BitPesa, a Kenya-based bitcoin remittance service, has raised $1.1 million to develop its services and expand in Africa.

A new funding round, featuring a number of venture capitalists and led by Pantera Capital, has provided $1.1 million to BitPesa, bringing the total amount of money raised by the company to $1.7 million. It gave Elizabeth Rossiello, the founder and CEO of BitPesa, occasion to summarize the company’s achievements since its launch in November 2013.

BitPesa (“pesa” means “money” in Swahili) sells bitcoins in Kenya and Ghana, and, more importantly, runs a remittance service enabling to money transfers to Kenya. In 2013, the Kenyan diaspora reportedly send back home $1.3 billion, often paying large fees to companies such as Western Union or MoneyGram. BitPesa charges a fee of just 3%, changes bitcoins into Kenyan shillings, and delivers the money immediately to  Kenyan mobile phone accounts. In a country where keeping a banking account might be too expensive for some, the ability to receive money without banks is important. And it is easy to work with Kenyans because they are accustomed to paying for everything with mobile phone accounts provided by the local company M-Pesa.

However, the company has faced more problems in developed countries. Rossiello calls the UK “a problematic market” for bitcoin because British bitcoin businesses have had much trouble securing bank accounts.

Elizabeth Rossiello arrived in Kenya in 2009 from the US to work with microfinance projects and quickly saw the opportunity of using cryptocurrencies to help solve one of the most important problems many Kenyans face. However, she does not see bitcoin as a panacea to all evils:

“We’re not alleviating poverty. We’re stabilizing incomes and helping small and midsize businesses and families grow.”

The money received from investors will be used to expand the BitPesa team, currently consisting of nine employees, and to extend its services to the neighbouring countries of Tanzania and Uganda.

BitPesa is going to take part in the first African bitcoin conference in April 2015.