First Deputy Governor, Dr. Maxwell Opoku-Afari
The Bank of Ghana is optimistic about the potential of its digital currency – the eCedi to boost financial inclusion in rural areas, saying, it would create a transaction history that commercial players can then use – with consent – to begin offering products themselves.
Speaking on Ghana’s eCedi Pilot at Payments Canada Summit held in Toronto, First Deputy Governor, Dr. Maxwell Opoku-Afari, said Central Banks must remember that the Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) is a currency first and foremost, not a wallet for a channel; “that you must have a human-centered design; that you must design for your country’s context; and must be aware that the process is resource intensive”.
He quoted a Barclays executive as saying “The Central Bank is really carving out a path that the bank can walk in and develop more business for themselves.”
He also stressed the importance of testing “Nigeria went straight to CBDC implementation. And I love them for doing that – but we can’t do that!”
As for the next steps, Dr. Opoku-Afari alluded to Ghana’s current economic difficulties and engagement with the International Monetary Fund but said “the eCedi is still “one of the things that we intend addressing and focusing on. So it is still an ongoing effort.”
Ghana begun piloting eCedi in 2022
In 2022, Ghana began piloting a retail central bank digital currency, exploring both an online and an offline version of the eCedi.
The country has subsequently been aggressively pursuing a financial sector digitisation programme for several years as it seeks to boost financial inclusion and wider economic growth.
With regard to designing the eCedi project, the bank decided to carry out pilots in three locations – Accra, Tarkwa, and Sefwi Asafo. While the first two locations explored several use cases for online payments, Sefwi Asafo saw the offline experiment.
eCedi will work no matter location
Explaining the importance of exploring an offline CBDC, the First Deputy Governor said any currency has to work for all Ghanaians, no matter where they are located.
“And, while Ghana has seen the percentage of people with formal bank accounts soar in the last decade, nearly a third of the population is still unbanked”, he added.
Dr. Opoku-Afari added “the bank also opted for a token-based, rather than account-based, system – minting the eCedi hand and then distributing it via commercial players – mobile money provider, banks and PSPs. This approach, rather than the use of a central bank app, was chosen because the “goal was to enable the ecosystem.
The online pilots saw participants use existing banking apps and involved P2P, wallet-to-bank, and merchant and bill payments.
In contrast, the offline experiment saw the eCedi distributed via smart card and concentrated on merchant payments and was run purely by the Bank without commercial players.
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