Africa Tech Rising

Inside the world of a Kenyan cryptocurrency miner

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Kenyan developer mines cryptocurrencies from his front room
01:33 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

Mutai says he makes $800 a month

Leading finance experts warn Bitcoin is a "fraud"

CNN  — 

Eugene Mutai is well aware of the risks of mining virtual money. “Sometimes I ask myself: will the bubble pop?”

He’s right to be – cryptocurrencies are volatile. That hasn’t stopped him from operating in this shadowy and controversial corner of the global financial system.

A few years ago Mutai was working odd jobs on farms in rural Kenya. Now he’s a cryptocurrency miner in Nairobi. His apartment – where he mines – is dimly lit blue and drowned with the low drone of a self-made cryptocurrency computer rig.

Mutai began researching cryptocurrencies last year. “I was curious about what was making these alternative coins drive.”

“Bitcoin was hard to mine by that point in time,” Mutai tells CNN. There were already many Bitcoin miners. Instead, Mutai started mining Ethereum, a similar but less well known cryptocurrency.

For Mutai, internet-based currencies are revolutionary. They open up a world of finance that might not have been accessible for a self-taught tech-obsessed kid from Kenya with no college degree.

It’s also a nefarious world of online hucksters and frauds. And that’s the chance Mutai takes. Is the gamble worth it?

What does it mean to mine cryptocurrencies?

Essentially, a cryptocurrency is an encrypted digital coin. Transactions made with these digital coins are added to a growing database known as a blockchain – and that’s where the miners come in.

“The way I understand what mining cryptocurrencies is, is that it’s basically supporting the network and helping the verification and adding of transactions to the whole blockchain database,” Mutai says.

Put simply, instead of companies like VISA and Mastercard securing transactions miners do.

How then does Mutai make money?

“There’s something known as a Hashrate, which is basically how fast can you verify transactions, and eventually help the transactions to be added to the block.

“The more powerful your computer, the more transactions you can verify, the more money you ca