Ethiopia Inches Closer to CBDC in Move to Modernize Economy


Ethiopia Embraces Digital Currency and Banking Reforms in Economic Revamp

Ethiopia, a nation undergoing significant economic transformation, has taken a bold step towards a modernized financial system. The National Bank of Ethiopia (NBE) has drafted two crucial proclamations designed to propel the country’s economic reform agenda. These proclamations, poised for approval by the House of Representatives, lay the groundwork for the introduction of a central bank digital currency (CBDC) and introduce a wave of transformative changes to the banking sector.

Central Bank Takes the Lead in Digital Transformation

One of the proposed proclamations centers around establishing a legal framework for a CBDC. This move signifies the NBE’s commitment to exploring the potential of digital currencies within the Ethiopian economy. While the specifics of the CBDC are yet to be unveiled, the framework paves the way for its potential future implementation. The proclamation also addresses the need to bolster the NBE’s capital and establish a robust consumer protection framework.

A Multi-Faceted Approach to Banking Reform

The accompanying proclamation tackles a broader spectrum of banking reforms. It aims to liberalize foreign investment in Ethiopian banks, a move intended to attract international expertise and capital. Additionally, it empowers the NBE to address challenges posed by “problem” banks, ensuring the stability and health of the financial sector. This proclamation also fosters innovation by introducing a “regulatory sandbox” that allows for the testing and implementation of novel financial solutions in a controlled environment.

These proclamations are integral to the Ethiopian government’s Homegrown Economic Reform Agenda. This initiative emphasizes self-reliance and domestic solutions to drive economic growth and prosperity. The government’s interest in a CBDC aligns with this vision, potentially offering a secure, efficient, and transparent digital payment system for Ethiopians.

Ethiopia has already embarked on its economic liberalization journey. A significant step was ending the state monopoly on mobile money services, expanding financial inclusion and empowering citizens. The country further leverages blockchain technology for large government payments, demonstrating its openness to innovative financial solutions.

Africa Navigates the Crypto Landscape

The continent of Africa presents a mixed picture regarding cryptocurrency adoption. While several countries, including Ethiopia, are witnessing a rise in crypto usage, limitations like low internet penetration hinder widespread adoption. Attempts to integrate cryptocurrencies haven’t always been successful. The Central African Republic’s adoption of Bitcoin as legal tender and its launch of a non-CBDC government cryptocurrency called Sango haven’t yielded significant results.

Despite the growing global interest in cryptocurrencies, digital currencies remain illegal in Ethiopia. However, the country has witnessed a rise in data mining firms seeking to capitalize on its affordable electricity to mine cryptocurrencies. Additionally, plans were previously in place to introduce the Web3 Fuse payment system within Ethiopia.

CBDCs Gain Traction Across Africa

While navigating the complexities of cryptocurrencies, at least 18 African countries are actively researching and exploring the potential of CBDCs. Nigeria, for instance, launched the eNaira in 2022, becoming the second country globally to implement a live CBDC. Meanwhile, Zimbabwe adopted a government-issued gold-backed token as the foundation for its latest currency. These developments highlight the growing interest in CBDCs as a potential tool for financial inclusion and economic transformation across Africa.

Ethiopia’s economic reform plans, particularly the proposed CBDC framework and banking reforms, position the country at the forefront of financial innovation in Africa. The successful implementation of these initiatives has the potential to create a more inclusive, efficient, and robust financial system, propelling Ethiopia’s economic growth and prosperity.

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Author: Sb

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