, hopes to reduce that in the future.
  • USSD sessions have a 20 second timeout, so commands must be sent promptly. [I'm curious ... how could I type a Lightning Address on a feature phone in 20 seconds?]
  • Wanted to have support for an additional country (Zimbabwe) but the USSD service provider used, Africa's Talking, does not have USSD support in Zimbabwe.
  • Work had already been underway by a separate group on an open source SMS based LN-enabled (?) bitcoin wallet (bittext). Machankura is supportive of that as well, since it will provide coverage where USSD may not be either available or allowed.
  • As a custodial wallet, there may be VASP (virtual asset service provider) regulations in certain countries (e.g., Namibia).
  • Researching innovations (e.g., Blockstreams's GreenLight) to make non-custodial work as well.
  • There was discussion about running LN nodes -- I wasn't paying close attention. Not sure if they were asking about opening a channel to provide liquidity, or what.
  • Support for forgotten PIN does not yet exist, will cause user to lose any balance. Not sure yet if that will be added.
  • When a user loses SIM, they can get a replacement (provisioned with same mobile number) and as long as they know the PIN they don't lose anything.
  • If lost SIM and cannot replace (e.g., for reasons), user loses any balance.
  • No insurance on BTC balance. [Something to the effect of best effort to protect funds or something to that effect, I'm not sure what was said.]
  • Only similar is in Venezuela.