The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has released a report indicating that 97 countries are interested in the concept of Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs). However, only two countries have fully launched theirs, which are Nigeria with its eNaira and The Bahamas’ Sand Dollar.
According to the publication dubbed ‘Ascent of CBDCs’ and released in early September 2022, as of July 2022, these CBDCs are either in the research or development stage.
What are Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs)?
“Central bank digital currencies are digital tokens, similar to cryptocurrency, issued by a central bank. They are pegged to the value of that country’s fiat currency.” – Investopedia.
In simpler terms, they are digital assets (like bitcoin and ether) owned and regulated by a country’s monetary authority like the central bank.
The proliferation of cryptocurrencies since the Covid-19 pandemic made world authorities to start considering the ways the blockchain technology can be utilised.
However, the concept of CBDCs has its own fair share of controversy. Bitcoin maxis and DeFi lovers maintain that any form of digital asset owned and controlled by a central authority, rather than being truly decentralised, should not come under classification with cryptocurrencies.
Yet, in the case of Nigeria, which launched its eNaira in October 2021, CBDCs are a way to offer an alternative to her digital asset-loving citizens after the Central Bank of Nigeria announced a ban on all forms of cryptocurrency activities in February 2021.
More on the IMF report
According to the data sourced by IMF from its dedicated CBDC tracking website: Out of the 97, 2 (Nigeria and The Bahamas) have been launched, and 15 are in the pilot stage. Also, another 15 are currently in the Proof-of-concept stage, while 65 countries are still researching theirs. Meanwhile, six countries cancelled their CBDCs.
In April 2020, China became the world’s first country to pilot a digital currency.
With e-CNY, China wants to “provide a convenient yet more efficient and secure retail payment system to increase financial inclusion, preserve monetary sovereignty, and to provide a “back up” payment infrastructure for the private sector payment solutions. Further, fair competition and interoperability should be promoted.”
CBDCs from two other countries in Africa, Ghana (The Bank of Ghana – E-cedi) and South Africa (South African Reserve Bank – Khokha) are in the pilot stage. France & Tunisia CBDC, owned by Banque de France & Banque Centrale de Tunisie, is also in the pilot stage.
Zimbabwe (Zimbabwe CBDC), Mauritius (Mauritius CBDC), Cote d’Ivoire (Cote d’Ivoire CBDC), Rwanda (Rwanda CBDC), Sudan (Sudan CBDC), Kenya, (Kenya CBDC), Uganda (Uganda CBDC), Zambia (Zambia CBDC), Namibia (Namibia CDBC), Tanzania (Tanzania CBDC), and so on, are in research stage.
The report states that one of the benefits of the digital asset is financial inclusion, as CBDCs are an avenue for central banks across the world to bring financial services to their unbanked population.
The IMF pointed out some of the issues CBDCs might face including apathy, which may affect adoption, then, concerns of a crisis brewing from mass withdrawals and cyberattack risks.
CBDCs are most countries’ avenue to tap into the benefits that blockchain promises, at least superficially. As digital asset adoption grows further and governments acknowledge their integral role in everyday lives, the financial sector could improve massively with this significant inclusion.
However, it will be a lot of work to convince the general populace to embrace the initiative.
In the case of Nigeria, the CBN Governor last week announced phase II of the eNaira, with an 8 million user base target. However, the eNaira is still an alien concept to many Nigerians. And, to some others, it is distrust of the government that will keep the adoption rate at a low level.
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