On Monday, global accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers released its annual index report on central bank cryptocurrencies (CBDCs) and stablecoins. Analysts at the company pointed out in the report that more than 80% of the world’s central banks are considering or have launched CBDCs; At the same time, stablecoins are becoming a complement to the existing payment ecosystem, with a market cap of around $190 billion by early 2022.
PwC’s Global CBDC Index, based on data from the Bank for International Settlements, central bank websites, the Atlantic Council, the media, Google Trends, Baidu Index, aims to measure the maturity of central banks in deploying their own cryptocurrencies.
PwC believes that CBDC will not only facilitate more efficient, lower cost and 24/7/365 payments in the financial services industry, but will also benefit cross-border transactions and cross-border economies in all relevant jurisdictions. The report divides CBDC into two frameworks, one is retail CBDC, such projects are cryptocurrencies for public use, and their maturity is higher than another framework – wholesale CBDC, which is for accounts with central banks. Digital currency used by financial institutions.
Overall, more than 80% of central banks are considering or have launched a CBDC. For example, the Bahamas and Nigeria are already using legal cryptocurrencies, and Jamaica and the Eastern Caribbean are expected to follow soon. The People’s Bank of China started moving towards a Crypto yuan in 2014 and is currently conducting large-scale pilots in some cities, and it has become one of only three payment methods accepted by venues during the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.
However, both retail and wholesale CBDC can be monitored and controlled, and while this may not be a more desirable characteristic, it turns out that criminals can indeed use various types of “money” to do bad things, helping to track and Preventing such things from happening is essential. However, more transparent and simpler CBDC operations are necessary.
In contrast, privately issued stablecoins offer an alternative and offer much of the same utility as a CBDC, such as transportability, continuous settlement, traceability, cross-border interoperability, relative to traditional payment bases Low transaction fees and programmability of the facility, but no limitations. In the simplest sense, a stablecoin is a cryptocurrency that is collateralized on a one-to-one basis (for example, a fiat currency deposit held by a regulated third-party custodian). This means it is state-backed to the extent that deposits are insured.
However, despite the great opportunities for stablecoins, they still face regulatory challenges crisscrossing countries around the world. This was demonstrated recently by Facebook’s sale of Diem to Silvergate.
Here is a composite index ranking of retail CBDC and wholesale CBDC:
Image: Index of top 10 retail CBDCs
<Top 1> Nigeria
Region: Africa (First in Africa)
In October 2021, Nigeria became the first African country to launch a CBDC – eNaira, issued by the Central Bank of Nigeria as legal tender. To strengthen the payments ecosystem and drive financial inclusion, eNaira is designed on seven key principles: Inclusive Economy, Innovation, Efficiency, Resilience, Proud Nigeria, Scalability and Transparency. Adopt a phased approach to implementing eNaira’s desired use cases, including the planned release of Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) and offline payment options in the short to medium term.
Currently, the eNaira payment wallet App has been downloaded about 700,000 times, covering more than 160 countries/regions around the world, of which about 660,000 wallets have been created. The total transaction volume was 35,000, 90% of which were between individuals and businesses.
<Top 2> Bahamas
Name: Sand Dollar
Region: Americas (No. 1 in the Americas)
In October 2020, The Bahamas became the first country in the world to officially launch a CBDC – Sand Dollar, issued by the Central Bank of the Bahamas as legal tender. Sand Dollar’s goals are more efficient payment systems, safer transactions, and shorter settlement times, enhancing financial inclusion, reducing costs, and strengthening anti-money laundering, counterfeiting, and control of other illegal activities. Current use cases include living payments, connecting physical payment cards to Crypto wallets, payment records can be used for micro-loan applications, and businesses pay wages.
<Top 3> China
Region: Asia (No. 1 in Asia)
In 2020, China became the first major economy to pilot a CBDC. In March 2022, the pilot will be launched in 12 cities including Beijing and Shanghai, with plans to expand to at least 11 cities. The purpose of e-CNY launch is to improve the convenience, efficiency and flexibility of the retail payment system, and further strengthen the currency sovereignty and internationalization of the RMB.
At present, the total number of e-CNY wallets created is about 260 million, and the total transaction volume exceeds 13 billion US dollars.
<Top 4> Jamaica
Region: Americas (second in the Americas)
In May 2020, the Central Bank of Jamaica announced plans to develop a CBDC and invited CBDC providers to develop and test potential solutions. In 2021, the Central Bank of Jamaica completed an 8-month pilot, procured the services of eCurrency Mint, and minted the country’s first batch of CBDC, totaling 230 million Jam-Dex (test). In March this year, the Central Bank of Jamaica announced that it would officially issue Jam-Dex in April.
<Top 5> Eastern Caribbean
Region: Americas (third in the Americas)
In March 2021, the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank launched a CBDC-DCash project for retail customers, gradually expanding from the initial participation of 4 island countries to the current 7. According to the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank, DCash could provide a faster, safer and cheaper payment platform for members of the Organization of Caribbean States. DCash is still being piloted, during which time the central bank plans to add more features to DCash, including the introduction of e-commerce capabilities, allowing businesses to accept DCash through its website, and more.
<Top 6> Ukraine
Region: Europe (third in Europe)
The National Bank of Ukraine launched the first CBDC pilot in September 2018. During the pilot, it issued 5,443 e-hryvnia and tested it up and running. In 2021, following an expert survey, the National Bank of Ukraine announced three potential research areas for e-hryvnia, including payments, transactions with the cryptocurrency sector, and cross-border payments. In July 2021, the President of Ukraine signed the Payment Services Act, allowing the National Bank to issue CBDC. Currently, the Ukrainian Ministry of Digital Transformation is still testing the underlying technology.
<Top 7> Uruguay
Region: Americas (4th in the Americas)
In 2018, the Central Bank of Uruguay completed a six-month CBDC pilot. During the pilot, the central bank issued about US$20 million of e-pesos for 10,000 users to test peer-to-peer payments and offline payments between individuals and businesses. After the pilot, all e-pesos were destroyed. At present, the country’s central bank has not announced the continued development of a CBDC, and according to the International Monetary Fund, resource constraints are one of the key reasons Uruguay has yet to launch another pilot.
<Top 8> Thailand
Region: Asia (2nd in Asia)
In August 2021, the Bank of Thailand announced plans for the development and testing of a CBDC. Unlike other CBDCs, Thailand’s CBDC plans to expand innovative use cases, allowing the private sector and technologists to participate. The test is expected by the end of 2022, but the Bank of Thailand has not announced the test content or participation criteria.
<Top 9> Sweden
Region: Europe (second in Europe)
Riksbank first launched its CBDC e-krona in 2017 to analyze the demand for e-krona in the country. In 2019, the Riksbank tested an e-wallet. But since six Swedish banks jointly developed a Crypto payment app Swish at the time, less than 10% of payments in the country were made in cash, so no e-krona was issued.
In order to replace Swish, the Riksbank completed the second phase of the e-krona in 2021, which is to study how to design a CBDC, and the report is expected to be published this spring. This year, the Riksbank will continue to investigate the demand for e-krona and the impact on the Swedish economy, test solutions for different technologies in the e-krona pilot, and prepare for possible solution procurement and e-krona issuance.
<Top 10> Korea
Region: Asia (3rd in Asia)
In May 2021, the Bank of Korea announced a simulation test of the feasibility of CBDC, with the main goal of testing whether CBDC could be used as a currency and exploring its potential commercial uses. The pilot started in August 2021 and is expected to last until June this year. The first phase of testing has concluded, which mainly explores the basic functions of the CBDC, including manufacturing, issuance and distribution in a simulated environment, and according to the Bank of Korea, the CBDC is working fine under the test conditions.
Based on the results of the first phase, the Bank of Korea plans to explore implementing other functions, such as offline payments and adding personal information protection technologies. When the second phase is completed in June this year, the bank plans to work with financial institutions to evaluate the project and continue with usability trials.
Image: Wholesale CBDC Top 10 Index
<Top 1> China Hong Kong and Thailand tied
Name: Inthanon-LionRock (mBridge)
Region: Asia (No. 1 in Asia)
In 2019, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority and the Bank of Thailand jointly launched a project called Inthanon-LionRock to test the application of CBDC in cross-border payments. The project demonstrated the viability of a common CBDC platform between the two jurisdictions by testing key features such as transaction privacy, forex matching, monitoring, and compliance.
In 2021, the project will be renamed mBridge (Multi-CBDC Cross-Border Payments) and will be jointly participated by the Bank for International Settlements Innovation Center, the People’s Bank of China Digital Currency Research Institute and the United Arab Emirates Central Bank. The purpose of the project is to continue the development of a proof-of-concept prototype to facilitate real-time cross-border foreign exchange transactions. More than 20 private sector participants from the four participating central bank jurisdictions, including financial institutions, banking associations and an exchange, contributed to the test.
The pilot phase, scheduled to begin in 2022, will explore existing limitations of the current platform (such as privacy, liquidity, scalability, and performance), explore policy requirements and trial CBDCs with commercial banks and other market participants.
<Top 3> Singapore
Title: Dunbar, “Liquidity Management in Multi-Currency Cross-Border Payment Networks”
Region: Asia (3rd in Asia)
To date, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has explored and participated in more than five wholesale CBDC projects. In 2021, it expanded with two new projects, Dunbar and “Liquidity Management in Multi-Currency Cross-Border Payment Networks”.
– During the Dunbar project, MAS collaborated with the Reserve Bank of Australia, Bank Negara Malaysia, Reserve Bank of South Africa and the BIS Innovation Centre to design and develop a platform to facilitate settlement of multiple CBDCs. The project has developed prototypes that demonstrate how commercial banks can transact directly with each other, using wholesale CBDCs in their respective countries, eliminating the need for intermediaries and reducing the time and cost of transacting across borders.
– During the project “Liquidity Management in Multi-Currency Cross-Border Payment Networks”, MAS and Banque de France collaborated to explore the possibility of facilitating cross-border, cross-currency CBDC transactions. The prototype of the CBDC includes an automated liquidity pool and market making services for the EUR/SGD currency pair. It utilizes smart contracts to manage the EUR/SGD exchange rate and ensure that it aligns with real-time market transactions.
While MAS continues to develop a wholesale CBDC for cross-currency payments, it has temporarily ruled out the need for a retail CBDC.
<Top 4> Canada
Region: Americas (No. 1 in the Americas)
While the Bank of Canada has no current plans to launch a CBDC, it has undertaken active research and international collaborations to prepare for the future of money and electronic payments. This includes a potential wholesale and retail CBDC case if implementation is required.
Over the years, the Bank of Canada has participated in international wholesale CBDC research programs along with other central bank and private sector players. It is also the first central bank to partner with the private sector to experiment with distributed ledger technology.
<Top 5> France
Name: Several (9 items)
Region: Europe (First in Europe)
In November 2021, the Bank of France announced the completion of an experiment launched in the spring of 2020, with the goal of testing the use cases of wholesale CBDC in multiple areas, testing different technical solutions, and the impact of issuing CBDC on macroeconomics and monetary policy.
Nine different experiments tested the risks/benefits and technical implementation of wholesale CBDCs. The test covers various uses of CBDC, from subscription/redemption of monetary funds to cross-border settlement. An actual bond issuance worth €100 million was resolved through a wholesale CBDC designed for the experiment. According to the bank, the experimental results show that a CBDC based on blockchain and distributed ledger technology can effectively accelerate the settlement of secure transactions between different currencies, while ensuring the security of transactions. The bank is understood to maintain control over currency issuance and circulation by using smart contracts, while also experimenting with interoperability with current wholesale settlement systems.
<Top 6> South Africa
Region: Africa (First in Africa)
In 2021, the South African Reserve Bank announced its participation in the Dunbar project together with the Monetary Authority of Singapore, the Reserve Bank of Australia, the Bank Negara Malaysia, and the Bank for International Settlements Innovation Center, aiming to design and develop a platform that facilitates the settlement of multiple CBDCs, enabling wholesalers in various countries. CBDCs transact with each other, eliminating the need for intermediaries and reducing the time and cost of cross-border transactions.
<Top 7> United Arab Emirates
Name: mBridge, Aber
Region: Middle East (No. 1 in the Middle East)
The UAE Central Bank continues to explore and test the possibility of issuing a wholesale CBDC through two international projects.
‒ mBridge: In February 2021, the UAE Central Bank joined the above-mentioned multi-CBDC cross-border payment project (mBridge).
‒ Aber: In 2019, the Central Bank of the United Arab Emirates and the Central Bank of Saudi Arabia jointly launched a CBDC project, Aber, to explore the feasibility of developing a Crypto currency jointly issued by the two central banks. With the joint participation of several commercial banks in the two countries, the project has confirmed that the dual Crypto currency can effectively settle local or cross-border payments. It is reported that the pilot phase of the project is scheduled to start in 2022.
<Top 8> Japan
Region: Asia (4th in Asia)
In April 2021, the Bank of Japan launched a 12-month exploration of a retail CBDC with the support of an industry committee. In the first phase, the Bank of Japan developed a test environment for the CBDC and experimented with core functions such as issuance, distribution, and redemption. The bank plans to launch a second phase in April 2022 to test other features of the CBDC. But Japan currently has no plans to actually issue a CBDC, just exploring.
In addition, the Bank of Japan is participating in globally coordinated wholesale CBDC research and development with other institutions.
<Top 9> Saudi Arabia
Region: Middle East (second in the Middle East)
The Saudi central bank is exploring wholesale CBDC opportunities and their use cases, while also considering solutions beyond CBDC, including smart contracts and cryptocurrencies. The country aims to increase the rate of electronic payments to 70% by 2030 (up from 57% in 2021), and CBDC will be one of the important steps to achieve this goal.
In 2019, the Central Bank of Saudi Arabia and the Central Bank of the United Arab Emirates jointly launched a CBDC project, Aber, to explore the feasibility of developing a Crypto currency jointly issued by the two central banks. With the joint participation of several commercial banks in the two countries, the project has confirmed that the dual Crypto currency can effectively settle local or cross-border payments.
<Top 10> Switzerland
Region: Europe (second in Europe)
In January 2022, the Swiss National Bank, the BIS Innovation Center and a financial infrastructure operator completed the second phase of the Helvetia project, which, according to participants, showed:
‒ Wholesale CBDC can be integrated into existing core systems and processes used by central banks and other commercial banks.
‒ Issuance of wholesale CBDC on a distributed ledger technology platform operated and owned by a private company is feasible.
‒ The transition to a tokenized financial ecosystem raises broader issues such as increased settlement complexity, liquidity management complexities, and transaction and settlement integration complexities.
However, the SNB has yet to confirm whether it will issue a wholesale CBDC.
World Ranking: 24th
Region: Europe (6th in Europe)
In June 2021, the UK Treasury and Central Bank launched a Retail CBDC Working Group to explore a possible UK CBDC. In addition, the two departments have also established a CBDC technology forum to collect strategic opinions from different technologists.
In January, however, the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee called the UK retail CBDC “a solution to the problem” and said they had yet to hear a convincing case for why the UK needs a retail CBDC.
The Treasury and Central Bank will launch a new public consultation in 2022 to assess the case for a retail CBDC in the UK. The House of Lords has also encouraged them to consult on a potential wholesale CBDC.
In March 2022, the Bank of England and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology announced a 12-month joint research project to explore the potential technical challenges, trade-offs and risks involved in building a CBDC system.
The UK has yet to make a decision on issuing a CBDC.
World Ranking: 31st
Region: Americas (7th in the Americas)
In March 2022, the U.S. government issued an executive order on Crypto assets and blockchain technology. The order cites the development of a U.S. CBDC as a work of “highest urgency.” Additionally, the order highlights some of the benefits of a CBDC, including expanding access to financial services, lowering the cost of transferring funds, and strengthening U.S. leadership in the global financial system.
The order comes after the Fed released a document inviting public comment on the opportunities, risks, and policies of developing a CBDC. The document shows that the Fed will seek to ensure that CBDCs balance privacy with preventing illegal activity, are intermediary by financial institutions, and have identity verification requirements.
Also in February 2022, the Boston Fed and its university partners released preliminary results of a joint CBDC study, proving that they were able to create a system capable of processing 1.7 million transactions per second.
The United States has not yet decided whether to initiate CBDC research and development, which requires congressional authorization.
World Ranking: 36th
Region: Europe (8th in Europe)
In October 2021, the ECB began a two-year investigation into the euro CBDC and established a market advisory group consisting of 30 professionals from the payments industry. In March, the European Central Bank published the results of its research, noting that participants knew very little about CBDC, but that banks were generally considered the safest and most reliable CBDC providers.
Meanwhile, the European Commission announced in February 2022 that it plans to propose a bill for a euro CBDC in early 2023. The bill will have to be discussed within EU parliaments before it becomes law.
The ECB has yet to decide to issue a euro CBDC.
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