The Bank of Ghana (BoG) says a significant percentage of participants in its eCedi piloting project are “positive about the system, based on their experience of using it.”
Optimistic about the potential of the digital currency, the BoG is confident the eCedi will boost financial inclusion in rural areas, saying, it would create a transaction history that commercial players can use – with consent – to begin offering products themselves.
Speaking at a payments Canada Summit held in Toronto last week , the Bank of Ghana’s First Deputy Governor, Dr. Maxwell Opoku-Afari said when it came to designing the eCedi project, the bank decided to carry out pilots in three locations: the capital of Accra, the town of Tarkwa, and the village of Sefwi Asafo.
“While the first two locations explored several use cases for online payments, Sefwi Asafo saw the offline experiment,” he added.
Explaining the importance of exploring an offline Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC), Dr. Opoku-Afari said any currency has to work for all Ghanaians, no matter where they are located. And, while Ghana has seen the percentage of people with formal bank accounts soar in the last decade, nearly a third of the population is still unbanked.
The bank also opted for a token-based, rather than account-based, system – minting the eCedi hand then distributing it via commercial players – one mobile money provider, two banks and two PSPs. This approach, rather the use of a central bank app, was chosen because the “goal was to enable the ecosystem,” says Dr. Opoku-Afari.
The online pilots saw participants use existing banking apps and involved P2P, wallet-to-bank, and merchant and bill payments.
In contrast, Dr Opoku-Afari said the offline experiment saw the eCedi distributed via smart card and concentrated on merchant payments and was run purely by the Bank without commercial players.
The reasons for the focus on merchant payments, according to Dr Opoku-Afari, is that, as of 2017, 99% of the transactions were still carried out in cash.
Ghana began piloting a retail central bank digital currency In 2022, exploring both an online and an offline version of the eCedi.
The country has been aggressively pursuing a financial sector digitisation programme for several years as it seeks to boost financial inclusion and wider economic growth.