On Monday 25th of October 2021, at the State House in Abuja, Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhari, formally unveilled the Nigerian Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC), known as the eNaira. Following the launch, fraudsters attempted to steal money from unsuspecting Nigerians as a fake Twitter handle was created offering the sum of 50 Billion eNaira currency.
The launch of the eNaira is a culmination of several years of research work by the Central Bank of Nigeria in advancing the boundaries of payments system in order to make financial transactions easier and seamless for every strata of the society. Following a series of engagements with relevant stakeholders including the banking community, fintech operators, merchants and indeed, a cross-section of Nigerians, the CBN designed the digital currency, which was activated on Monday, October 25, 2021.
The eNaira therefore marks a major step forward in the evolution of money and the CBN is committed to ensuring that the eNaira, like the physical Naira, is accessible by everyone. Given that the eNaira is a journey, the unveiling marked the first step in that journey, which will continue with a series of further modifications, capabilities and enhancements to the platforms.
The CBN sees the eNaira as supporting financial inclusion through providing a less costly, more efficient and safe means of payment in a country where the World Bank estimates that c60% of the adult population was unbanked in 2017 (latest data). Beyond the economic gains from increasing financial inclusion, the CBN also sees the eNaira as enhancing the government’s capacity to deliver targeted social assistance, and boosting diaspora remittances through formal channels. These remittances are a critical source of foreign exchange in Nigeria, equalling c6% of GDP ($24billion) ahead of the pandemic.
The CBN also argues that the eNaira can help improve the effectiveness of monetary policy. While this may prove to be the case for some of the bank’s targeted lending programmes, we see less immediate relevance to policy settings that have responded more to the soft growth recovery than inflation that has averaged about 17% this year.
In terms of design, the eNaira has three key features: It is exchanged peer to peer, it is universal – anybody can hold it – and, maybe most interestingly of all, it does not yield any interest. The design considerations are something that central banks all over the world are grappling with – as HSBC outlined in its Central Bank Digital Currencies: 10 questions: A digital display, 6 July 2021. This has held up progress for CBDCs in many parts of the world, particularly developed markets.
The speed of the release of the eNaira, having only started assessments in June this year, may therefore signal that in the near term CBDCs may be a more relevant topic for emerging markets, rather than developed markets. With the incentives to benefit from greater levels of financial inclusion, we expect more EM central banks to make strides in the space in the coming years.
Beware of Fraudsters, Fake eNaira Social Media Handles
Following the formal launch of the eNaira, the attention of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) was drawn to criminal and illegal activities of some individuals and a fraudulent Twitter handle, @enaira_cbdc purported to belong to the Bank.
The impostor handle and fraudulent persons have been posting messages related to the eNaira with the intent of wooing unsuspecting Nigerians with claims that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), among other falsities, is disbursing the sum of 50 Billion eNaira currency. These impostors were bent on defrauding innocent and unsuspecting members of the public through the links attached to their messages for application to obtain eNaira wallets and become beneficiaries of the said 50 billion eNaira currency.
For the avoidance of doubt, the Central of Nigeria (CBN) is not the owner of that twitter handle (@enaira_cbdc) and indeed suspended its presence on Twitter following the Federal Government’s Ban. In effect, the Bank is not disbursing eNaira currency to citizens. To this end, members of the public are hereby warned to be wary of fraudsters who have resolved to take advantage of unsuspecting Nigerians.