BTEX is an online barter network that takes the ancient tradition of trading goods and services for other goods and services and makes it efficient, equitable and modern.
The software was developed in the United States, and a Zimbabwean iteration was launched in Harare in April this year by founder Brian Boyd.
“There are an average of ten formal barter networks running in American cities, and it is a concept which I knew would work well here. In particular businesses with excess inventory or idle man-hours can generate value from what would otherwise be a missed opportunity,” says Boyd.
Boyd says that the network is suitable for all kinds of businesses. “Airlines with empty seats, restaurants with space for more customers, electricians that are not fully occupied, media companies with vacant advertising space… there is no end to who this network can benefit. In Zimbabwe especially there are a lot of small businesses or self-employed people who will realise a good return and great exposure by participating in the BTEX system.”
It is a fairly simple process to get on board, with sign up and sourcing of services being done completely online. After an account is set up, a new member can gain credits by providing a service to another member. After that, they can spend their credits with any member business they choose.
“Previously, bartering was made difficult because so often one party would feel underpaid for what they had traded. But although not an actual currency, the BTEX units are tied at 1:1 with the US dollar. As such, in any transaction, only the exact value of the goods or services used is deducted.”
So what’s in it for Boyd? “As the Zimbabwean branch of BTEX, we take a 5% cash payment from the party that initiates a trade on the system. This is to cover our IT costs, ZIMRA payments, and office costs. We can’t escape paying these costs in currency.”
Harare News is a member of the network, and earlier this year received advertising bookings from the exchange. It was very easy thereafter to order branding for our vehicle, as well as promotional banners for our outreach and marketing campaigns. But efforts to get a locksmith to assist with a broken door at the office were futile.
“Zimbabweans are very fixated on cash right now, and it has been tricky convincing them that this is just as good as cash, but I think we will get there,” says Brian.
A network such as BTEX would be extremely useful during times of high inflation or cash shortages. With the prospect of bond notes looming, BTEX might prove a highly valuable means for companies to save money and keep busy should Zimbabwe enter a second round of hyperinflation.
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Image: Brian Boyd, founder of BTEX.