Celo mainnet launch

Celo mainnet launch paves way for nearly free cross-border payments

The social impact-focused foundation driving the ecosystem says the launch enables its Celo Gold staking token to be sent and received

After two-and-a-half years of development, the Celo Foundation has announced that its mainnet has officially launched.

Tim Moreton (Photo: Celo)

The proof-of-stake blockchain enables digital currencies to be sent to phone numbers instead of blockchain addresses. The group said in a release that the launch paved the way for its ERC-20 staking token—Celo Gold—to be sent and received. 

Looking ahead, the organization added that future objectives include releasing its wallet on the mainnet and launching the Celo dollar stablecoin—cUSD—this summer.

Tim Moreton, the co-lead of protocol for Celo developer cLabs, told Modern Consensus that he expected the Celo dollar to be rolled out by early June and the Celo Wallet by July. 

The Celo mainnet launch also means other distributed app developers can start building their own DApps on the Celo blockchain. Projects in development include facilitating remittances, microloans, and humanitarian aid to the poorest, among other things.

Chasing Libra

Celo is working towards the same goal that the Facebook-founded Libra stablecoin claims: dramatically reducing the cost and time it takes to send money across borders. The primary target, both say, is the 1.7 billion people in developing countries without access to traditional banks.  

Libra is the 800-pound gorilla in the space, which will have access to Facebook’s 2.3 billion users via the social media giant’s Calibra wallet. That will give it a massive user base, whereas Moreton described Celo’s next job as building a user base via a “network effect.”

That said, Libra has a 1,600-pound gorilla on its back—most of the world’s central bankers and regulators, as well as many politicians, fear its size could make it a threat to sovereign currencies, facilitate money laundering, and make it harder to fight economic downturns. Hoping to blunt at least some of those concerns, the Libra Association this month hired a CEO and general counsel who both served as director of the U.S. Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, or FinCEN. 

Of course, Celo (and Libra) aren’t only looking at the poor as stablecoin users. Sending money internationally is also expensive for middle class people in developed countries. For example, on May 19, Quantum Economics founder Mati Greenspan noted in his daily newsletter that he recently paid fees of $52 on a $1,000 wire transfer to Tel Aviv that took three days to clear. 

“The financial system right now really hits you hard as soon as you’re trying to take your money across any borders,” Moreton said. 

Going Dutch

The Celo mainnet launch comes days after the Celo Foundation held a Dutch auction—raising $10 million and selling Celo Gold tokens for an average of a dollar apiece. According to the organization, this has introduced a “diverse set of participants to the ecosystem,” enabling the organization to become a nonprofit, standalone entity focused on growing and developing the open-source platform.

In other developments, the Celo Foundation said that its so-called “Alliance for Prosperity” has now grown to more than 75 members—a 50% increase since the initiative was announced back in March.

The Alliance’s objective is to focus on financial inclusion and the adoption of Celo’s technology. It is hoped that the new members will deliver “significant access and expertise” that helps the ecosystem make a footprint in key markets worldwide—namely Africa and Latin America, continents where there is a substantial unbanked or underbanked population.

“There has never been a more perfect time for a project like Celo to emerge and redefine money, especially in Africa,” said Grey Jabesi from the United Africa Blockchain Association, one of the alliance’s newest members.

Andreessen Horowitz (also known as a16z), Coinbase Ventures, and Anchorage are among some of the big names who are a part of the Alliance for Prosperity. Celo Backers include Polychain Capital, AngelList CEO Naval Ravikant, and Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey.

What’s at stake

Shortly before the ability to send and receive Celo Gold tokens on the mainnet went live, the project announced that owners of this digital asset will be able to hold a stake in the network, enabling them to vote in proposed upgrades for the protocol.

As reported by Modern Consensus earlier this month, the blockchain infrastructure-as-a-service company Bison Trails announced that it is supporting Celo’s proof-of-stake technology. Bison Trails said it firmly believes that the poverty-busting payments blockchain has the potential to become a global driver of financial inclusion, given that mobile transactions are becoming the lifeblood of many developing economies.

And in April, it was revealed that 18 startups had won the chance to receive eight weeks of mentorship from industry leaders who are a part of the Alliance for Prosperity. Members of the public can vote for their favorite team in Celo Camp between now and June 15, with the winner set to receive a cool $10,000.

Updated Feb. 4, 2021 to correct sub headline.

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Connor Sephton is a journalist with an interest in cryptocurrencies, personal finance, and financial inclusion—as well as the challenges the crypto industry faces in achieving mainstream adoption. He owns cryptocurrencies.