While most crypto businesses keep out of Cuba due to regulatory uncertainties and hefty American sanctions, Italian-Cuban entrepreneur Mario Mazzola developed and deployed Cuba’s first peer-to-peer Bitcoin (BTC) exchange.

Blockchain and cryptocurrency news outlet Decrypt reported on April 23 that Mazzola launched the “ultra-lightweight” Bitcoin exchange earlier this month.

Taking the lead

A Reuters report published in September 2019 quoted a 35-year-old Cuban mobile shop owner, Jason Sanchez, saying that virtual currencies were “opening new doors” for ordinary citizens.

While there is interest in using virtual currencies and an opportunity to circumvent U.S. sanctions, Cubans face difficulty using cryptos as most exchanges have geo-blocked them from accessing their services.

Mazzola defines Bitcoin as a necessity for Cubans, but with most services blocking users, they fail to reap the benefits. In such a situation, he adds, Qbita will serve as their tool to buy, sell, use and store Bitcoins easily and safely.

Before launching the Qbita exchange this month, he had already launched the Qbita Bitcoin wallet in November 2019. The wallet is specifically designed keeping in mind the slow internet services in Cuba, which is why it is just 1MB in size and can function with a basic internet connection.

Other crypto exchanges in Cuba don’t help much

There are other cryptocurrency exchange and wallet services in Cuba like Paxful and LocalBitcoins but Mazzola said that each of them has “a little problem.”

“Paxful is actively blocking Cuba, LocalBitcoins is asking you for KYC, and because of the embargo, this legal requirement is not helping the people of the island, so it is not available in our country.”

Since the launch of the Qbita exchange, the number of registered downloads have shot to 1,100 from 850, marking a 30% increase in just a week.

While the numbers aren’t huge, Mazzola is optimistic that Cubans would soon see the potential of Bitcoin in national and international transactions.

“We’re going to see more people using Bitcoin for its true purpose: the freedom to move money and to have total control of your funds.”