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Discovering Celo and Kotani Pay: Engineering an inclusive and open financial system

Updated: Dec 31, 2020

It is estimated that of the 770 Million people in Africa with a mobile device, 440 million people do not have an internet-enabled device. Furthermore, 1.7 billion adults globally are unbanked. Of this number, the majority tend to be young, female, from poorer households, and unemployed. While blockchain technology has created solutions for the unbanked, current blockchain technologies are built with the smartphone user in mind, locking out millions of people who do not have mobile phones that can access the internet. Kotani Pay is improving the financial and living standards of this demographic.

The following story is about the potential of what an app like Kotani Pay can do. Akinyi is the archetype of a woman who can benefit from Kotani Pay. Who is this woman?

Akinyi is a 24 year old self-employed vegetable vendor and a mother of three. She was unable to complete her high school education due to financial constraints. She has been successful at growing a business that provides for her and her family. Akinyi’s husband, Dennis, is a casual laborer with an unsteady stream of income. Akinyi and her husband live in an informal settlement in the city of Nairobi and have to meet regular financial demands. They have to pay for their one-roomed house, feed their three children, and send money to her parents in the village from their small earnings. This year, her first born son joined primary school. Akinyi is distressed that she cannot access lending facilities to supplement her earnings and educate her son.

Fortunately, Akinyi learned about Kotani Pay which provides an on-ramp and off-ramp to the Celo network, and leverages the network to provide loaning facilities to the unbanked and underbanked populations. Through Kotani Pay, Akinyi can meet her basic needs, can pursue her own path, and help support her community.

Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) is the primary mode of mobile interface for a majority of the population in developing countries. Celo maintains a secure decentralized mapping of phone numbers that allows wallet users to send and receive payments with their existing contacts easily and with confidence that the payment will reach the intended recipient. Kotani Pay utilizes this system to allow Akinyi and others like her to send and receive funds and receive loans on the Celo network via a feature phone. Akinyi does not have to know the details behind all this. All she has to do is key in her name and other necessary details and submit.

Kotani Pay also allows Akinyi to save her business proceeds. All she does is deposit funds on Kotani Pay in Kenya shillings. These funds are converted to Celo dollars and acts as a hedge against fluctuations in her local currency, storing the value of her wealth for when she next needs it. No charges are placed on her savings and withdrawals. Akinyi may withdraw at her convenience.

Lastly, Akinyi is able to build a digital identity and reputation tied to her transactions. Through a model that allows for 3-tiered KYC (Know Your Customer), Akinyi can be registered without a handful of identification documents. With her micro-credit history, Akinyi can take loans from Kotani Pay and other potential partner platforms. Akinyi’s personal information is protected but her transactions give her access to a suitable loan tranche. Akinyi can now take loans to build her business and support her family.

Kotani Pay believes, just like the rest of the Celo community, that it is possible to engineer an inclusive and open financial system that addresses the needs and values of local communities. Money can be beautiful.

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Author: The Kotani Pay team

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