Umoja Labs
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Umoja Labs

Celo’s First WhatsApp Wallet

A dive into the Umoja WhatsApp Wallet

TLDR — You can send, receive, and (soon) even save & borrow Celo Dollar ($cUSD) using WhatsApp. To test it out, just text “Hey Umoja!” via WhatsApp to +1 (302) 396–9295.

Despite the cryptocurrency market’s $2.67 trillion market capitalization, the explosive growth and adoption of the NFT market in 2021, and the $30B of venture capital that went toward crypto projects in FY21 alone, mainstream adoption of blockchain technology is a long way off.

Only an estimated 27 million people currently own cryptocurrency, and, as of 2021, an estimated 3.9% of the world owned crypto, with over 300 million crypto users worldwide. Nearly 1,600 times less people, or 0.0024% of the world, have even used a decentralized application before (a.k.a. “ a dApp”).

So what’s preventing the mainstream’s transition to the new digital economy? Technical literacy, poor user experience, device constraints, and a lack of on/off-ramps.

1. Poor UX & Technical Literacy Requirements

Poor user experience and a lack of consumer technical literacy has led to the loss of approximately 20% of all Bitcoins due to the loss of wallet private keys, which represents a range of between $3.6 and $4.2 billion. Billions have likely been lost due to users sending their cryptocurrency to an incorrect wallet address and/or losing the wallet’s private key and/or seed phrase. Additionally, alack of mainstream dApp adoption can be directly linked to the high number of steps it takes to get a wallet properly set up to use the application (typically 20–30 steps).

2. Device Constraints

Device constraints also pose accessibility issues for those that do not have smartphones or laptops capable of downloading crypto-wallets. Despite the number of smartphone users in the world today is 6.648 billion in 2022, which translates to 83.72% of the world’s population owning a smartphone, people forget that, despite high, global smartphone penetration, smartphones have been around for nearly 2 decades now, and many run on versions that crypto wallets and dApps simply don’t support. This is particularly true for Android smartphones, which make up 2.5 billion of the smartphones used today (approximately 40% of global usage).

To the point: In order to truly ‘bring DeFi to the people’ there should be more adaptable wallets that can run on older phones and more pragmatic protocols that serve the everyday needs of consumers, rather than that of yield-farming, crypto-natives and investors.

3. A Lack of On/Off-Ramps

At the end of the day, people want to use the form of value that can purchase them what they need — such as food, clothing, and access to utilities, clean water, and education. Companies like Coinbase, Circle, Moonpay, Ramp, Transakt, and others have developed strong on-ramps (i.e., from fiat to crypto) for Western countries, but many lack off-ramps (i.e., crypto back to fiat), are very expensive (5% — 10%+ per transaction), and completely lack support for emerging markets. Without these on/off-ramps, it is impossible for users to leverage crypto pragmatically to make their lives easier, and thus you see far more users with expendable income actually leveraging the technology.

For example, there are extremely few crypto on/off-ramps for mobile money, which encompasses a global audience of 1.35 billion users that transact over $1 trillion annually. This is one of the problems that Umoja, a crypto-fintech building last mile payments infrastructure for emerging markets, seeks to solve with their Umoja Money API.

To the point: Without crypto on/off-ramps across the Global South, many countries will remain disconnected from Web3 having a meaningful impact on their lives.

The World of WhatsApp

One technology that has scaled incredibly well across both the Global North (i.e., “the West”) and the Global South (i.e., emerging markets) is that of internet-based messaging.

WhatsApp has more than 2 billion users (2021). There are over 100 billion messages exchanged on WhatsApp daily. 22% of users are on iOS and 73% are on Android. It is one of few applications that exists today that has MORE usage across emerging markets than within the Global North.

So what if we embedded crypto-wallets into existing messaging applications like WhatsApp to extend exposure of what DeFi has to offer?

Introducing the Umoja WhatsApp Wallet

The Umoja WhatsApp Wallet is one of the first crypto-WhatsApp wallets that enable anyone with WhatsApp on their phone to safely send, receive, (and soon) save & borrow digitally. Currently, the wallet uses $cUSD (Celo Dollar) as its unit of exchange, and shows the user their balance in their local currency to minimize the technical literacy needed to understand how to use the wallet. Here’s more about the wallet (currently in Beta):

  • The wallet is custodial, ensuring that users don’t have to worry about writing down their private keys
  • Send and receive (and invite!) $cUSD to others using their phone number
  • Supports on/off-ramps for mobile money, Airtm, and bank transfers across the following countries.
  • *Will provide access to yield accounts that provide up to 5% APR
  • *Will provide access to zero-collateral, DeFi loans by end of FY22

To access the Umoja WhatsApp Wallet and test it out, text “Hi Umoja!” via WhatsApp to +1 (302) 396–9295. We would love your feedback as we are still iterating on the wallet. Please direct any feedback at info@umoja.money if you have the chance🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥

On/Off-Ramps, Yield & Borrowing via Messaging

We will constantly be introducing features within the Umoja WhatsApp Wallet so that anyone can access the benefits of Web3 by simply sending a message. Enabling on & off-ramps across mobile money and bank accounts to access $cUSD and adding features to access DeFi yield and borrowing will all be incorporated into the wallet.

Umoja Labs

Umoja Labs is a crypto-fintech building last mile payments infrastructure for emerging markets. Originally born from ConsenSys, our team is dedicated to connecting emerging market consumers and organizations to DeFi you can use. We only support stablecoins to ensure that everyone who uses our products aren’t exposed to the more speculative, volatile aspects of crypto. Additionally, we build on & off-ramps across emerging markets so people can go from value they can hold, to value that gives them access to DeFi more broadly.

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Umoja Labs (formerly known as Emerging Impact) provides last mile payments infrastructure to aid agencies and fintechs so that they may provide affordable financial tools to some of the most underserved communities on the planet through our blockchain-based payments suite.

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Robert Greenfield IV

Robert Greenfield IV

CEO of Umoja Labs, Former Head of ConsenSys Social Impact, @Goldman Alum, @Cisco Alum, @TFA Alum, Activist, Intense Autodidact

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