Nigerian Experts Insist Africa’s First CBDC Is Presently Not for the Unbanked

While the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) continues to tout the e-naira’s credentials as a tool for fostering financial inclusion, some experts agree that this central bank digital currency (CBDC) is presently not doing this.

The CBDC’s Chaotic Start

This assertion as well as the e-naira app’s brief removal from Google Play Store appears to lend credence to claims the CBN may have rushed to launch what is in fact Africa’s first CBDC.

Although a report by the Punch newspaper suggests that the CBN is now working towards the release of a version of the e-naira app for the unbanked, it still does not state when this is likely to be available. It is this apparent by the CBN that has left players in Nigeria’s blockchain industry questioning the central bank’s ability to manage this CBDC.

As one crypto expert quoted by Cryptoassetbuyer explains, this failure by the CBN to roll out a digital currency that is accessible to all Nigerians means the central bank is unlikely to achieve its main goal of bringing financial services to Nigeria’s unbanked population. The expert, Chiagozie Iwu, the founder of Naijacrypto and CEO of CI Cryptosolutions, explained:

Firstly, the app requires me to use my bank’s app before I am able to transact with it; so what service does it offer me that my banks don’t already offer? So it doesn’t look to me that the CBN is targeting people that do not have a bank account. Obviously, anybody with a smartphone to download an app should also have a bank account in the first place. The fact that I have to use my bank account to log in defeats the saying that they are going to “bank the unbank.”

Although the CBN repeatedly promised that its e-naira wallet would be available to non-smartphone users to transact with the digital currency, at the time of writing this service was still not available.

The CBN’s Trust Deficit

Meanwhile, in addition to its non-availability to feature phone users, the e-naira app could well be a product of haphazard planning, according to Iwu. While conceding that the e-naira app — just like other applications — may have a few “bugs” Iwu suggested that this could have been avoided had the CBN properly used the funds that had been set aside for the project.

Another expert, Charles Okaformbah, the CTO at Convexity, suggested a beta test could have prevented the CBN from releasing the faulty app. The report quotes Okaformbah explaining:

I think that if the app developers had done a lot of tests — say close testing of the application with some selected group of people outside the development team — I believe some of the issues would have been noticed and fixed.

Economist, Lloyd Onaghinon, thought the collaboration between the CBN and players in the Nigerian blockchain industry could have resulted in a much better final product.

In its conclusion, the Cryptoassetbuyer report states that there is a noticeable trust deficit and that the onus is on the CBN to fix this.

Do you agree that the CBN may have rushed rolling out its CBDC? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.

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