Nigeria eyes October launch for CBDC after 5 years of research

Nigeria is set to launch its central bank digital currency (CBDC) within the next two months, the country’s central bank has revealed. In a webinar with stakeholders, a top central bank executive revealed that the West African country has been researching and developing the digital naira for the past five years.

Rakiya Mohammed, the director of information technology at the Central Bank of Nigeria, made the announcement on Thursday, as local outlet People’s Gazette reports. Mohammed was speaking during a webinar in which he revealed details about the digital naira for the first time.

The CBDC initiative is known as Project GIANT, he told stakeholders. The central bank will monitor the pilot, which will run on Hyperledger Fabric, and if successful, it might launch a proof-of-concept before the end of the year, he told the attendees.

Mohammed revealed that the central bank has been working on Project GIANT since 2017, conducting research on the opportunities and risks it poses to the Nigerian economy, which is the largest in Africa.

According to the official, Nigeria has been observing other central banks, both in Africa and beyond, dig deeper into CBDCs and it didn’t want to lag behind. Nigeria’s neighbor Ghana revealed recently that it was developing the e-cedi, its version of a CBDC. Ghana announced as far back as 2019 that it was working on the e-cedi to “re-orient itself to satisfy the new consumer and business demands for financial services.”

As CoinGeek reported a week ago, Ghana’s central bank announced that its e-cedi would launch in pilot mode in September, just one month before the digital naira, indicating that the two neighboring countries are in a race to becoming the West African digital currency powerhouse.

South Africa, Nigeria’s biggest economic rival is also working on a CBDC. It recently launched a feasibility study on how the digital rand could affect its monetary policies.

The move by Nigeria comes at a time when the country’s central bank is in an uncertain state on digital currencies. CBN has been cracking down on digital currencies for some time now, going as far as prohibiting all commercial banks from processing digital currency-related transactions. The move to first ban digital currencies before announcing a CBDC is straight from China’s playbook, with the Asian country edging ever closer to launching its digital yuan.

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