Mento Labs Celo Kenya AMA.jpeg

Highlights of the Mento Labs and Celo Kenya AMA Session

November 13th, 2023Victoria Calmon

“Introducing Mento Labs to the Celo Kenya Community”

On November 9th, Celo Kenya hosted a Community Call and AMA session featuring Mento Labs. This article shares the highlights of the conversation.


Ronald: Hello and welcome to today’s AMA session to introduce Mento Labs to the Celo Kenya community. I’m your host, Ronald Nzioki, Core Contributor at Celo Africa DAO. We are pleased to welcome Jordan from Celo Kenya, and Roman, Co-Founder and Chief Research Officer at Mento Labs as our guests. We are excited about this insightful discussion today! Please share this session with your friends who may be curious about digital assets.

Disclaimer: Before we get started, we just want to take a moment and remind everyone that this AMA is for informational purposes only and is not financial advice. Celo Kenya and Mento Labs are not financial service providers, and nothing in this discussion constitutes a financial services offering, solicitation, promotion, invitation, inducement, or endorsement of any digital asset or otherwise.

We are excited to have these distinguished speakers with us today. We’ll start with Jordan, can you take a moment to introduce yourself?

Jordan: Thank you Ronald! My name is Jordan Muthemba, I’m a smart contract developer and an evangelist for blockchain in Africa especially on Celo in Kenya.

Ronald: Thank you Jordan! Now Roman, it’s your turn, can you kindly introduce yourself to the Celo Kenya community and share a little bit about your background? How did you get into the space and what excites you about Mento Labs?

Roman: Happy to do that. Thank you so much Ronald for having me here today. It’s always a pleasure to speak to the Celo community around the world. I have been a Celo Community member since early 2018 and am still driven by the same ideas as back then - I would like to make a positive impact on people's lives through Web3 technology. I believe that’s something many of us in the Celo community share. I personally have a background in academia. I have been conducting research in the areas of mathematical finance, statistics and economics, and I have been leading the platform economics team at cLabs for a few years. I am now one of the founders of Mento Labs where I am leading the innovation and research efforts.

Ronald: Great! Now let’s dive into today’s discussion. First of all, what inspired Mento Labs to specialize in stablecoin solutions within the Web3 ecosystem?

Roman: The Mento Labs’ team has always been mission-driven with the aim to deliver innovative financial solutions that enable the global adoption of digital assets, even before spinning off from cLabs in 2022. I think we all agree that saving value in stable currencies is one of the biggest use cases of blockchain technology. But stablecoins not only enable users around the world to better protect against local inflation, they also enable additional use cases like payments, remittances, microwork, lending and borrowing, and many people around currently do not have access to these use cases. Working on changing that feels really rewarding, and we are making progress with that. It’s amazing to see already that people all over the world, including Kenya, are now getting access to the Cello Dollar (cUSD), a Mento stablecoin tracking the value of the US Dollar. For those who may not know, the fully decentralized cUSD was launched through a Mento community governance proposal. But at the same time, we at Mento Labs believe that not only Dollar-based stablecoins, but also local digital currencies, like a digital Kenyan Shilling, are necessary to support the full range of financial use cases. Borrowing is for example preferably done in a currency of local denomination - because if you use the Dollar for that, the local borrower has to take the exchange rate risk until repayment of the loan. We are therefore always looking for partners who are interested in creating local digital currencies with technical support from the Mento platform to enable the full range of financial use cases all over the world.

Ronald: Being able to work on stablecoins that local communities have access to can really make a difference about financial inclusion and I’m glad you’re making progress on that front. Roman, can you tell us about some of the notable projects that Mento Labs has been involved in?

Roman: Sure, there are many. But I would like to highlight three that I am particularly excited about right now. The first one is called impactMarket which is providing microloans and universal basic income solutions in many countries around the world. It’s built on the Mento stablecoin Celo Dollar (cUSD). impactMarket is already making a real difference in the lives of many folks through UBI or microloans, and it's amazing to see Mento stablecoins being used in this way.

The second I would like to highlight is MiniPay, by Opera, the browser. MiniPay is a stablecoin wallet integrated into the Opera Mini browser, a recent addition to the projects building on top of Mento stablecoins. MiniPay is also built on top of the Celo Dollar (cUSD) and it allows users in Africa to save, send and receive Celo Dollars by identifying only via their mobile phone numbers. It’s a non-custodial crypto wallet but with the user experience that is so clean that it resembles a PayPal on Venmo.

And last but not least: Valora, the Celo native crypto wallet which features Mento stables and allows users to send, swap, collect and purchase digital goods on the Celo blockchain and on top of that allows users to interact with a wide range of DeFi protocols on Celo.

Ronald: It’s quite impressive to see Mento in the limelight. I’m curious, after working on stablecoins for a significant period in your career, what is your vision for the future of finance?

Roman: Mento Labs’ vision is to enable real-world adoption of digital assets by providing transparent and reliable technology to our partners around the world. With Mento as a platform, we would like to allow anyone to easily launch a stable asset that fits the needs of users in that specific region, community, or country. It is already great if we can achieve a state in which people around the world have access to the dominating fiat currencies, like the Dollar or the Euro, in a digital form. But if users want to pay local merchants, or take out a loan to start their own business, it’s important that local currencies are available. Therefore, our vision for the future of finance is that everyone around the world has access to a wide range of digital currencies and can select the ones that fit their needs best. I would love to see this happen over the next few years and we are supporting this as much as we can.

Ronald: Yes, if a farmer from Kenya can easily have access to credit through stablecoin solutions that would really make a positive impact. Jordan, how are Mento Labs and Celo Kenya collaborating to help support financial inclusion in this underserved region of Kenya and the rest of Africa?

Jordan: There are a lot of ways we are collaborating with ecosystem partners, for example, the availability of wallets on the Celo platform like Valora and MiniPay that are using Mento currencies. Celo Kenya and Mento Labs would like to be able to give everyone in Kenya and across Africa access to digital currencies that are stable, liquid, and easy to use. The Schilling is losing value, and we would like to be able to give people access to store value in stable currencies that are easy to use for savings and transactions. Together with Mento Labs, we are looking for local partners that would be interested in launching a Celo Shilling.

Roman: We really appreciate the support here. There are other projects we are working on, for example, Mento Labs recently collaborated with Africa-focused payments company Dunia, on the launch of the eXOF stablecoin - a stablecoin that tracks the value of the CFA Franc, a currency shared among 14 African states. We are excited about the opportunity to launch more such local stable currencies in Africa and it’s great to have Celo Kenya as a local partner in that endeavor.

At the same time we do have other partners that we are proud of like Ammer Cards. They provide non custodial credit cards for Mento stablecoins and have already integrated the eXOF stablecoin, just a few hours after the launch of eXOF! Folks can now pay with Mento stablecoins from a non custodial credit card and there is amazing technology behind this solution. We are really proud of what’s been happening in our ecosystem.

Ronald: That sounds really cool! I’d like to check it out. Jordan, back to you. There’s been a lot of good things going on, can you share some recent news with the community?

Jordan: We have some really great news and big news. My first browser was Opera Mini, and Opera has just launched a walled called MiniPay that’s using cUSD. We are pleased to announce the launch of Opera MiniPay wallet in Kenya. It’s a cool app to use, connect you with your phone number, and you don't have to memorize any wallet addresses. Also for builders in the space, there is an ongoing Celo hackathon for you to build on MiniPay or integrate MiniPay into your product.

Ronald: In the realm of Web3, what are some potential use cases for stablecoins that you find most exciting?

Roman: Remittances is still a killer user-case because traditional cross border payments are still incredibly expensive today. Sending money to Kenya, not only from Europe or the US, but also from other African countries, can take over 3 days and cost more than 10% in fees. Often the fees are not transparent but hidden in the exchange rate for example. The overall user experience usually is just not great. With wallets like Operas MiniPay, users can onboard in less than a minute on their mobile phone and send money to other users in their contact list within 5 seconds, finding them via their phone number. This allows for very easy and fast payments, and also for extremely cheap cross-border transactions.

Ronald: I remember sending my first stablecoin transaction across the world and it was so fast and I just couldn’t believe how easy it was. What about you Jordan, what potential use case is most exciting in this region?

Jordan: There are a lot of use cases that I’m seeing, especially in Africa. Mostly on cross border payments, and remittances. Some exciting things are being built in Celo Camps, around bill payment and the creative industry, that support use cases to help users receive payments and retain value of the work that they have done. As an add on to that, most people who work internationally are paid in Dollars, and they have an advantage over being paid in local currency. It is going to be cool to see this evolve, especially for creatives and international workers.

Ronald: On my side, I see use cases where we get to use stablecoins for the debt market, to expand the bandwidth of liquidity. I had a problem with DeFi, because the loans are over collateralized, and users need to deposit more to borrow, this is not practical for folks in Africa and Latin America who want to use stablecoins. Using liquidity pools to channel funds through stablecoins to a farmer or an SME operator in Africa can be truly life changing to ensure financial inclusion. Back to you Roman, what’s coming next for Mento Labs?

Roman: We are currently designing a new platform feature that we call the “Stablecoin Factory,” to provide technical support for the creation of a multitude of decentralized stablecoins designed for specific use cases by diverse operators. The Stablecoin Factory is basically a toolkit that allows deployment of new stablecoins with specified parameters swiftly and at scale, while ensuring that the products launched on the platform have a robust technological foundation. Through this, we hope to be able to support the launch of a digital Kenyan Shilling really soon. Be sure to join the Mento community on Discord and follow Mento Labs on social media to be the first to know when we have new announcements to share.

In addition, the Mento Labs team has been working hard to provide a better user experience when it comes to using Mento currencies. Users can for example now easily mint or redeem cUSD 1:1 against USDC without slippage, so that the Mento currencies benefit from the same liquidity in Africa as USDC. With the recent Squid Router integration, Mento currencies can also now be created from any asset on any chain in one simple transaction which is really great for on and off-ramping. We also have received feedback from the community that a Mento-focused governance token could make a lot of sense so we are actively investigating how this could look like right now.

Ronald: Thanks Roman! Jordan, you're a veteran in this space. What's coming next for Celo in the African context?

Jordan: Celo is moving to L2 and I see a huge potential for Celo and stable currencies in general. I’ve seen people recognize the need for stable currencies, and the demand for being paid in stable currencies is rising considering there is a lot of inflation in different countries. There is a need for blockchain technology and for the potential for blockchain to be realized, Africa will be part of it in a very big way.

Ronald: Thank you Jordan and Roman for taking the time to join us today! This was an informative and fun discussion. We look forward to the next AMA session and to meet with the Mento and Celo Kenya communities at upcoming events.

To stay up to date on everything that’s happening in the Mento community, please don’t forget to follow Mento Labs on Twitter X and join our Discord.

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