As digital technologies continue to evolve, central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) have become a more pressing topic in the modern financial world. This article will examine how central banks are approaching developing and employing CBDC models.
CBDCs could revolutionize the global financial system by providing a safer, more secure, and more efficient means to transfer value. Furthermore, the widespread availability of these digital currencies could provide greater access to financial services to people around the world and create more efficient payment networks.
This has prompted central banks worldwide to actively explore the potential of CBDCs, and the global penetration of these digital currencies is gradually increasing.
What promotes interest in CBDC
The Atlantic Council recently highlighted several milestones driving the global adoption of CBDCs.
Over 114 countries are now exploring a Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) in a dramatic shift. In May 2020, only 35 nations were exploring the option; however, today, an unprecedented 60 countries are in an advanced phase of development, pilot or launch.
Meanwhile, 11 countries have fully launched a digital currency, and China’s pilot, already reaching 260 million citizens, is projected to expand to most of the country by 2023.
The surge in interest in CBDCs is more likely due to the increasing number of countries wanting to avoid US-dollar-denominated payments that are subject to financial sanctions like Russia. As a result, there are nine cross-border wholesale CBDC tests and seven cross-border retail projects — nearly doubling since 2021.
In 2023, over 20 countries will take significant steps toward piloting a CBDC. Australia, Thailand, Brazil, India, South Korea, and Russia are predicted to join or continue pilot testing, and the European Central Bank also intends to kick off with trials this year.
Since the beginning of 2021, nearly all G20 countries have made significant progress and invested in these projects. Every G7 economy has now shifted into the development stage of a CBDC.
In contrast, the US has advanced from research to development, propelled by the New York Federal Reserve’s wholesale CBDC experiment, Project Cedar. Of the G20 countries, 18 are now in the advanced stage of CBDC development, with seven having already embarked on pilot programs.
China CBDC eyeing the top spot
China’s central bank, the People’s Bank of China (PBOC), has been developing the digital yuan, the digitized version of the current legal tender, the Renminbi (RMB), since 2020.
The digital yuan is revolutionizing how merchants and customers pay for goods and services, eliminating the need for physical currency. This new form of payment is also making it simpler for businesses to complete international transactions, allowing them to pay vendors and customers across the globe quickly.
In June 2022, FDI China reported that the People’s Bank of China (PBoC) would distribute the e-CNY via a two-tier system to a list of approved commercial banks. These include the Agricultural Bank of China, Bank of China, China Construction Bank, Bank of Communications, Postal Savings Bank of China, and China Merchants Bank.
The digital yuan has already seen tremendous success, with transactions surpassing 100 billion yuan ($14 billion) as of August 31, according to the PBoC on October 12. In addition, more than 5.6 million merchants can now accept payments, and users in the 15 pilot areas have executed 360 million transactions.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong, Macao, and Singapore have agreed to collaborate with China to promote the circulation and use of the digital yuan at the cross-border level, potentially allowing Chinese citizens to be more competitive in global trade.
US ramping up its efforts
The US Federal Reserve has been exploring the potential benefits and risks of a CBDC, as well as the policy and regulatory implications of launching one.
To this end, the Fed has established a working group to analyze the potential uses and implications of a local CBDC. The working group includes representatives from the Federal Reserve, US Treasury, and other government agencies.
The group is looking into ways the US CBDC could be developed and its potential implications. This includes examining technological requirements and considerations and assessing the potential impacts of a CBDC on the banking system, financial stability, and monetary policy.
As a CBDC becomes possible, the group also explores methods to ensure consumer protection, privacy, and security. This includes looking into the best ways to protect digital assets and customer data and the potential for fraud and cyber-attacks.
The broader implications of such a move could be hugely beneficial for the US economy, with increased financial inclusion, improved payment efficiencies, and reduced transaction costs.
By providing individuals and businesses with access to liquidity and faster, more secure, and cost-effective payment systems, the U.S. CBDC could revolutionize the payments landscape, creating a new system to rival traditional cash and digital payments.
Additionally, this could drive down costs and open up new opportunities to transfer money and store value – leading to increased economic growth and job creation. However, it will take a few more years until the U.S. officially rolls out its CBDC model.
Digital euro: European CBDC
The Digital Euro is rapidly gaining traction as the European Central Bank’s (ECB) ambitious initiative to create a digital version of the euro currency.
Since its February 2020 announcement, the ECB has released a series of consultations and consultation papers to gain feedback from the public and other stakeholders.
As the development of the digital euro progresses, the ECB is focused on building resilient and secure infrastructure, compliant with existing regulatory frameworks and capable of supporting cutting-edge technologies such as AI and blockchain.
Additionally, the ECB is exploring the development of a distributed ledger technology platform to store and transfer digital euro assets securely. This would enable users to make fast and secure payments.
The digital euro is rapidly gaining support from the public and industry professionals, and the ECB is working with various stakeholders to ensure its success. Despite the challenges, the digital euro is a promising project that could bring unparalleled benefits to the European payments landscape. The digital euro is expected to be officially rolled out by 2026.
Other countries that have CBDC
In October 2020, the Central Bank of the Bahamas became the first in the world to launch the “Sand Dollar,” a Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) that covers the entire country.
The Sand Dollar is linked to the Bahamian currency, the Bahamian Dollar, and is meant to facilitate faster, cheaper, and more secure payment transactions between individuals, businesses, and governments.
In 2021, Nigeria became the first African nation to launch a central bank digital currency (CBDC) known as the eNaira. This digital currency can be accessed through a digital wallet and used for contactless store payments and money transfers.
The eNaira launch marks a significant step forward in Nigeria’s commitment to modernizing its payments infrastructure and bringing its citizens into the digital economy.
India’s much-anticipated central bank digital currency (CBDC) pilot was officially launched late last year. Nine banks participated in the wholesale pilot launched in early November, and four in the retail pilot, launched in early December.
The retail pilot is concentrated in Mumbai, New Delhi, Bengaluru, and Bhubaneswar, and digital wallets on mobile phones are being used to distribute the digital rupee for both person-to-person transactions and consumer-to-merchant payments, requiring the scanning of a QR code.
In December, Roberto Campos Neto, President of the Central Bank of Brazil, announced that the bank will launch a central bank-backed digital currency (CBDC) by 2024, with plans to launch a pilot program in partnership with other major banks in the country in 2023.
What is the future of CBDC
The possibilities of CBDC are vast and thrilling. With its power to make payments swifter, safer, and more efficient, CBDC could bring about greater financial inclusivity and a much more democratic system.
It could also grant access to banking services and financial products – currently out of reach for many – allowing them to use the same economic opportunities as traditional banking.
CBDC would bring down financial transaction costs, increase transparency, hinder corruption and even diminish the risk of financial crises. All in all, CBDC could be the life-changing force finance desperately needs and help bring about a new era of financial security and success.