By Faith Nyasuguta
Nigeria has officially launched a new digital version of its currency, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has announced.
This comes months after postponing the operation initially set for early October.
With the new launch, Africa’s most populous country with over 200 million people and also the continent’s largest economy in terms of GDP has become a pioneer alongside Ghana which has been testing its e-Cedi as a new means of exchange since September.
“We have become the first country in Africa and one of the first in the world to have introduced a digital currency for our citizens,” Buhari said.
According to the president, the new digital currency will boost cross-border trade and financial inclusion for people outside the formal economy and also increase remittances.
Previously scheduled for October 1, the launch of the eNaira had been delayed by the Central Bank, citing the nation’s independence anniversary celebrations.
In 2020, Nigeria was ranked the third largest user of virtual currencies globally after the US and Russia.
This follows a study from Statista, a specialist research firm that revealed crypto-currencies are widely used in Nigeria.
With cryptocurrencies, Nigerians are mainly looking to escape the constant depreciation of the naira in recent years. They also make it easier for them to receive money from the diaspora or move their savings out of the country.
Around the world, central banks are looking to create digital versions of their currencies, known as CBDCs, in response to the growth of online payments and in a bid to compete with cryptocurrencies that are beyond the control of governments and global regulators.
In 2020, China became the first major economy to launch a test version of a digital currency. Since then, about five countries have launched their virtual currencies.