CBDC (central bank digital currency) is a form of digital currency that a country’s central bank can issue alongside cash. Their value is linked to the issuing country’s official currency. For example, if the UK were to release a CBDC, it would be called
the digital pound.
While cash is a physical commodity, a CBDC is a digital currency that can be both account- and token-based. In account-based systems, it’s the identity of the payer that requires verification, while token-based systems verify the validity of the object used
In this way, CBDCs are similar to crypto, which are also digital currencies. The main difference lies in the way both are issued. Cryptocurrencies are privately issued, meaning that, should anything go wrong with the asset, there is no central bank or government
that can step in. CBDCs is also less volatile that cryptocurrencies.
Bank of England
How does CBDC work?
Similar to cryptocurrencies, CBDCs are not physical commodities and depend on networked electronic resources to create, track and validate transactions. While crypto resources are distributed and anonymised, CBDCs reside in central databases that are controlled
by the issuing central bank. Every CBDC has a unique serial number to identify it.
While today’s digital payments involve multiple actors to enact the transaction, clear the payment and administer millions of accounts, CBDCs, having evolved from both cash and decentralised digital currencies, cut out the middleman and travel from customer
Which countries are leading the development of CBDCs?
There’s no one type of CBDC, and different approaches are being piloted and developed in various countries. At the time of writing, 87 countries are exploring CBDCs due to increased consumer demands of paying electronically rather than with cash. While most
CBDC projects are still in
research and development phases (i.e., USA, UK, Germany, Brazil), some countries have launched or are piloting CBDCs.
Which countries have launched CBDC?
At the time of writing, the following countries have launched a CBDC:
- The Bahamas became the first country in the world to move past the pilot phase and officially launch a CBDC in
October 2020. The Sand Dollar was introduced to improve financial inclusion and strengthen security against money laundering or illicit economic activities.
- The Eastern Caribbean central bank made its CBDC DCash available to members of the public on March 31, 2021. Participating countries and territories
include Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Monserrat, Dominica, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Grenada.
- Nigeria became the first African country to roll out a CBDC when it launched its eNaira in October 2021. A year later, the country
started limiting daily ATM withdrawals to $45 boost digital payments.
- Jamaica announced the successful completion of its CBDC trial in 2021 and the Jamaican Digital Exchange (or JAM-DEX) was rolled out on the Lynk mobile app in July 2022.
Which countries are piloting CBDCs?
At the time of writing, the following countries are piloting a CBDC:
- China: Digital yuan
- Russia: Digital ruble
- Sweden: E-krona
- Ukraine: E-hryvnia
- Kazakhstan: Digital tenge
- South Korea: Unnamed
- Japan: Digital yen
- Hong Kong: e-HKD
- India: Digital rupee
- Turkey: Digital Turkish lira
- Tunisia: Unnamed
- Ghana: E-cedi
- South Africa: Unnamed
- Iran: Crypto rial
- Saudi Arabia: Unnamed
- United Arab Emirates: Digital dirham
- Israel: Digital shekel
- Thailand: Unnamed
- Malaysia: Unnamed
- Singapore: Unnamed
- Australia: eAUD
Will CBDC replace cash?
While digital payments are increasing, demand for cash remains, so it is unlikely that CBDCs will fully replace cash.
In 2023, cash usage in the UK has grown for the first time in a decade. The Bank of England has additionally stated that, as long as demand remains, they will continue to issue cash. The
advantages of launching CBDCs alongside cash are that it offers adds increased payment flexibility, increased access for the unbanked, heightened security and improved speed.