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Digital currency project will first be rolled out in Exuma

The Central Bank of The Bahamas (CBOB) yesterday formally launched its engagement with NZIA Limited, putting the pilot project in action for Project Sand Dollar, the country’s first digital fiat currency.

The pilot project will first be rolled out in Exuma before being extended to other Family Islands, Central Bank Governor John Rolle said during a signing ceremony on Thursday. Engagement with the community and key stakeholders in the payment systems space will begin “almost immediately”. However, it will be some time until the Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) will be ready for use by consumers.

The digital fiat currency will take the form of a digital wallet, also known as an e-wallet, that would be accessible through a smart phone application.

“We do anticipate that as we go into this third quarter, before the end of this year as you go into the third and fourth quarter we can expect that there are individuals who will have this wallet in their possession. We are going to be in Exuma almost exclusively for a while and it’s expected that during 2020 as we start to internalize the lessons from Exuma, we can look to generalize to the rest of The Bahamas,” Rolle said.

“The significance of Exuma is that you have all of the large government entities and quite a number of the private entities present. So, it also provides for the entities with significant presence elsewhere in The Bahamas to gain some experience in how the system works.”

A digital wallet is a system that securely stores users’ payment information and passwords for numerous payment methods, giving users the ability to complete purchases easily and quickly with near-field communications technology. There is also a plan for a card similar to a credit or debit card, containing the same information.

This technology, according to Rolle, is very important because it lowers the cost of concluding electronic payments for the average business as well as the average consumer.

“We believe that is a way to also increase the willingness to accept payments electronically. We also want to put the means of making electronic payments within the reach of all Bahamians who want to use the technology,” he said.

In fact, there will be no charges for transactions using CBDC, according to NZIA’s Chief Executive Officer Jay Joe.

“Project Sand Dollar is going to be an historic project not just for the people of The Bahamas, but also on the global landscape in terms of the scope and depth of retail CBDC deployment. Our focus at NZIA is really people first and technology second. Our goal is really to see this project touch the everyday lives of people, and to that end we’re going to make CBDC widely accessible throughout The Bahamas and all of its Family Islands. Also, we’re going to make it transaction free for the people,” he said.

“This will be made possible through NZIA’s decentralized wireless payment systems, which will provide a national infrastructure for payments. It’s a physical infrastructure layer to augment existing financial networks.

“And on that note, we are not here to try and disrupt the financial industry, there’s typically a lot of concerns around that area. We are here to work alongside banks and existing financial institutions to augment financial services rather than disrupt. We’re looking at innovative ways to potentially help increase rather than erode the bank deposit base.”

Paige McCartney

Business Reporter at The Nassau Guardian
Paige joined The Nassau Guardian in 2010 as a television news reporter and anchor. She has covered countless political and social events that have impacted the lives of Bahamians and changed the trajectory of The Bahamas.
Paige started working as a business reporter in August 2016.
Education: Palm Beach Atlantic University in 2006 with a BA in Radio and Television News
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