9 Out of 13 African Countries Chasing CBDCs Are in Research Phase, Says The IMF

According to the IMF, central banks will need to consider how CBDCs affect the private industry for digital payment services, which has made important strides in promoting financial inclusion through mobile money.

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According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), 13 countries in Africa are in various stages of piloting, deploying and even using Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs).

CBDCs are digital versions of cash that are more secure and less volatile than crypto assets because they are issued and regulated by central banks.

Below is a breakdown of African countries at various stages of CBDC implementation, as the IMF chart above shows:

  • Nigeria – deployed
  • Ghana – piloting
  • South Africa – piloting
  • Eswatini – piloting
  • Kenya – researching
  • Madagascar – researching
  • Mauritius – researching
  • Namibia – researching
  • Rwanda – researching
  • Tanzania – researching
  • Uganda – researching
  • Zambia – researching
  • Zimbabwe – researching

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The South African Reserve Bank is experimenting with a wholesale CBDC, which can only be used by financial institutions for interbank transfers, as part of the second phase of its Project Khokha. The country is also participating in a cross-border pilot with the central banks of Australia, Malaysia and Singapore.

The Bank of Ghana, by contrast, is testing a general purpose or retail CBDC, the e-Cedi, which can be used by anyone with either a digital wallet app or a contactless smart card that can be used offline.

Some of the reasons given for chasing CBDCs include:

  • CBDCs could bring financial services to people who previously didn’t have bank accounts, especially if designed for offline use
  • CBDCs can be used to distribute targeted welfare payments, especially during sudden crises such as a pandemic or natural disaster
  • CBDCs can facilitate cross-border transfers and payments, including remittances which cost about 8$ of the amount sent in Africa

However, IMF says that governments will need to improve access to digital infrastructure such as a phone or internet connectivity.

The international body also says central banks will need to develop the expertise and technical capacity to manage the risks to data privacy, including from potential cyber-attacks, and to financial integrity. There is also a risk that citizens pull too much money out of banks to purchase CBDCs, affecting banks’ ability to lend.

Central banks will also need to consider how CBDCs affect the private industry for digital payment services, which has made important strides in promoting financial inclusion through mobile money.

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RECOMMENDED READING: Only 40 Countries (5 in Africa) are Allowed to Issue Digital Currencies Under Existing Laws, Says The IMF

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