It is called the e-Naira
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari launched the country’s new digital e-Naira currency on Monday as Africa’s largest economy looked to tap into the growing popularity of virtual money and cryptocurrencies.
With the e-Naira, Nigeria becomes the first in sub-Saharan Africa to fully launch a digital currency and joins China and a few other countries using or piloting central bank-regulated electronic tender.
“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 official launch.
Nigeria has seen booming interest in cryptocurrencies as people look for ways to avoid the weakening naira currency and combat high costs of living and unemployment in Africa’s most populous country.
Central bank-backed digital currencies or CBDCs and cryptocurrencies are both virtual money though the CBDCs are legal tender regulated by central banks while cryptos are out of government control.
Nigeria’s CBDC pilot is now the second largest behind China’s digital yuan, and aims to digitize payments and increase financial inclusion in Africa’s most populous country.
Buhari said the digital currency and the blockchain technology it uses can foster economic growth and increase the GDP of Africa’s biggest economy by $29 billion over the next 10 years.
Nigeria’s Central Bank (CBN) Governor Godwin Emefiele said that around 500 million eNaira (1.21 million) have already been minted in lieu of the digital currency going live.
In a press release on Saturday, the CBN said the eNaira’s launch “marks a major step forward in the evolution of money and the CBN is committed to ensuring that the eNaira, like the physical Naira, is accessible to everyone.”
CBDCs are rapidly gaining popularity worldwide, and Nigeria is the first African country to officially launch a sovereign-backed digital currency pilot.
Following the launch of Nigeria’s CBDC website in September, the eNaira, designed to complement the nation’s physical currency, has officially launched.
Despite Nigeria’s tricky relationship with cryptocurrency, which culminated in the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) placing a ban on virtual currency transactions within the banking sector in February, that hasn’t stopped the continuing growth of the industry.
While the move by CBN was intended to regulate Nigeria’s rapidly growing crypto ecosystem, many industry insiders believe it was reckless and motivated by fear of the unknown.