Bank of Ghana (BoG) Governor Dr. Ernest Addison says significant progress has been made in development of the e-Cedi, the country’s digital currency. The digital currency is vital in the country’s plan to expand financial inclusion and enhance digitalisation.
He however disclosed that its launch has been delayed due to the impact of economic dislocation caused in 2022.
The pilot phase has been completed, with selected consumers at Sefwi Asafo in the Western North Region using the currency to buy items, goods, food and services.
The Governor made this announcement at a press briefing following the Monetary Policy Committee meeting on Monday, March 27, 2023.
According to Dr. Addison, the Bank of Ghana had originally planned to launch the e-Cedi in 2022. However, the high inflation rates and loss of currency value that occurred during the economic dislocation of that year made it clear a better time would need to be found for an official introduction.
“In 2022, we had a very major dislocation of the economy,” he said, adding: “That is not the context in which you want to launch a digital currency. So, we had to slow down the process and refocus our efforts on the macro environment, trying to bring inflation down. At a certain point, we will go back to the e-Cedi project and decide on the launch date.”
The pilot was an important step toward expanding financial inclusion and driving digitalisation in the country. The Bank of Ghana has adopted a retail token-based central bank digital currency (CBDC) as the ‘e-Cedi of choice’, which enables the currency to be stored locally on a card, on a phone or a smart device, and can be passed on from one user to another. The retail CBDC is digital cash that is designed to take on most traditional attributes of physical cash, as well as have other additional functionalities depending on its final design.
Dr. Addison noted that while the Bank of Ghana’s priorities may have shifted due to the events of 2022, progress is still being made toward launching the e-Cedi at a later date when the economic issues are largely settled.
The pilot was an important part of this progress, as it allowed the Bank of Ghana to test an offline version of the digital currency that could be used in situations where there is no connectivity infrastructure – just like cash.
Experts believe that successful deployment of the e-Cedi could have a significant impact on the country, helping to augment government’s digitalisation agenda and foster financial inclusion. It will also position the Bank of Ghana as an active regulator and facilitator of a digital economy, helping to reinforce its role in the country’s financial landscape.
The delay in launching the e-Cedi may be disappointing for some, but it is clear that the Bank of Ghana is taking a thoughtful approach to development of the digital currency. By prioritizing stabilization of the macro environment first, the bank is positioning itself for success when it does eventually launch the e-Cedi.
Globally, interest in Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDC) has escalated in the past few years. According to a BIS survey in 2021 on CBDC, 86 percent of central banks were actively researching the potential for CBDCs, 60 percent were experimenting with the technology and 14 percent were deploying pilot projects