Your CBDC Survival Guide

Nigeria may not be on a lot of people’s radars, but it should be. Africa’s largest economy is in the early stages of a monetary experiment that could be coming to the U.S. sooner than you think.

In October 2021, Nigeria’s central bank introduced the eNaira, a digital version of its currency, the naira, and so far, things aren’t going well. Nigerians aren’t using the currency, for one.

And two, the central bank has recently replaced old high-denomination banknotes with new, less counterfeitable ones. As you might expect, this has triggered a chaotic run on the banks. Cash withdrawals are reportedly limited to around $45 USD per day.

Some people believe the crisis has been engineered to push people into using the eNaira. True or not, the country isn’t giving up on the currency. Nigeria, which is holding a highly contested presidential election on Saturday, entered into talks this week with a New York-based technology firm to help it “keep full control” of the eNaira, according to reporting by Bloomberg.

I’ve written about the pros and cons of central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) before, and I think by now most people have developed their own opinion about them.

The thing is, CBDCs are not just for emerging and developing countries like Nigeria. Close to 90% of the world’s central banks are at some point in the process of creating their own digital currency. Sweden, already one of the most cashless societies (despite it being the first country in history to issue paper banknotes), may be close to rolling out the e-krona.

Not everyone favors the idea of a centralized digital currency, and a few nations are working on legislation limiting their scope. Switzerland, whose citizens hold the most physical cash per capita, wants to enshrine the availability of paper banknotes in its constitution. This week, a U.S. legislator introduced a bill, titled the “CBDC Anti-Surveillance State Act,” that would prohibit the Federal Reserve from issuing its own digital dollar.