BUJA: Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari launched the country’s new digital eNaira currency on Monday as Africa’s largest economy looked to tap into the growing popularity of virtual money and cryptocurrencies.
With the eNaira, Nigeria becomes the first in sub-Saharan Africa to fully launch a digital currency and joins China and a few other countries using or piloting central bank-regulated electronic tender.
“We have become the first country in Africa and one of the first in the world to introduce a digital currency to our citizens,” Buhari said at the official launch.
Nigeria has seen booming interest in cryptocurrencies as people look for ways to avoid the weakening naira currency and combat high costs of living and unemployment in Africa’s most populous country.
Central bank-backed digital currencies or CBDCs and cryptocurrencies are both virtual money though the CBDCs are legal tender regulated by central banks while cryptos are out of government control.
Five countries have already launched CBDCs, with another 14 including Sweden and South Korea in the pilot stage, according to the Atlantic Council’s CBDC tracking project.
In West Africa, Ghana is also looking to launch its own CBDC soon.
Nigeria’s central bank earlier this year sought to control the use of cyptocurrencies by ordering banks to close accounts that were involved in such transactions.