Amid widespread international expansion from crypto companies, Canadian Bitcoin exchange Bull Bitcoin announced a commercial foray into Costa Rica this week. The company became the first Bitcoin enterprise to tap into SINPE Movil, the country’s primary payment provider, offering a Bitcoin on-and-off-ramp.
Aided by a Bitcoin circular economy project dubbed the Bitcoin Jungle, users will be able to buy and sell BTC with the country’s national currency (colón) through the project’s digital wallet. To swap colónes into BTC or vice versa, Costa Ricans and tourists can download the Bitcoin Jungle wallet, create a username, and select the SINPE Movil option.
SINPE Movil, the Spanish acronym for National System for Electronic Payments, is run and operated by the Costa Rican Central Bank and uses a similar model to the Kenyan M-Pesa. Users are allowed to send and receive money via mobile phone numbers, instantaneously.
According to local media outlets, more than 60% of the country uses the service, with the system transacting the equivalent of 17% of the country’s GDP at one point. The service is not a dedicated app, but instead operates as an interbank settlement service, much like Zelle in the United States or Interac in Canada.
“SINPE Movil integration is a game changer,” said Francis Pouliot, founder and CEO of Bull Bitcoin, “because everyone in Costa Rica uses it.”
He told Decrypt that “it’s simple and transactions are instant,” and described it as an “almost magical experience” due to the ability to send money “from anywhere in the world to a Costa Rican’s phone number within seconds, at very low cost.”
Bull Bitcoin is the first and only exchange in Costa Rica to allow Bitcoin <-> Colones conversion using the national fiat mobile payment system, allowing instant low-cost access for millions of Costa Ricans and an off-ramp for tourists and businesses 🇨🇷🐂https://t.co/pcdW3YdVyz
— FRANCIS ☣️ BULLBITCOIN.COM (@francispouliot_) September 12, 2023
According to Pouliot, a Canadian national who has lived in Costa Rica for three years, the country is “fairly banked” thanks to SINPE Movil.
For Lee Salminen, the founder of Bitcoin Jungle—Bull Bitcoin’s local partner—the partnership allows the company key insight into Latin America.
“Being on the ground in Costa Rica provides a unique opportunity to experiment in real-time,” he told Decrypt, “with ground-level insight into its impact and adoption.”
Bitcoin Jungle has been paving the way for a Bitcoin circular economy in what’s known as Costa Rica’s Golden Triangle. Comprising five communities—Dominical, Uvita, Ojochal, Platanillo, and Tinamaste—it aims to replicate what Bitcoin Beach has done in El Salvador.
Pouliot concluded that the integration into SINPE Movil “solves the biggest obstacle for Bitcoin adoption in Costa Rica—the absence of infrastructure that lets businesses and individuals move money from the Bitcoin network into the traditional financial system.”