The rise of cryptocurrencies over the last few years has been exciting, to say the least. Not only have several innovative digital currencies been developed, but innovative currency solutions as well. And in this post, we’re looking at one of these innovations: CBDC.
We’ll cover what CBDC is, how it compares to other currencies, and how this quickly maturing tech can be applied in the real world.
What is CBDC?
CBDC is short for Central Bank Digital Currency. It refers to cryptocurrencies that are developed, issued, and managed by a central bank. If that sounds a bit like traditional, physical money, it’s because it is.
The idea behind CBDC is to have a stable, digital alternative to fiat currencies. While many crypto coins want to replace or work adjacent to traditional currency, CBDC coins are designed to exist in the same space as fiat currency.
CBDC coins are typically issued by a governing body’s bank and are tied to the value of that bank’s fiat currency 1-to-1.
In other words, a country with CBDC coins will have physical coins, paper money, and digital money, all of which follow the same value system and can be spent, earned, and transferred in all of the same ways.
CBDC vs. stablecoins vs. fiat currency
Those who are more familiar with cryptocurrency may think that this sounds a bit redundant. After all, isn’t this what stablecoins already do? And if you can already send fiat currency to someone digitally using an app and a credit card number, why do you need CBDC?
First, let’s define each of these terms:
- CBDC is a digital representation of a fiat currency
- A fiat currency is traditional, state-issued money (the U.S. dollar, for example)
- A stablecoin is a cryptocurrency whose value doesn’t fluctuate (so it isn’t an investment like many cryptocurrencies, but a true currency that you can spend without the value fluctuating)
Hopefully, that gives you a better idea of what sets these currencies apart. In practice, someone would use a physical fiat currency in most cases, a CBDC when spending fiat currency digitally (as it’s faster and more cost-effective, especially across borders), and a stablecoin as a separate activity whenever they see fit.
The rise of CBDCs
While the idea of a CBDC may be new to many, CBDCs are already beginning to take off. Around the world, national banks and regulators are developing CBDC technology to provide individuals with a cryptocurrency option that isn’t risky, volatile, or unfamiliar.
Here are some of the most promising CBDC endeavors around the world.
Bank of Canada: Project Jasper
Project Jasper was started by the Bank of Canada in 2017 through an experimental partnership between the public and private sectors. The bank is working with distributed ledger technology (DLT) and is leveraging a partnership with private cryptocurrency bodies to better understand how to use DLT.
Today, Project Jasper is in the midst of Phase 4. During this phase, the Bank of Canada is working on using the technology to enable cross-border transfers using DLT. This will allow larger sums of money to be transferred more quickly and at a lower cost.
Monetary Authority of Singapore: Project Ubin
Project Ubin is run by the Monetary Authority of Singapore and is another collaborative effort between the public and private sectors. They’ve also been exploring the practical applications for blockchain and DLT technology, specifically for settling payments and securities.
This has been a multi-phase and multi-year effort, with each phase of the project looking at a new and pressing concern. The fifth and final phase of Project Ubin, which ended in 2020, proved the business value of blockchain payment networks by showing that they were more cost-effective and efficient in the workplace, a conclusion it came to by working with the Bank of Canada.
The Bahamas: Sand Dollar
The Central Bank of The Bahamas has taken a much more practical approach to the world of CBDC. Rather than experimenting with the technology, it’s been actively working to bring it to its marketplace.
The ultimate goal is for project Sand Dollar to be interoperable with existing payment services channels so that all payments services firms can access the currency.
Another interesting endeavor in the world of CBDC comes in the form of Nigeria’s eNaira. eNaira is a CBDC designed to act as a medium of exchange and a store of value, offering better payment prospects for consumers when compared to cash payments.
Nigeria is the first country in Africa to launch a CBDC, making this a particularly innovative effort. It’s also one of the most robust and finished of its kind, with several layers of security, tight control over the supply, and processes in place for distribution.
There are several benefits to this uniquely developed CBDC.
Improve availability and usability of central bank money
eNaira improves the availability and usability of central bank money. By offering a digital alternative to the fiat currency of Nigeria, the Central Bank of Nigeria is helping its citizens make purchases with whatever tools they have at their disposal.
It’s an excellent example of embracing a technology (rather than rejecting or limiting its potential) to provide new opportunities for individuals.
Support resilient payment ecosystem
The development of eNaira is also helping to build a more resilient payment ecosystem. By introducing this technology and diversifying how Nigerian money can be spent and invested, the country is making strides in strengthening its financial infrastructure.
This is helping future-proof the country’s financial structure, setting up a brighter future for it and its inhabitants.
Increase revenue and tax collection
eNaira can be used for tax collection, providing a faster and more accessible solution than traditional methods. And it can increase the revenue collected from taxes by reducing the costs associated with collecting these taxes.
Enables direct welfare disbursements to citizens
eNaira has the benefit of being a direct connection for services like welfare disbursements. This allows the service to provide critical resources to individuals instantly.
Not only that but these resources are delivered via a medium that is more accessible to the average person and more readily spendable, especially as infrastructure continues to be updated.
Ukraine’s CBDC pilot and Cheesecake Labs’ involvement
Our last real-world example of CBDC is one that the Cheesecake Labs team is working on! Ukraine’s CBDC pilot endeavor through Tascombank is working on launching an electronic version of the Hryvnia, which will allow for the handling of payroll for public sector employees.
It’s packed with the same tight level of control and security as the other examples mentioned in this post, along with some unique features.
Uses the Stellar network
Ukraine’s CBDC is built on the Stellar network. Stellar is a blockchain network that allows entities to create cryptocurrency versions of real-world assets.
For that reason alone, it’s a no-brainer to use this platform for CBDC development. It’s tailor-made for this use case and already has much of the infrastructure in place, allowing the project’s development to accelerate.
Cheesecake Labs is working directly on the pilot as a Stellar Development Foundation partner
Additionally, Cheesecake Labs is a Stellar Development Foundation (SDF) partner, giving our team insights and resources perfect for developing this project. Specifically, we’re supporting the SDF development team in redesigning the integration layer called NUMA.
Cheesecake Labs is working with projects around the world to push CBDC and blockchain development
Ukraine’s CBDC pilot is just one of the many ways Cheesecake Labs pushes innovation in the blockchain sector. You can read more about our innovative approach here or reach out to our team today to discuss blockchain opportunities for your organization.