The news is flying a bit under the radar. But from China to Bahrain to Jamaica, central banks are beginning 2022 having made major moves recently in support of digital assets.
We covered China’s CBDC announcement earlier this week. In short, the People’s Bank of China, the country’s central bank, made its digital yuan wallet available via both the Android and Apple app stores. Select Chinese citizens in a wide range of provinces – including Shenzhen, Shanghai, and Chengdu – will be able to download the e-CNY wallet. The Chinese government hopes that there will be significant use of the technology in the weeks leading up to the Winter Olympics in Beijing, which could represent a showcase for the digital currency.
Halfway around the world, the Central Bank of Bahrain (CBB) announced that it has successfully completed its test with Onyx by JPMorgan’s JPM Coin System. The test, the first of its kind in the MENA region, enabled Bank ABC to launch real-time payments for Aluminum Bahrain (ALBA) in the U.S. JPM Coin is a permissioned system that provides payment rail and deposit account ledger services that allow participants to transfer U.S. dollars that are held on deposit with JPMorgan.
“We at the Central Bank of Bahrain are extremely pleased to announce the success of this test which aligns with our vision and strategy to continually develop and enrich the capabilities extended to the stakeholders within our financial services sector in the Kingdom using advanced and leading emerging technologies,” Central Bank of Bahrain Governor Rasheed Al Maraj said in a statement.
JPM Coin is the inaugural product offering from JPMorgan’s Onyx, a blockchain-based platform that facilitates the exchange of value, data, and digital assets. Onyx was formed in 2020.
Several hundred miles to Bahrain’s west, the Bank of Jamaica (BOJ) announced that it also has completed a cryptocurrency pilot. Here, the digital asset is a central bank digital currency (CBDC), which has been undergoing testing in the island nation for the past eight months. The project was conducted in partnership with Irish fintech eCurrency Mint, a company with a 10+ year pedigree in innovation on CBDCs. The stated goal of the initiative was to determine “whether a central bank digital currency along with the attendant technology solution could be successfully implemented in Jamaica.”
Three specific tasks were part of the test: minting of the CBDC, issuing the CBDC to wallet providers, and distributing CBDCs to retail customers. This final component of the test involved wallet provider NCB, and the successful onboarding of 57 customers who conducted person-to-person, cash-in, and cash-out transactions with small businesses as part of an NCB-sponsored event in December called “Market on the Lawn.”
In the wake of the successful test, the Bank of Jamaica has planned a national roll-out of its new CBDC in the first quarter of 2022. The roll-out will feature the continued onboarding of new and existing customers by NCB, the introduction of two additional wallet providers, and a test of transactions between customers of different participating wallet providers to establish interoperability.
Note that Jamaica’s Caribbean neighbor, the Bahamas, launched its CBDC, the Sand Dollar, in October of 2020. The Sand Dollar is the the world’s first official central bank digital currency to reach full circulation.
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Here is our look at fintech innovation around the world.
- Cash payments platform Pipit Global extends its partnership with pan-African payments company Cellulant.
- When the debate over mobile payment taxes got tough, a few members of the Ghanaian parliament got rough.
- Nigeria-based ethical credit recovery firm Bfree raised $1.7 million to fuel international expansion.
Central and Eastern Europe
- Russia’s Tinkoff Investments became the first broker in the country to offer an online stock gifting service.
- Veriff, an identity verification provider based in Estonia, joined the AWS Partner Network.
- Visa underscored its support for SMEs in Azerbaijan that are embracing fintech and financial digitization.
Middle East and Northern Africa
- Google acquired Israeli enterprise cybersecurity firm Siemplify for $500 million.
- A partnership between Mastercard and Saudi Arabia’s Banque Saudi Fransi will enable the launch of a customizable cashback credit card.
- Payments innovator Stripe went live in Israel this week.
Central and Southern Asia
- Kathmandu-based Mega Bank Nepal partnered with MOCO digital wallet.
- Indian merchant commerce company Pine Labs secured $20 million in funding from the State Bank of India (SBI).
- An investment of $375 million took Indian banking and payments platform Razorpay to a valuation of $7.5 billion.
Latin America and the Caribbean
- Mexican card manufacturer Forzacard partnered with biometric solutions company Zwipe to create and launch biometric payment cards.
- Uruguayan payments platform dLocal teamed up with McDonald’s franchisee Arcos Dorados to power its in-app payments in the country.
- The Jamaican central bank announced the end of its central bank digital currency (CBDC) test.
- Vietnam-based digital bank Timo raised $20 million in funding.
- Among the country’s largest commercial banks, Taiwan’s Taipei Fubon Bank teamed up with Avaloq to build a wealth management platform for its private banking business in Hong Kong. Avaloq won Best of Show at FinovateAsia in 2018.
- Indonesia’s central bank unveiled a new retail payments system, BI-Fast, that will reduce the cost of money transfers.