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Providing refugees and migrants access to financial services via a mobile (non-smartphone) wallet

Leaf is a company focused on helping refugees and migrants access financial services around the world. Leaf developed a blockchain-based digital wallet that provides cross-border digital financial services on a mobile device—no smartphone required. Leaf fully launched the smartphone app and non-smartphone wallet this September on the Google Play Store, Apple Store, and USSD in Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda.

Leaf has 1,236 users who have successfully completed 5,600 transactions worth $32,595 USD and generated $170 in revenue. Over half of our customer base registered with a refugee ID. We estimate many more customers identify as refugees. Our services will soon be available in Tanzania and DR Congo.

The Leaf team applied for the Celo Camp to build a lending application to complement our existing mobile wallet for refugees we previously built on Stellar. The lending application facilitates customer verification/authentication with Leaf’s database and then creates Celo accounts on behalf of users. Customers will soon be able to access the lending platform via their existing Leaf username and PIN. Users initiate actions from the front-end, and Leaf will facilitate reading/writing to Celo on the user’s behalf. Leaf is leveraging existing Celo exchanges where possible and investigate the possibility of providing stablecoin exchange services through integrating with its Stellar-based wallet in the future. Leaf users can then receive and pay off loans initially in cUSD, the Celo tokenized version of US Dollars.

We were initially interested in participating in Celo Camp to explore Celo’s smart contracts and getting to know the Celo community. We achieved both goals and were honored when the Celo Camp team invited us to pitch. Leaf’s CTO and Co-Founder, Tori Samples, is the team's hero that made all of this happen. Tori has a background in technology and fifteen years of personal experience working with refugees.

As a Data Architect at HCA Healthcare—the leading for-profit provider of healthcare in the US—Tori designed and developed on some of the largest datasets in the world for six years. Tori leads all the development of Leaf's Stellar wallet. She designed our unique USSD front-end design to help refugees and migrants without smartphones access Leaf’s cross border financial services.

Leaf’s technical team worked hard during the Camp to develop the lending app but hit many bumps along the way. After weeks of effort, coupled with hire setbacks, we struggled to get a working demo ready in time for the pitch. In the final two days before the demo day and pitch, Tori did not sleep. She dug into what we built, fixed bugs, reworked the front end, and connected the back end to Celo to allow our current Leaf wallet to verify customers' loans. Tori emerged, exhausted from the long hours, but got a working demo running. Just in time for the demo and pitch.

Leaf now has a fantastic lending platform on Celo. The lending app will help thousands of refugees in our markets access desperately needed affordable credit to invest in businesses and their lives. We were so excited to be part of the Celo Camp and selected for the Design for All Tenet Award.

To learn more about Leaf, visit

Author: Nat Robinson - Leaf Global Fintech, co-founder

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