Nigeria on Monday became the first African nation to launch a digital currency – the eNaira – a move its leaders said will expand access to banking, enable more remittances and even grow the economy by billions of dollars.
Africa’s most populous nation joins the Bahamas, the first to launch a general purpose central bank digital currency, known as the Sand Dollar, in October. China has ongoing trials and Switzerland and the Bank of France have announced Europe’s first cross-border experiment.
During the launch, President Buhari said the adoption of new CBN digital currency is estimated to increase Nigeria’s GDP by $29 billion over the next 10 years.
“We have become the first country in Africa and one of the first in the world to introduce a digital currency to our citizens,” Buhari said at the event.
Other countries like China, Bahamas, and Cambodia have also launched digital currencies.
The digital currency has two applications – eNaira speed wallet and eNaira merchant wallet, which were launched on the Google Playstore and Apple Store on Monday at the State House, Abuja.
A statement on the eNaira website explained the overall function of the currency and its value to Nigeria’s economy.
“eNaira is a Central Bank of Nigeria-issued digital currency that provides a unique form of money denominated in Naira.
“eNaira serves as both a medium of exchange and a store of value, offering better payment prospects in retail transactions when compared to cash payments,” the statement read in part.
Additionally, the new payment system which has taken four years to crystallise, will drive financial inclusion, serve as a backbone for electronic payment in Nigeria and also enable the movement of more people from the informal to the formal sector, hence scaling up the tax base of the country.
Some 200 million nairas’ worth of eNaira, which will maintain parity with the traditional currency, has been issued to financial institutions, he said. President Muhammadu Buhari said use of the currency could grow the economy by $29 billion over ten years, enable direct government welfare payments and even increase the tax base.
Nigeria ranked seventh in the 2021 Global Crypto Adoption Index compiled by research firm Chainalysis. Official digital currencies, unlike crytocurrencies such as bitcoin, are backed and controlled by the central bank.