The Full History of the Nigeria CBDC Failure

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By Kate
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Nigeria CBDC

Nigeria has become one of the first regions to introduce a fully working CBDC (Central Bank Digital Currency) in October 2021.

Yet, the adoption rate of the new digital currency eNaira still leaves much to be desired. 

With more than half of the country’s population embracing Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, only 0.5% use the new government-backed asset so far.

What went wrong with this project and what lessons other regions can learn from Nigeria CBDC failure? Let’s find out.

Key Takeaways

  • Nigeria has become of of the first countries to oficially launch a working CBDC with the key goal to restore the healt of the region‚Äôs economy.
  • eNaira runs on the Hyperledger Fabric protocol which has good reputation and suitable technical characteristics.
  • The harsh measures that Nigerian authorities took to increase the usage of eNaira resulted in violent riots.
  • The lack of a clear regulatory framework, numerous technical issues and the adherence of the citizens to cash have become the key reasons for Nigeria CBDC failure.
  • Those countries that want to implement CBDCs should set up a robust legal framework. Also, they should educate their population and resolve the technical problems first.
  • The measures tht Nigerian government has taken so far has hardly improved the situation.

Why Nigeria Launched eNaira?

Nigeria is a rather poor region with the average GDP per capita hardly reaching a $2,500 level (in comparison, the same sum for Belgium exceeds $40,000).

In addition to its other misfortunes, the rate of its local currency naira vs US dollar hits record lows almost every month.

One may think that the launch of a CBDC would surely be helpful in such circumstances. 

Indeed, CBDCs have the potential to cut the costs of money issuance for central banks, reduce illegal activities, and facilitate cross-border transactions thus making the region more attractive for foreign investors. 

All in all, the introduction of such an asset should contribute to the health of any economy.

Thus, eNaira has become one of the first CBDCs worldwide to see an official launch and governmental support. Nigeria has managed to do that even earlier than such prosperous financial regions with a focus on digitization as Japan and Sweden. At the time of writing, CBDCs in these countries are still in the pilot stage.

CBDC tracker: Nigeria launched its own CBDC much earlier than many of the developed regions 

ENaira’s Technical Characteristics

To launch its digital currency, the Nigerian authorities have chosen Hyperledger Fabric’s protocol as the primary technological solution.

Created by the Linux Foundation for the B2B sector, this open-source blockchain network has a good reputation in the crypto community for its high level of security and such technical features as:

  • High throughput. Hyperledger is capable of processing up to 3,000 TPS in a stress test.
  • Frequent updates. The team standing behind the project often releases new versions of the protocol and has a robust roadmap for its future development.
  • The support of smart contracts. Hyperledger enables the creation of complex dApps which can contribute to the adoption of DeFi solutions in the long-trem perspective.
  • A private network. The eNaira developers have selected a private network to avoid problems inherent to many public blockchains such as high transaction fees and the lack of scalability. Thus, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is responsible for running all the nodes and validating transactions.

Nigeria CBDC Failure

Yet, it seems that a strong technical foundation is not enough to convince people to use the new form of payment.

In March 2023, the Nigerian government decided to take tough measures by cutting the circulating cash. The supply was reduced from 3.2 million nairas to 1 million. To compensate for the decrease, CBN minted more than 10 billion eNairas.

In the short run, this move had a positive effect driving up the use of eNaria by 63%. But it has hardly changed the overall situation. It turned out that poor segments which made up more than half of the population still had no bank accounts.

At the same time, the rate of Naira vs USD went on decreasing. Moreover, many small businesses relying on cash payments had to close as their customers had no money to pay for their services. 

As a result, the chaos and poverty of the region only got worse resulting in violent riots in the region.

Why Did Nigeria CBDC Failure Take Place?

There are a few reasons for such sad results in the case of Nigeria. Here are some of the most crucial aspects to consider.

Regulations

Dealing with regulations is, perhaps, the key obstacle that NIgaeria faced when developing a CBDC.

To govern digital money properly, CBN had to create a strong legal system in the first place. This required a lot of discussion with different groups, including financial companies and government agencies. But still, the results were not impressive.

Technical issues

Creating the infrastructure for a digital currency from scratch is a very difficult task. Needless to say, such a humongous project requires huge investments.

In addition, CBN faced numerous technical problems at this stage including the overall complexity of blockchain technologies, cybersecurity, and scalability to handle the entire population of the country.

Public acceptance and adoption

Another critical problem for CBDC implementation was that Nigerian citizens were used to traditional cash. 

Thus, the local authorities faced strong skepticism and pushback when trying to switch payments to the digital format. As a result, conveying the message about CBDC advantages has become another significant obstacle.

Lessons from Nigeria CBDC Failure

Nigeria is not the only developing country looking towards financial digitization.

Many of the countries researching opportunities provided by CBDCs reside in Africa, too. This means that they may have similar economic problems.

With this said, the Nigeria CBDC failure has revealed the obstacles that these regions may come across as well. Here are the aspects they should consider in the first place.

Robust Legal Framework

For a digital currency to work, countries need to create clear rules and laws to address the worries of the different groups involved. 

This gives CBDCs legitimacy and allows them to function properly.

Infrastructure

Making prior research and investing in the right technologies is essential to the success of a digital currency. 

Thus, a thoughtful technical plan is needed to guarantee the system is secure, reliable, and able to adjust to the public requirements.

Education and Public Awareness

Before launching such a fundamental project, authorities should also spend resources on educating the public and making people aware. 

Addressing people's concerns and clarifying the benefits are quite important, too. This helps to build trust and encourages adoption.

What is the Nigerian Government Going to Do Next?

Despite such a dramatic fiasco, Nigerian authorities do not give up.

It looks like CBN has frawn some conclusions from this failure. Thus, it takes additional measures to push the usage of eNaira.

Integration with the Banking Sector

In October 2022, CBN announced that eNaria would be integrated with the Nigeria Inter-Bank Settlement System (NIBSS). This would help businesses and customers to easily switch eNaira for fiat and vice versa.

As a result, the number of eNaira wallets spiked up to 13 million. However, with the overall population of the region making up around 230 million, this is still a drop in the ocean.

Upgrades for the payment app

To provide its citizens with a more user-friendly solution, the central bank plans to add NFC technology to enable contactless payments. The announcement was released in July 2023.

Bottom Line

Nigeria CBDC failure serves as a good lesson for other countries that decide to follow its steps. 

Before switching the course to overall digitization, it would be wise to educate the citizens and to improve their financial inclusion first. In addition, some publications suggest the following measures: 

  • Adding an interest-bearing eNaira to compete with bank deposits
  • Eliminating transaction costs
  • Adding a multi-layer defense system to improve the security of the system

Combined with other methods mentioned in this article this may help Nigerian authorities to reach their goals.

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Disclaimer:Please note that nothing on this website constitutes financial advice. Whilst every effort has been made to ensure that the information provided on this website is accurate, individuals must not rely on this information to make a financial or investment decision. Before making any decision, we strongly recommend you consult a qualified professional who should take into account your specific investment objectives, financial situation and individual needs.

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Kate

Kate is a blockchain specialist, enthusiast, and adopter, who loves writing about complex technologies and explaining them in simple words. Kate features regularly for Liquid Loans, plus Cointelegraph, Nomics, Cryptopay, ByBit and more.

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