Colombia’s first Bitcoin exchange, Colbitex, is now operating in testnet. The company launched in this beta form, using valueless currency, on June 3 and plan to go live officially in July after users have time to familiarize themselves with the platform, according to Diario Bitcoin.
Colbitex was founded by its director Roman Parra, an industrial production engineer, and Carlos Mesa, a computer systems engineer. Both have been working on bitcoin-related ventures for the past three years, and they plan to roll out similar markets in other locations in Latin America.
Once live, Colbitex will offer deposits and withdrawals of both bitcoin and Colombian pesos, as well as placing purchase orders for the currency, offline savings, and data on market behavior. Security is also paramount, and the company is finalizing an alarm system to ensure that money laundering and terrorist financing cannot take place on the exchange, per the executive’s interview with Diario Bitcoin.
Parra and Mesa not only want to turn Colbitex into Colombia’s biggest and best bitcoin exchange market. They hope it can become one of the largest platforms in all of Latin America.
“In one year, Colbitex will be the leading services platform exchange of virtual assets in Colombia,” states the company vision. “And in five years it will be positioned among the industry leaders in Latin America, based on transparency, resource optimization, strategic alliances, and knowledge of the market.”
The market for bitcoins in Colombia may be growing. In 2014, with his “Bitcoin Market Potential Index,” professor Garrick Hileman from the London School of Economics outlined which countries have the greatest potential to see bitcoin adoption. The study ranked Colombia 84th among the 178 countries analyzed. But this study, from August 2014, came right before the national peso began its sharp devaluation.
The plummet of the peso, on top of the nation’s rising inflation and growing number of mobile account subscribers, may also add to demand. Colombia ranked 114th for inflation in the study back when the rate was well within the government’s target range of 2%-4%. But inflation has now reached 8.2% — a 15-year high.
Colombia also went from 98 mobile subscribers per 100 people in 2011 to 113 per 100 in 2014, according to the latest World Bank figures. Other nations saw similar — or larger — jumps over that period, but Colombia’s increase put it on par with with the United States, Portugal, the Netherlands, and Belgium. Newer figures from Colombian telecom regulator, Comisión de Regulación de Comunicaciones, have reported 57.3 million mobile subscribers, which puts that rate even higher at 118 per 100.
None of this means that the bitcoin market will take off or thrive. But the conditions for adoption have become more favorable in recent years. And there will soon be an official exchange to serve those within a nation of nearly 50 million who are interested in trading the new currency.