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Caribbean digital dollar makes history

News that the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union has done its first digital dollar transaction shows that some dynamic moves are occurring amid the pandemic. Work on digital currencies grew apace as the whole world began to implement new transaction measures utilising technology and aiming to create a global financial infrastructure that is resilient to shocks. Another aim of the digital currency is to extend financial services to the unbanked, that pool of people who have never done any banking.

Grenada, the birthplace of the outstanding sprinter Kirani James and world-renowned for its fabulous Grand Anse beach, can now boast that it conducted the first successful retail central bank digital currency (CBDC) consumer-to-merchant transaction using DCash, the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) digital currency.

The ECCB and Barbados-based fintech company Bitt partnered in the crucial testing. They announced a full roll-out for four countries of the currency union – Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, Saint Kitts and Nevis, and Saint Lucia.

“This transaction is a major milestone in our mission to place DCash in the hands of the people of the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU). I congratulate Geo F Huggins on making history. We are now on the cusp of the public launch of DCash,” governor of the ECCB Timothy N J Antoine said in commenting on this achievement.

CEO of Bitt Brian Popelka stated, “We are extremely proud to provide the ECCB with our digital currency management solution to efficiently service the entire financial ecosystem within the ECCU. Bitt’s digital currency management system (DCMS) is at the forefront of integrating digital currency operations into any financial infrastructure. The future of financial transactions is about delivering ultimate efficiency, end-to-end, for institutions, businesses and customers,” Popelka said.

The ECCB has begun to issue DCash to participating financial institutions to enable customer purchases at selected merchants as part of the closed segment of the DCash pilot. This live exercise is the final step before the public launch in four of the ECCU’s eight sovereign member countries. Governor Antoine spoke about this historic pilot within that context, saying, “DCash is about the people of the ECCU. Through DCash, we intend to increase their financial inclusion, competitiveness and resilience. Over the next few weeks, Bitt is supporting the ECCB as registered financial institutions, merchants, and agents achieve full readiness for the public rollout in the countries of Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, Saint Kitts and Nevis and Saint Lucia.

Over the last year, Bitt has worked hand in hand with the ECCB in creating the DCash infrastructure using Bitt’s DCMS. Bitt has further enabled every stakeholder of the ecosystem, including financial institutions, merchants, government agencies, and end-users, with the infrastructure and applications necessary to issue fully, transfer, hold, transact and remediate using digital currency DCash.

For some time now, central banks across the region were urged to assess the introduction of digital currencies. Rising concerns about the future of paper money and bitcoin’s rise became even stronger arguments for central banks to start issuing digital cash. It is clear, from the sandbox activities to test digital currencies, that the central banks are taking advantage of the increasingly positive environment where technology facilitates more of the activities in our daily lives.