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The community wants USDC on Cardano

Published 15.1.2024

Part of the community wishes to have USDC on Cardano. On other platforms, it is possible to freeze an account with USDC or blacklist addresses. Therefore, part of the community does not want this stablecoin on Cardano. Anyway, let’s discuss how to get USDC on Cardano.

Positives and negatives of USDC

Stablecoins are an essential part of any DeFi ecosystem, as they address one of the biggest obstacles to using cryptocurrencies, namely volatility. Financial services require stability. If the blockchain industry is to bring financial infrastructure to developing countries, a stablecoin is a key component.

Regarding tokenization, the two most unsuccessful projects are USDT and USDC. Both projects are in the top 10 by market capitalization.

USDC would bring a lot of liquidity to the Cardano ecosystem and thus new users would also come. This would be a significant boost for DeFi on Cardano.

USDC is on almost all major networks. You can find this stablecoin on Ethereum, Solana, Avalanche, Algorand, Tron, Polygon, Stellar, Hedera Hashgraph and a few others.

Circle, the company that issues USDC, reserves the right to freeze accounts associated with illegal activity or activity that otherwise violates their terms of use. On all mentioned platforms, it is possible to freeze an account with USDC or blacklist addresses.

USDC violates many principles of decentralization, especially regarding the expectation of users that if they have assets in their wallets, no one can confiscate them and prevent them from spending.

It can be summarized as USDC (or USDT) would bring liquidity and new users to the Cardano ecosystem at the cost of sacrificing some principles of decentralization.

Native assets are incompatible with Circle requirements

Cardano has a native assets feature. The mint scripts are used only for minting and burning of assets. Asset transfer takes place via the Cardano protocol. If a user has assets in Cardano wallets, there is no way to freeze the account or prevent spending. Cardano treats native assets the same as ADA coins.

Technologically it is perfect and I believe that Cardano is the best asset-mining platform in the crypto industry. But only if people embrace all the principles of decentralization without exception.

Certain features of cryptocurrencies do not comply with laws and regulations. Some companies have complied with the requirements of the laws to run a profitable business in the crypto sector. Circle is one of these companies. USDC is a successful project.

On other platforms, such as Ethereum, USDC is minted via a smart contract. The same smart contract is used to transfer stablecoins between users. Therefore, it is possible to implement any functions that Circle requires, i.e. the ability to freeze an account and blacklist addresses.

Circle has control over the smart contract and therefore over the USDC that users have in their wallets. Users are not able to spend USDC without using a smart contract that essentially approves the transfer of assets.

Cardano cannot do this by design, so having USDC on this platform may not be technically possible or efficient. There are initiatives to have ERC-20-like tokens on Cardano, but I don't know the status of these projects at the moment.

The philosophy of the Cardano project is in line with decentralization. Third parties are not allowed to decide what you can do with your assets. This principle is so fundamental that it was implemented for minted assets and thus essentially enforced.

USDC on Cardano could be expensive

Circle is reportedly asking 10-99M USD for putting USDC on the network. From my point of view, this is a stupid request from the business model perspective, because it should be in their interest to get USDC to more users. This would weaken competition. However, if this is the case, it is necessary to ask who should pay for it.

I don't think it should be paid by the IOG. They raised money in the ADA public sale to build the Cardano protocol. This money should be used for research and implementation of the protocol and things that are directly related to it. Using this money for Circle is not a relevant request in my view. In addition, IOG hired a new CEO to launch a new stablecoin venture.

It might be a good idea to ask the Cardano Foundation and Emurgo if they can help. It is possible that something happened in the past, but I have not registered any official statement. Emurgo has been trying to launch its own USDA stablecoin, so I wouldn't expect interest from them.

The only way seems to be the project treasury and Catalyst.

Catalyst can help in the preparatory phase. From Catalyst, it is not possible to pay such a high amount that Circle demands. At the current market value of ADA coins, this would be 20M ADA in the most optimistic scenario. The total budget for Fund11 is 50M ADA.

So the payment would probably have to come from the project treasury. However, this should be decided by ADA holders through a vote. There is a question whether voting in Catalyst on the USDC project should or could automatically mean approval of spending ADA coins from the treasury. Rather not. Perhaps the Intersect organization could help with that.

If the payment should come from the project treasury, the question is whether to wait for the bull market when the market value of ADA is higher. It is a speculation that can pay off, but on the other hand, it could delay the deployment of USDC on Cardano.

Other solutions

We discuss USDC in the article, but it might be easier to focus on USDT. Cardano's native assets will be a hindrance in this case as well, but maybe Tether has lower payment requirements for deployment.

Another solution is other stablecoins. Everyone is waiting for the Mehen USDM project, which should be launched in early 2024. If the launch succeeds on the second attempt, Cardano would have a stablecoin that would meet the regulatory conditions and function as a native asset. This would surpass USDC on all other platforms in terms of cryptocurrency principles. The question would be why Circle couldn't run USDC on Cardano as a native asset when Mehen's team can.

It is possible to transfer USDC and USDT tokens to the Cardano ecosystem through bridges. You can already find USDC and USDT on some DEXs today thanks to the WanChain bridge. However, people would trust USDC more if it were native assets minted on Cardano directly by Circle.

Conclusion

The Cardano ecosystem can adhere to the principles of cryptocurrencies and reject USDC and USDT stablecoins with the argument that we do not want to support asset freezing. Needless to say, the ecosystem is losing users and potential adoption. Therefore, I think it is good to try to get USDC on Cardano but keep native assets working as they are. More options are always an advantage. Those who don't want to use USDC should have other options. Maybe it will be Mehen USDM.

Who should pay for USDC? The only way seems to me to be the project treasury. But maybe that's not the ideal way to use ADA coins. Maybe it makes more sense to keep the ADA coins for more important things instead. If the USDM could be launched, the Cardano ecosystem wouldn't need USDC. At least not as urgently.

Anyway, the community should debate about which direction to go. It is positive to see that debates are taking place. We'll see if there's a proposal in Catalyst Fund12.

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