PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) has ranked the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) eNaira, and the Sand Dollar, issued by the Central Bank of the Bahama, as top retail central bank digital currency (CBDCs) projects globally.
Retail CBDC projects are digital currencies designed for public use.
PwC said this in its 2022 CBDC Global Index and Stablecoin Overview which analyses and ranks the leading retail and wholesale CBDC projects around the world.
The firm said, said on its website, that the report also evaluates the current stage of CBDC project development, while taking into account central bank opinion and public interest.
“Retail projects in the Index are led by the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) eNaira, the first CBDC in Africa, and the Sand Dollar, issued by the Central Bank of the Bahamas as legal tender in October 2020, making the Bahamas the first country to launch a CBDC,” PwC said.
“China became the first major economy to pilot a CBDC in 2020 with the digital yuan, and as of March 2022, pilot programs are running in 12 cities, including Beijing and Shanghai.”
CBN launched the eNaira, the country’s first digital currency, in October 2021.
PwC said around 666,000 eNaira speed wallets have been created as of December 2021.
The application has also recorded 700,000 downloads, while over 35,000 transactions have been conducted on the platform.
According to the report, 90 percent of the transactions were person to business and vice versa, while the eNaira speed wallet application has been downloaded in 160 countries.
The PwC report also showed that more than 80 percent of central banks are considering launching a CBDC or have already done so.
“The future of money is digital,” PwC said.
The company added that retail CBDC projects have reached greater maturity levels than wholesale projects (digital currencies used by financial institutions that have accounts with central banks).
However, on the wholesale side, the leading project on the Index is the combined effort of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) and the Bank of Thailand (BoT) to launch the mBridge project, focused on developing a proof-of-concept prototype to enable real-time, cross-border foreign exchange payments on distributed ledger technology.Also ranked highly in the report is the work of the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), with two new CBDC projects, as it continues the development of a wholesale CBDC for cross-currency payments.
Haydn Jones, blockchain and crypto specialist, PwC UK, said the 2022 index shows that central banks are ramping up activity in the digital currency space.
He said countries are at differing levels of maturity with CBDCs, and each country has different motivating factors.
“Increasing financial inclusion, facilitating cross border payments and controlling financial crime are all factors that come into play,” he said.
Also commenting on the report, John Garvey, global financial services leader, PwC United States, said it was important for financial institutions to understand where central banks are with digital currencies, as CBDCs will start flowing through the payment system and start to hit bank balance sheets.
“One thing that is clear, lowering the cost of payments in an economy provides value throughout the economy and for citizens. If CBDCs can ultimately enable more efficient payments, that will benefit everyone,” he added.