ACCORDING to Wikipedia, e-money stands for electronic money that exists in a banking computer systems and available globally for transaction through electronic devices. Experts say an electronic money is a centralised digital monetary medium of exchange which has the capacity to promote socio-economic well being of the people. The Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) version of digital currency called e-Naira, the first of its kind in Africa, was unveiled by President Muhammadu Buhari on October 25th, 2021, in Abuja. The initiative signalled the readiness of the CBN to kick-start its digital currency just like China’s commitment to Yuan digitisation. The e-Naira is a digital currency being regulated by the CBN. It is denominated in naira with the theme, “same naira more possibilities” to serve both as a medium of exchange and store of value with a prospect of offering better payment in retail transactions when compared to cash.
Experts say successful implementation of e-Naira will bring great prospects with a huge capacity to promote the nation’s economic development. A report from Reuters revealed that President Buhari opined that CBN innovation could grow Nigeria’s economy by $29 billion in the coming decades. This may invariably surpass the estimated crypto transactions worth $566 million within five years in Nigeria, all other things being equal. It is therefore worrisome that the digital version of Nigeria’s electronic naira, the first attempt in Africa, had very low acceptability among Nigerians considering its poor starting. Some App reviewers explained that the mobile wallet of e-Naira which has same value and is interchangeable with the physical naira has multiple faults, difficult to operate and download. For example, the two e-Naira wallets the CBN made available on the Google and Apple stores, one for individuals and the other for merchants were barely working as expected. The persistent irregularities were corroborated by Mr. Fisayo Fosudo, a Nigerian YouTuber, who reviewed gadget and apps said the CBN has merely jumped into the project without putting its house in perfect shape.
While trying to unravel the factors behind the poor acceptability of e-naira, some experts submitted that Nigeria’s Central Bank should have taken time to understudy the feasibilities and challenges of operating CBDC in China. They cited the CBDC plan in South Africa, which is another large economy for taking its times to launch its digital economy. And instead of rolling out its citizens’ intra-country transactions, it only enters a trial of its CBDC project with other banks for international settlement by teaming up with other countries Central Banks like, Australia, Singapore and Malaysia. Even the success recorded so far by the Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) that was applauded in some quarters as a growing success was hinged on the few number of its active subscribers who are merely willing to explore the new digital technology. Others say e-Naira was poorly publicised, as about 85 per cent of Nigerians were said to be ignorant of e-Naira’s digital wallet transaction. Those that were highly informed about CBDC only saw it as a replacement for cryptocurrency which is a digital asset designed as a medium of exchange, where individuals’ coin ownership records are stored in a ledger existing in a form of computerised database with a decentralised control system that was banned in 2017. The prohibition caused great resentment and elicited varied protest among huge numbers of Nigerian youth who were said to have technically kicked against e-Naira’s acceptability.
Some experts said the CBN should have carried out aggressive media publicity to assuage the negative perception of the youth when it warned about the excesses and danger of decentralised control system created in 2009 by a presumably pseudonymous developer called, Satoshi Nakamoto, which exposed investors to high risk. It should have stressed that Bitcoin was no legal tender and was unprotected in Nigeria, using both conventional and new media platforms to create massive public awareness before unveiling its digital currency. The reminder of the prohibition on February 5, 2021 further escalated the battle against e-Naira’s acceptability by the youth as they perceived it as opposed to the livelihood of young Nigerians using cryptocurrency to escape poverty and unemployment. Although the Apex bank later explained through its Deputy Governor, Adamu Lamtek, that it did not ban cryptocurrency in the country to destroy youth livelihood but that it only prohibited the transaction of cryptocurrencies in Nigeria’s banking sector to curb excesses and protect unsuspecting investors from fraudulent activities.
The main concern after the launching of the programme in October 2021 was that the apps only recorded over 900,000 downloads within 95 days compare to the estimated population of 250 million people living in the country. The CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, expressed optimism over the acceptability of e-Naira over time considering the four years of thorough and painstaking consultations with relevant stakeholders and successful efforts put in place to integrate 33 banks into the e-Naira platform with 500m successfully minted by the apex bank for the take-off of the programme.The regulator said while N200 million was issued to financial institutions, over 2,000 customers had also been on-boarded as at the time of the launch. About 87 countries were reported to be currently exploring the CBDC as Nigeria has joined the league of countries that have so far launched their CBDC projects globally, including China and South Korea.
The national set target on e-Naira has not been met, as reports indicated that several merchants and retail stores in the country are yet to accept digital currency as a medium of exchange. Some analysts noted that most rural areas and regions of Nigeria are still faced with network challenges where the network penetration is still heavily dependent on 2G and 3G networks, which spells difficulty for e-Naira transactions on the internet. Financial analysts categorically stated that the “success of the e-Naira” was largely dependent on the number of active users, rate of merchants adoption and the value-added services available on the “app”. Nevertheless, e-Naira has so many opportunities for the people. The analysts noted that”the e-Naira had a potential to unlock new opportunities for the industry. E-Naira would increase remittances, foster cross-border trade, improve financial inclusion, and enable the government to make welfare payments easily among others. It is therefore not debatable that wide acceptability of CBDC will in no small measure improve economic activities and also boost the nation’s GDP. E-Naira delivers speedy, safe and simple trading transactional opportunities to customers and end-users. It is also easily transferable through peer-to-peer formats, and practically programmable for any use, as it was pegged at a flat currency.
This lofty initiative should not be allowed to fail. The Federal Government should wade into the situation and embark on aggressive awareness campaigns to enlighten the citizens through the use of jingles and placement of adverts on the billboards emphasising the huge economic values inherent in e-Naira transactions across the nation. Adverts must also run on the media stations that will enlighten people more on economic values of CBDC. In preparation for the nation’s digital currency, the Ogun State governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun, established TechHubs where different categories of people were being trained on Information Communication and Technology (ICT), exposing its citizens to digital technology, particularly on website designing among other professional certifications. Records showed that about 49 per cent population have received training in website designing, internet operation among other areas in computer core applications with beneficiaries ranging from civil and public servants, students from various schools, professional bodies, individuals as well as corporate organisations across the state.Ogun state government has made the people more computer savvy by exposing them to higher digital technology.
- Sobola, is of the Ministry Of Information & Strategy,, Ogun State.
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