A close up image of Nigerian 5 Naira bank notes with gold Bitcoins

Nigeria upgrades eNaira to widen payments scope

Nigeria’s central bank has upgraded its eNaira central bank digital currency (CBDC) to make onboarding easier, make the wallet faster and allow users to make a much wider range of payments.

Speaking this week, the branch controller at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Bariboloka Koyor, claimed that the upgrade will now allow users to pay for utilities directly from the eNaira wallet. Koyor was addressing a crowd in Lagos during a campaign meant to sensitize Nigerians about the utility of the eNaira.

“Starting from next week, there is going to be an upgrade on the eNaira speed wallet app that will allow you to do transactions such as paying for DSTV or electric bills or even paying for flight tickets,” the CBN official stated, as reported by local outlet Vanguard.

He further revealed that the bank will launch a USSD code through which those without smartphones can begin to use the CBDC, which is the first, and only so far, by an African country and among the first ones globally.

Koyor added that the eNaira is a much better payment option than the Internet banking that Nigerians are used to, saying it’s faster and has no charges.

In addition, the Nigerian government intends on using the CBDC to “disburse funds that they want to give to alleviate poverty. So the advantage is for people to onboard early,” he told the crowd.

Nigeria took the bold leap to launch the eNaira last year, overtaking many countries that have been in CBDC development for years, such as China. At the time, the launch seemed rushed since the Nigerian central bank hadn’t made any moves to suggest it was exploring a CBDC. However, the central bank claimed it had been working on the eNaira for five years prior to its launch.

And as Koyor stated, the goal with the eNaira is financial inclusion.

“This is a project that the CBN has rolled out to reach out to every Nigerian in terms of financial inclusion and in terms of efficiency, reliability and safety of banking transactions so that we can do banking transactions very easily and safely and the people in Nigeria can enjoy the benefit of the eNaira,” he told the traders in the capital, Lagos.

As of the end of 2021, 38 million Nigerians remained unbanked, representing 36% of the adult population in the West African country. The country has an Internet penetration rate of about 50%, according to Statista. This means that even through a CBDC, the Nigerian government will not be able to fully achieve financial inclusion since half the population can’t access it.

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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