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Ghana wants to allow offline payments for its e-cedi CBDC

Ghana is working towards offering its central bank digital currency to citizens without an Internet connection. An official with the Bank of Ghana revealed that the bank is working on a pilot to test the viability of offline payments as it seeks to target the masses.

Ghana has been one of the leaders in the bold new world of CBDCs in Africa. Its e-cedi project is the most advanced CBDC project in Africa alongside its neighbor Nigeria which is set to launch its e-Naira this month.

The Bank of Ghana (BoG) is seeking to offer the digital currency to as many Ghanaians as possible. As such, the bank is exploring how to make the e-cedi available offline, a top official has revealed.

According to a report by Hootsuite and WeAreSocial, there are 41.7 million mobile connections in the country whose population stands just shy of 32 million, a 133% ratio. However, only about 15.7 million are connected to the Internet, just over half of the total population. While this number has grown by over 6% in the past year, Internet penetration is still a long shot from being universal in the West African country.

The BoG wants to offer the e-cedi to the one half of the population that’s not connected to the Internet, Kwame Oppong, the bank’s head of fintech and innovation revealed recently.

Speaking at the Ghana Economic Forum, Oppong stated, “Financial inclusion is limited by the availability of connectivity and power. What we hope to be able to do—and we’re one of the people pioneering this—is that the e-cedi would also be capable of being used in an offline environment through some smart cards.”

Offline access for CBDCs is a field that many central banks have been exploring as they seek to offer the digital currencies to the millions who are not connected to the internet. This segment of the population is one of the biggest targets of the CBDC rollout, with financial inclusion being one of the biggest benefits of a CBDC.

China has been exploring availing its digital yuan to offline users. The Bahamas has also taken major strides in this field, with its Sand Dollar being designed as a “full-proof solution” to the all-too-common natural disasters that could disrupt Internet connectivity in the island nation. In February, the bank launched the first CBDC-linked debit card in the world.

As central banks pursue offline CBDC payments, a research paper by Visa warned that “without finding a secure solution, CBDCs could open themselves up to digital counterfeiting.” The global credit card behemoth proposed the Offline Payment System protocol that would prevent double spend by relying on digital signatures generated in the Trusted Execution Environments available on smartphones, even when offline.

To learn more about central bank digital currencies and some of the design decisions that need to be considered when creating and launching it, read >nChain’s CBDC playbook.

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