Kotani Pay: Increasing access to financial instruments using Blockchain technology and cryptocurrency

Author: Samuel Kariuki, Chief Operating Officer

The Kotani Pay team at a past meeting

Kotani Pay is building a solution that allows people to access Blockchain technology to send and receive money without the need of internet connectivity or a bank account.

Kotani Pay is a middleware technology service that enables users to access the Blockchain and cryptocurrencies via Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD). USSD is the primary mode of the mobile interface for a majority of the population in developing countries.

The solution connects feature phone users and low-end smartphones to Blockchain networks such as Celo. The advantage is that there is no need for storage space on the user’s phone, no need for an internet connection and no learning curves needed to use the solution.

Kotani Pay allows users to off-ramp from crypto using a simple interface that does not require the use of public and private keys. This interface does not require an internet connection. This makes it easy to use on a feature phone and low-end smartphone. Just by dialling a short code such as *384*483# Users get a menu that allows them to transact, converting crypto to fiat easily. Funds are moved from their Blockchain wallet to their mobile money wallet.


In the process of educating communities in Africa on the benefits of Blockchain and Cryptocurrencies, we realized many of them were essentially locked out because the technology doesn’t work for them. This is because most public Blockchain networks build with the smartphone user in mind. That inspired us to develop a solution that bridges this wide gap.

For the crypto currencies received,we enable our users to withdraw cash in the form of mobile money in local currencies using Kotani Pay digital wallet. This can be done via SMS, so no internet connectivity or a bank account is required.

We aim to bring financial instruments and services to those that do not have access to the internet or have the capital or credit standing to open a bank account. Our team aims to increase financial freedoms of those that are lacking due to poverty and socioeconomic standing entitlements to financial freedom as a result of a centralised governance in the financial system. In the process, we are also educating these underprivileged societies in mobile money, digital assets and Blockchain technology.

Blockchain Technology

Security, latency, low fees and transparency are key pillars of our solution. With Blockchain technology, we are able to solve multiple issues currently faced within the financial ecosystems such as hidden/high transaction fees especially for cross border funds transfers, access to financial opportunities, long processing timeframe of days in comparison to seconds and minutes using Blockchain technology, and the ability to ascertain transactions secured in the Blockchain.

Kotani Pay works with Celo dollars (cUSD), a stablecoin on the Celo Blockchain which is pegged to the price of the US dollar, taking advantage of cryptocurrency without the volatility. Our technology enables users of feature phones, who form the majority of the population in rural areas of developing countries to access financial products and services without the need of an internet connection or a bank account.

Kotani Pay team and community members at a past meetup

We have a remarkable team from various walks of life. From cybersecurity experts to coders, and doctors to bankers, all have years of experience in both the conventional business environment and further explored disruptive technologies of our time. We have a combination of people who have lived and been through the experiences of poverty, and living in developing countries seeing first hand how technology can change a person’s life for the better if we learn how to gain access.

It helps us see problems in a broader perspective and in depth, for us to more effectively solve some of the social problems we are focusing on. We believe that no one is superior to the other, and no one can be successful without the support from one another, be it in the form of experience, a platform, a network or connection, cultural understanding, knowledge and skill sets that compliments each other to propel each and everyone to move forward together.

Way Ahead

During the investment period, our team will fill some critical roles in our technical development and customer support in order to scale up our user base. This is critical for our existing members to have some form of balanced schedule as we sustain ourselves in growing Kotani Pay. This will also contribute to more effective user acquisition and user retention as we scale across continents.

We are absolutely grateful for the opportunity given to us, and extremely excited we are one step closer to changing the lives of many through the support we get as part of the cohort. There are various challenges and technological advancement we are tackling collectively such as automating some of our troubleshooting capabilities to enhance efficiencies in identifying bugs, we want to work on real time data analytics to allow us to better understand our user base patterns to better serve their needs, leveraging on artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms for such pattern recognition to help us gain uncommon insights.

Why does being Open Source make your solution better?

Because we encourage open innovation to solve social problems, anyone with the ability to improve our technology stands a chance to alter a person’s life through our technology.


How will the investment from the UNICEF Innovation Fund help you?

The investment will go a long way in funding product development and Kotani Pay’s growth in African countries.

How will your solution help achieve change and improve the lives of children?

We believe our solution will enable seamless, cost-effective and transparent cash transfer programs aimed at improving children’s lives.

How will this investment help you grow your own business

The investment will go all a long way in helping Kotani Pay expansion plans into other African countries while perfecting the solution.

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