Faces of the Stellar Ecosystem: A Photo Journal Through Ghana, Nigeria, and Kenya


Denelle Dixon

Publishing date

In February, I went to Ghana, Nigeria, and Kenya to spend some time with builders, creators, and decisionmakers. Our focus at SDF is all about supporting local builders to solve local problems, so nothing is more exciting to me than the opportunity to meet with our ecosystem face-to-face.

Through a whirlwind of ecosystem and creator meetups, and conversations with trailblazing founders, we got to know more about the incredible innovation that blockchain is powering to help tackle local problems.

The passion and energy throughout our trip was truly unmatched. I can’t think of a better way to share it with you than to highlight the people who make the Stellar ecosystem (and made this trip) so special.

Stellar Ecosystem on the Move

The Stellar network is set to celebrate a decade around the sun this year. That’s a long time in crypto years, and we were elated for the chance to catch up with some familiar faces from across the ecosystem.

We held ecosystem meetups in Accra, Lagos, and Nairobi. The excitement and sense of community was indescribable.

We convened a roundtable that included leaders from Cowrie, a company that built one of the first cross-border payment rails for Nigeria on Stellar, and Yellowcard, the largest African exchange which integrated USDC on Stellar this year. We discussed the state of the payment landscape and discussed collective solutions that are addressing the current challenges in Nigeria. We also caught up with the team from Fonbnk, a marketplace that enables African mobile phone users to quickly convert their airtime credits into digital money and back, allowing anyone with a prepaid mobile SIM card to access the global digital economy.

The team at HoneyCoin graciously hosted us for a lively meetup in Nairobi. HoneyCoin is a superapp that enables users to pay bills, buy airtime, pay for goods and services, and more all in one place. HoneyCoin initially joined the Stellar ecosystem through the Stellar Community Fund. Now, they serve over 70,000 monthly users and most recently integrated with the MoneyGram Access service to enable cash-to-crypto. It was so energizing to connect with the community they’re building there.

In Accra, the Blockchain Builders Association of Ghana brought together a vibrant community of builders to discuss what blockchain and digital assets can do to help solve payment challenges in the region. We also got to sit down with the minds at Zeepay to learn more about their vision for building a borderless Africa, and how the utility that exists in the Stellar network can help advance their goals.

Blockchain and the creative economy

The creative economy is absolutely thriving, but it is underserved when it comes to financial solutions. We sat down with artists, musicians, and others with pursuits in tech, art, media, and more. These discussions centered around their projects, as well as the challenges of getting their work distributed to the global market and getting paid for it. Our goal was to listen in order to better understand the root problems, and see if and how tools like blockchain can help. These meetups were a highlight of my year so far. I am so grateful to everyone who came to speak with us and share their immense passion and experiences.

Reframing How We Think About Innovation

Over many discussions throughout the trip, we peeled back the layers of challenges that exist for users in the traditional payment landscape. The root problems–whether they relate to cost, reliability, or cross-border friction–vary from country to country. What we saw consistently is that financial innovation is happening everywhere, and it is taking many forms. Solutions originate from fintech startup founders solving a problem they see in their local communities, as well as collectives of women without access to credit from traditional banks pooling money to create rotating loan programs for themselves.

Financial products not currently built on blockchain caught our attention as well. It was clear that they have a deep understanding of the problem their targeted users have, and designed products that respond to their unmet needs. Whether or not blockchain is ultimately the right fit to enhance some of these solutions, one thing is for sure: we can learn from the way they have listened to users with previously unmet needs to ensure they are delivering new utility.

We met with the team from Farmerline to learn more about the innovative tech stack they’ve built to serve farmers and agribusiness in Ghana.

We spent time with Dezzy Onwumere, founder of Aku Fintech, a QR-code debit card solution that enables people without smartphones to still pay for goods and services electronically.

As we returned home, we carried with us a renewed sense of purpose and deep gratitude for everyone we met, united by a commitment to transforming everyday financial services for the better. We are already planning our next trip back–stay tuned!