GiveDirectly to use the Celo Platform to Help Communities in West Africa

Crypto Transfers to Those in Need

C Labs
C Labs
Apr 17, 2019 · 6 min read
A GiveDirectly field officer introduces the cash transfer program to new recipients at a village meeting

We are excited to announce that GiveDirectly, a first-in-class international non-profit dedicated to delivering cash transfers to the extreme poor, will work with Celo to deliver money to low resource communities in West Africa.

“Blockchain technology has the potential to make payments to the poorest people in the world cheaper, easier, and more transparent. Given Celo’s focus on connecting often overlooked people globally, they’re ideal partners for figuring out how to explore and realize that potential with us.”

— Joe Huston, GiveDirectly CFO

GiveDirectly: Reshaping International Giving

GiveDirectly is a non-profit organization working in Sub-Saharan Africa to deliver unconditional cash transfers to the extreme poor. The organization selects households with the greatest need from the poorest communities and gives them cash grants with no-strings attached. These households have the agency to spend their grant on whatever they believe will best enhance their life with no expectation of repayment. The evidence overwhelmingly shows that these families typically spend money in very effective ways — often much more so than if they were directed on how to spend the money. GiveDirectly is consistently a top-rated charity due to its record of operational excellence and the strong evidence supporting its effectiveness at reducing extreme poverty. Approximately 90% of donations end up in the hands of beneficiaries. Rigorous third party research has shown people who receive cash transfers:

A family that received cash transfers from GiveDirectly in front of their home in Kenya

What is the nature of the project?

As part of this project, GiveDirectly will deliver cash transfers in West Africa using the Celo platform. GiveDirectly field officers will give Android smartphones to beneficiaries who don’t already own one and help them set up an application that will help the recipient hold value in a digital wallet. GiveDirectly will then distribute funds to beneficiaries digitally through the Celo protocol. Beneficiaries will be able to save, send value to friends and family, or spend funds at participating merchants. Beneficiaries will also be able to exchange digital assets for fiat currency or other digital goods through future partnerships with exchanges, financial institutions, and mobile carriers.

There are still many aspects about the project to finalize, but over the course of the next several months GiveDirectly is working closely with Celo to scope the project, conduct extensive user research, and to iron out the details. We expect GiveDirectly to be using the Celo platform as early as Fall 2019.

What do we hope to achieve?

First and foremost, Celo is a platform and protocol that can support GiveDirectly in helping those in extreme poverty. Through this project, thousands of households from some of the poorest communities in the world will be given the opportunity to lift themselves out of poverty.

Secondly, this work will showcase how Celo’s protocol — and blockchain technology in general — can be an effective tool for delivering value to the most vulnerable communities in the world. Other organizations have successfully used blockchain in a humanitarian context in other areas of the world in the past. This project builds on that progress and will add to the existing evidence base. To our knowledge, this is the first time an international NGO will be using an open and truly decentralized blockchain to distribute aid at this scale. Celo’s open and decentralized protocol means more direct opportunities for both implementers and beneficiaries relative to existing systems. A few of these benefits include:

Fewer frictions

Unlike existing options, there will be no financial intermediaries between GiveDirectly and the beneficiaries. Without a third party who charges a fee, the cost to send money will be much lower. Lower costs for these payments is significant: it means more aid ends up in the hands of recipients. This model also eliminates the need for financial partners, allowing organizations like GiveDirectly to work in areas that aren’t currently served by a bank or mobile money operator.

More inclusive access

With just a mobile phone and an internet connection a person can start saving, sending money, and more. This is much more accessible than the current financial systems where people are often excluded because they lack proper documentation or live in remote areas far from a bank branch or mobile money agent.

An evolving ecosystem

The Celo platform is open-source, which means it is open to developers around the world to build applications on top of the protocol. This creates endless flexibility and allows for interesting use cases as this program evolves. For example, developers might decide to build a microfinance app that leverages transaction data to accurately assess credit risk, distribute loans, and monitor repayment in a more efficient manner than currently possible with private closed systems. The protocol enables the continued development of custom and localized services currently not offered by banks and other large financial institutions.

Lastly, this welcomes a challenge. Blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies should not be just for the privileged and technologically savvy. Since the beginning, the vision of Celo was to build a monetary system that creates conditions of prosperity for all. In order to create a truly inclusive financial system, we believe that we need to start with those who need it the most. We believe technology should be so simple that even someone who has never owned a phone or had a bank account before should be able to use it. Working with GiveDirectly and designing with beneficiaries leads to accessible technology that truly anyone can use.

How can you help?

In addition to providing our technology, we are excited to also announce that Celo is also giving a $500,000 donation to GiveDirectly to support this project. This will be matched by an additional $500,000 from GiveDirectly. A portion of the proceeds will go toward operational overhead, but the vast majority will fund direct transfers to communities in West Africa.

GiveDirectly is looking to raise an additional $3M from supporters like you to make this project successful. So whether you support innovation in financial inclusion, believe in blockchain and cryptocurrency for everyone, or just want to help give aid to those in need, please consider donating. All proceeds raised will go toward delivering cash transfers to those in need.

A GiveDirectly recipient operates a well in Kenya

Support GiveDirectly

Please note: Donations will not be a purchase of tokens, cryptocurrencies or other digital assets. Donations to GiveDirectly will be used to make payments to those in need. Donations are tax deductible in the United States.

The Celo Blog

Celo is an open platform that makes financial tools accessible to anyone with a mobile phone. Visit for info on the community, contributors, and technology.

C Labs

Written by

C Labs

C Labs is the team working on Celo. Celo is an open platform that makes financial tools accessible to anyone with a mobile phone.

The Celo Blog

Celo is an open platform that makes financial tools accessible to anyone with a mobile phone. Visit for info on the community, contributors, and technology.

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