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What is CELO? A Complete Concise Beginner’s Guide 2023

Have you ever wondered if banking and financial services could be made more inclusive and accessible using blockchain technology? CELO, pronounced “celo” like purpose in Spanish, aims to do just that by creating an open platform that connects people worldwide through mobile phones.

Backed by Google, Opera, Coinbase and other major players, CELO is an open-source blockchain ecosystem designed from the ground up to be fast, scalable, secure and mobile-friendly. Through innovations like proof-of-stake validation and stability features, CELO makes decentralized finance more inclusive for anyone with a mobile device.

In this comprehensive guide for beginners, I will explain exactly what CELO is, how it works to connect more people to digital currencies, why it matters for financial inclusion, and how you can get started using the platform. You’ll learn:

  • What is CELO and how it enables wider participation in decentralized finance
  • Key benefits of CELO like stability, security, sustainability
  • Step-by-step instructions to use CELO features and applications
  • Tips to interact with the growing CELO community

Whether you’re new to crypto or looking to learn about this purpose-driven blockchain initiative, this guide aims to inform you on CELO’s goals and potential to bank the unbanked. Read on to discover how CELO moves blockchain towards financial access for all.

What is CELO?

what is celo
What is CELO? A Complete Concise Beginner's Guide 2023

CELO is an open, decentralized platform designed to provide financial tools and services to those with just a mobile phone. The name comes from the Spanish word “celo” meaning purpose – CELO’s purpose is greater financial inclusion through blockchain technology.

Celo was co-founded in 2017 by Rene Reinsberg, now President of the Celo Foundation; Marek Olszewski, current Chief Technology Officer at cLabs; and Sep Kamvar, computer scientist, artist, and former professor at MIT Media Lab.

Specifically, CELO aims to bank the unbanked by making decentralized finance accessible on mobile devices globally. It uses two native tokens to facilitate transactions:

  • CELO: The governance and utility token used to secure the network, reward validators and allow holders to participate in platform decisions.
  • cUSD: A stablecoin pegged to the US Dollar to maintain a stable value. This enables fast, low-cost transactions by tying cUSD balances to phone numbers rather than complex wallet addresses.

To ensure security while remaining lightweight for mobile, CELO uses proof-of-stake validation by stakers around the world. A stability protocol involving the reserve helps cUSD maintain its $1 value.

Key benefits that set CELO apart include:

  • Mobile-first design: Made for anyone with a smartphone to ease adoption
  • Scalability: Can handle thousands of transactions per second
  • Sustainability: Carbon-negative blockchain infrastructure
  • Interoperability: Integrates with other major blockchains
  • Inclusivity: Brings financial tools to the underserved

CELO also supports social impact and environmentally sustainable initiatives through groups like the Celo Foundation and Celo Alliance for Prosperity. The goal is to create conditions for prosperity through financial inclusion.

The CELO Token

The CELO Token is the native cryptocurrency of the Celo platform, a decentralized network that aims to make digital payments more accessible and inclusive for anyone with a mobile phone.

The CELO Token has three main functions on the Celo platform:

Utility: The CELO Token is used to pay for transaction fees and gas costs on the Celo network, which supports smart contracts and decentralized applications (dApps) compatible with Ethereum. The CELO Token can also be used as a stable asset for stablecoin collateral, such as cUSD, which is pegged to the US dollar. Celo plans to launch more stablecoins in the future, such as cEUR, that will be backed by a reserve of digital assets.

Governance: The CELO Token holders can participate in the governance of the Celo network by voting on proposals and parameters that affect the network’s performance and security. The CELO Token holders can also delegate their voting power to validators, who are responsible for securing the network and producing blocks.

Staking: The CELO Token holders can stake their tokens to become validators or validator groups, and earn rewards for their service. The rewards come from the network fees and inflation, which are distributed proportionally to the staked tokens.

The CELO Token is based on a proof-of-stake (PoS) consensus mechanism, which means that the validators are selected based on the amount of tokens they stake, rather than the amount of computing power they provide. This makes the Celo network more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly than proof-of-work (PoW) networks, such as Bitcoin and Ethereum. In fact, Celo claims to be one of the world’s first carbon-negative blockchains, as it offsets more carbon emissions than it produces.

The CELO Token was launched in May 2020, after a successful initial coin offering (ICO) that raised $30 million from investors, such as Andreessen Horowitz, Polychain Capital, and Coinbase Ventures. The CELO Token is traded on various cryptocurrency exchanges, such as Binance, Kraken, and Coinbase Pro. As of December 12, 2023, the CELO Token has a market capitalization of $319 million and a circulating supply of 223 million tokens.

The CELO Token is part of Celo’s vision to create a more inclusive and sustainable digital economy for all, by leveraging blockchain technology and mobile devices. Celo aims to enable anyone, anywhere, to send and receive payments, access financial services, and build dApps that address real-world problems such as poverty, climate change, and social justice. Celo also supports a global community of developers, entrepreneurs, and organizations that are building on its platform and contributing to its mission.

How does CELO work?

As explained in the Celo Platform overview, CELO operates through various components that enable accessibility, stability, security and governance for financial applications.

The foundation is a decentralized network of validators that utilize a proof-of-stake consensus mechanism to validate transactions and propose blocks. As covered on Celo’s key highlights, validators have to stake CELO tokens to participate, aligning their incentives with the health of the network. CELO token holders can also delegate tokens to validators to earn rewards.

On top of this base layer, CELO implements:

A Stability Protocol and Reserve

Celo’s stablecoins like cUSD maintain their peg to fiat currencies through an automated stability protocol and reserve. When demand is high, the protocol mints and distributes coins. When demand falls, it burns supply to retain the target $1 value. The reserve provides backup value with its pool of crypto assets like CELO and BTC.

A Lightweight Identity Layer

As explained here, CELO maps phone numbers to wallet addresses to facilitate easy payments. It also offers a decentralized identity service for managing user data like profiles. This provides both usability and user control over personal data.

On-chain Governance

Protocol changes and funding initiatives go through transparent on-chain governance proposals. CELO holders can vote on these directly or delegate votes to representatives, enabling community-driven upgrades.

Together, these components enable a mobile-first platform for payments, identity management, governance and access to decentralized financial services.

What are the benefits of CELO?

CELO offers a number of compelling benefits that set it apart as a purpose-driven blockchain initiative aiming to advance financial inclusion and prosperity.

Security and Reliability

As Celo’s official website outlines, the platform utilizes strong identity and cryptography to protect user data and transactions on its independent blockchain. The proof-of-stake consensus enhances security while eliminating negative environmental impact.

Sustainability and Speed

In addition to its security, CELO also stands out for carbon-negative sustainability and optimizations like 5-second block times and ultralight mobile syncing for speed. The platform is designed for longevity with evolution.

Mainstream Accessibility

Core innovations like phone number-based payments, stable-value currencies, and multi-asset support make decentralized finance more accessible for mainstream mobile phone users worldwide.

Interoperability and Extensibility

CELO smart contracts run on the EVM, allowing seamless integration with Ethereum and other chains. It also supports next-gen innovations like CBDCs to drive further adoption and real-world usage.

Social Impact

Initiatives like the Celo Foundation and Celo Camp foster positive change and collaboration within the blockchain ecosystem.

How to use CELO?

How to use CELO?
The blockchain ecosystem built with purpose | Credit: Celo.org

CELO is a platform that enables anyone with a smartphone to access digital money and financial services. To use CELO, you need to follow these steps:

  • Get a CELO wallet: A CELO wallet is an app that allows you to store, send, and receive CELO tokens and stablecoins. There are several CELO wallets available, such as Valora, Celo Wallet, MiniPay, and Ledger. You can choose the one that suits your needs and preferences.
  • Verify your phone number: CELO uses a phone number verification protocol to link your phone number to your wallet address. This makes it easier and safer to send and receive payments. To verify your phone number, you need to follow the instructions in your CELO wallet app. You may need to pay a small fee in CELO or cUSD to complete the verification process.
  • Get CELO and cUSD tokens: CELO and cUSD are the native tokens of the CELO platform. You can use them to pay for goods and services, access financial products, and participate in governance and staking. You can get CELO and cUSD tokens in several ways, such as:
    • Buying them from an exchange or a broker, such as Coinbase, Binance, or MoonPay.
    • Earning them by completing tasks or providing services, such as Celo Rewards, Impact Market, or Moola Market.
    • Swapping them from other cryptocurrencies, such as Celo Bridge, Ubeswap, or SushiSwap.
  • Send and receive CELO and cUSD tokens: You can use your CELO wallet app to send and receive CELO and cUSD tokens to anyone who has a verified phone number or a wallet address. You can also use QR codes or contact lists to make transactions easier and faster. You may need to pay a small fee in CELO or cUSD to confirm your transactions on the blockchain.
  • Stake CELO and earn rewards: You can use your CELO tokens to stake and earn rewards by supporting the security and stability of the network. You can stake your CELO tokens by locking them and voting for a group of validators who run the nodes that process transactions and produce blocks. You can also delegate your votes to other users who can vote on your behalf. You can earn rewards in CELO based on the performance and commission of the validators you vote for.
  • Explore CELO’s decentralized applications (dApps): CELO supports a variety of dApps that offer different services and products, such as lending, borrowing, saving, investing, donating, gaming, and more. You can use your CELO wallet app to access and interact with these dApps. Some of the popular dApps on CELO are:
    • Moola Market: A decentralized money market that allows you to lend and borrow CELO and stablecoins at variable interest rates.
    • Ubeswap: A decentralized exchange that allows you to swap CELO and other tokens at market prices.
    • Impact Market: A decentralized platform that allows you to create and support universal basic income (UBI) programs for communities in need.
    • PoolTogether: A decentralized lottery that allows you to deposit CELO or stablecoins and win prizes without losing your principal.
    • Celo Rewards: A decentralized platform that allows you to earn CELO and stablecoins by completing tasks, such as verifying your phone number, inviting friends, or using dApps.

For more tutorials on what you can do around CELO please visit the CELO OFFICIAL tutorial Page to explore collection of guides, practical examples, and hands-on workshops, tailored to help you build on Celo.

Minipay on CELO

MiniPay is a new web3 payments wallet that lets you send and receive stablecoins using just your mobile phone number. Stablecoins are digital currencies that are pegged to real-world currencies, such as the US dollar (cUSD) and the euro (cEUR). With MiniPay, you can enjoy fast, reliable, and affordable transactions across Africa and beyond.

MiniPay is integrated with Opera Mini, one of the most popular mobile browsers in Africa, with over 100 million users. Opera Mini is also the first browser to support web3, the decentralized web that runs on blockchain technology. MiniPay is built on Celo, a blockchain network that is designed for mobile devices and supports Ethereum-compatible smart contracts and dApps (decentralized applications).

MiniPay leverages Celo’s unique features, such as:

  • SocialConnect: allows you to use your phone number as your wallet address, making it easy to send and receive payments without memorizing long and complex codes.
  • FiatConnect: which connects you to local payment methods like Airtime, MPesa, Bank Transfer, and Cards through Opera’s local partners, gives you easy access to your local currency.
  • Sub-cent gas fees: make transactions very cheap and accessible for everyone, even those with low incomes or limited internet access.
  • 5-second block times:  which make transactions very fast and convenient, without waiting for long confirmations or delays.
  • Carbon-negative blockchain: which makes transactions very eco-friendly and sustainable, by offsetting more carbon than it emits.

MiniPay was launched in September 2023, and its rollout begins in Nigeria, the largest economy and most populous country in Africa. MiniPay will expand to the rest of the continent in the coming months, reaching millions of potential users who can benefit from web3 and Celo. MiniPay aims to create a more inclusive and sustainable digital economy for all, by empowering users to access financial services and dApps that address real-world problems, such as poverty, education, health, and governance.

MiniPay also offers a question-answering service that can help you learn more about web3 and Celo. You can ask any questions you have about MiniPay, Celo, or web3, and get clear and informative answers. You can also explore the various dApps that run on the Celo blockchain, such as Moola Market, Impact Market, Ubeswap, and Valora, and discover how they can improve your life.

MiniPay is the world’s lightest payment wallet, and it is available inside the Opera Mini browser on Android phones. Download Opera Mini today and feel the MiniPay fast transaction experience. Join the web3 revolution with MiniPay on Celo.

Celo Community and Development

The Celo community consists of various teams and organizations that contribute to the development and growth of the Celo ecosystem. Some of the key players are:

  • cLabs: cLabs is the core development team behind Celo, responsible for building and maintaining the Celo protocol, the Celo Wallet, and other open-source projects. cLabs also provides technical support and guidance to other developers and partners in the Celo ecosystem.
  • Celo Foundation: The Celo Foundation is a non-profit organization that supports the Celo mission of creating the conditions of prosperity for all. The Foundation oversees the Celo Reserve, which backs the value of the Celo stablecoins, and the Celo governance, which enables the community to participate in the decision-making process of the Celo network. The Foundation also funds various initiatives and programs that foster innovation, education, and community engagement on Celo.

Major partners: Celo has partnered with several leading organizations and institutions that share its vision and values. Some of the notable partners are:

  • Google Cloud: Google Cloud joined the Celo Alliance for Prosperity in 2020, becoming one of the validators of the Celo network. Google Cloud also provides cloud infrastructure and services to Celo developers and users, enabling faster and more scalable deployment of Celo applications.
  • Deutsche Telekom: Deutsche Telekom, the largest telecommunications company in Europe, also became a Celo validator and a member of the Celo Alliance for Prosperity in 2020. Deutsche Telekom supports Celo’s mission of financial inclusion and sustainability by providing network connectivity, security, and innovation to the Celo ecosystem.
  • Telefonica: Telefonica, another leading telecommunications company, joined the Celo Alliance for Prosperity in 2021, becoming the first mobile operator to integrate Celo into its services. Telefonica aims to leverage Celo’s technology to offer its customers more accessible and affordable financial solutions, especially in emerging markets.

Celo also has a vibrant and diverse global developer community that contributes to the Celo platform and ecosystem. Celo developers can access various resources and tools, such as the Celo documentation, the Celo SDK, the Celo Terminal, and the Celo Camp, to build and launch their own applications on Celo. Some examples of the projects built by the Celo developer community are:

  • Moola Market: Moola Market is a decentralized lending platform that allows users to borrow and lend Celo stablecoins and earn interest. Moola Market is powered by smart contracts and does not require any intermediaries or custodians.
  • Impact Market: Impact Market is a decentralized and autonomous platform that enables anyone to create and join unconditional basic income (UBI) programs. Impact Market uses Celo stablecoins to distribute UBI to beneficiaries, who can claim their income using their mobile phones.
  • Ubeswap: Ubeswap is a decentralized exchange (DEX) that allows users to swap Celo assets and provides liquidity to earn fees. Ubeswap is built on the Celo blockchain and uses an automated market maker (AMM) model to facilitate trading.

Celo also has a number of notable ecosystem partnerships that expand its real-world usage and interoperability with other platforms. Some examples of these partnerships are:

  • Opera: Opera, a popular web browser, integrated Celo into its built-in crypto wallet in 2020, allowing its users to send and receive Celo stablecoins using their phone numbers. Opera also supports Celo dApps, such as Moola Market and Impact Market, on its browser.
  • Polygon: Polygon, a scaling solution for Ethereum, partnered with Celo in 2021, enabling cross-chain compatibility and liquidity between the two platforms. Polygon and Celo users can now transfer and use their assets across both networks, benefiting from the low fees and fast transactions of Celo and the rich ecosystem of Ethereum.
  • Chainlink: Chainlink, a leading decentralized oracle network, integrated with Celo in 2020, providing Celo with secure and reliable data feeds for its smart contracts. Chainlink also supports the Celo Reserve by providing price information for the Celo stablecoins and the Celo governance by providing verifiable randomness for the validator election process.
  • Coinbase: A leading cryptocurrency exchange and wallet service, which has listed CELO and cUSD on its platform and allows users to buy, sell, and store them.


CELO is a blockchain platform that aims to create a more inclusive and accessible financial system for everyone. CELO is powered by two native tokens: CELO and cUSD, which enable fast, secure, and low-cost transactions. CELO is also compatible with Ethereum and other blockchains, allowing for interoperability and innovation. CELO is designed to be mobile-friendly, scalable, and sustainable. CELO supports social impact and environmental sustainability initiatives through its platform and community. CELO also offers a variety of decentralized applications (dApps) that provide different services and products, such as lending, borrowing, saving, investing, donating, gaming, and more.

In this guide, you learned everything you need to know about CELO, such as:

  • What is CELO and how does it work?
  • What are the benefits of CELO and why you should care?
  • How to use CELO and get started with its features and applications
  • and lot more!

I hope you enjoyed this guide and found it useful. If you want to learn more about CELO, you can visit its official website. You can also join its Discord, Telegram, or Twitter channels to connect with its community and developers. If you have any questions or feedback, feel free to leave a comment below or contact us. Thank you for reading and happy learning! Infoblendr Cares!


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I’m Olafare Michael Oluwabukola, a young enthusiast with an insatiable curiosity for the mysteries of science and technology. As a passionate explorer of knowledge, I envisioned a platform that could not only keep us all informed about the latest breakthroughs but also inspire us to marvel at the wonders that surround us.
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