Shock as CBN appoints Caribbean firm for e-Naira Project

The decision of the CBN comes at a time when other countries are utilising their own home-grown solutions

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In a shocking turn of events, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has appointed a Barbados-based digital financial technology firm, Bitt Inc, as its technical partner for its e-Naira project due for launch in October.

The decision of the CBN comes at a time when other countries are utilising their own home-grown solutions. Top Nigerian Fintech companies such as Flutterwave, Paystack, PiggyVest, Paga, Interswitch, E-tranzact, Carbon Paylater, Remita (SystemSpecs), and VoguePay surprisingly failed to make the cut with CBN despite their trail-blazing pedigree across the world.

Indeed, Nigeria’s fintech startups have established a global status as the first movers in Africa, with a rich option of Fintech solutions including blockchain whose operations have been disrupted by the regulatory authorities for curious reasons.

While countries like Rwanda (e-RWF), South Africa (digital Rand), Ghana (e-Cedi) are utilising home-grown solutions and creating jobs and wealth for their people and investors, Nigeria has once again shown its penchant for outsourcing provision of needs it can comfortably and even better produce locally thus frustrating the efforts and capacity of its young generation of technocrats who ultimately ship their skills and talents to developed countries where they are better appreciated and rewarded.

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Meanwhile, Bitt Inc. has its operations spread across the Caribbean, utilising blockchain and distributed ledger technology to facilitate peer-to-peer (P2P) transactions with mobile money across a suite of Bitt’s Software and mobile applications.

A statement signed by the Director, Corporate Communications, Osita Nwanisobi, said the Governor of the Central Bank, Godwin Emefiele, disclosed the decision, in Abuja where he listed the benefits of the e-Naira to include increased cross-border trade and accelerated financial inclusion.

The statement said the firm was chosen through a highly competitive bidding process. It said it was chosen on its technological competence, efficiency, platform security, interoperability, and implementation experience.

“In choosing Bitt Inc, the CBN relied on the company’s tested and proven digital currency experience, which is already in circulation in several Eastern Caribbean Countries.

“Bitt Inc. was key to the development and successful launch of the central bank digital currency (CBDC) pilot of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) in April 2021,” the statement said.

The Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) codenamed Project Giant started in 2017, after what the CBN described as “extensive research and explorations”.

The process was renewed and accelerated earlier in the year after it banned financial institutions from processing cryptocurrency-related transactions and amid widespread adoption of digital currency, including cryptocurrency, with Nigerian youths emerging as leading innovators in the novel assets.

The apex bank said its decision followed the significant explosion in the use of digital payments and the rise in the digital economy with over 85 percent of central banks contemplating CBDCs.

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