The community currency helps more than 50,000 poor residents who cannot access bank loans to pay for essentials such as food, healthcare and housing.
Also in Kenya, the Celo Foundation and Mercy Corps Ventures (MCV) this year launched a microwork pilot, giving hundreds of youth access to digital jobs, and paying them with Celo dollars, a stablecoin that tracks the value of the US dollar.
Microwork is a form of digital labour that breaks up big projects into hundreds of smaller tasks that can be completed on a mobile phone in minutes. In several African countries, more women than men are microworkers as they can work from home.
But paying workers on time is a challenge, with cross-border payments often slow and costly, with a high transaction fee.
With Celo dollars, workers can be paid immediately, with a much smaller fee. On completion of a task, the payment is transferred to their digital wallet, and they can cash out the Celo dollars on M-Pesa, Kenya’s popular mobile money platform.
While stablecoins are seen as less risky than other cryptocurrencies, users can be affected by volatility if they hold on to them, rather than cash out immediately, experts say.
Cryptocurrencies can drive financial inclusion by creating new digital employment opportunities and reducing the cost of cross-border payments, said Scott Onder, senior MD at Mercy Corps Ventures, the venture capital arm of global development agency Mercy Corps.
“Cryptocurrency removes this costly barrier and has the potential to create new ways for young people to earn, spend, save and send money,” he said in a statement.