e-currency and RBM governor Banda

LILONGWE-(MaraviPost)-Economic experts in just ended Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM)’s 2022 Monetary Policy Conference still thinking that the nation is not ready for adopting digital currency-eKwacha for increased transparency, cost reduction as its benefits.

Under the theme, “Monetary Policy in the 2020’s” the conference which held on September 29 to 30, 2022 attracted economic experts who unearthed policy directions presentations.

At the 2-day conference, delegates suggested the need for the country to improve productivity, adoption of digital currency and a shift in legal framework to allow the central bank to get additional mandates.

In his presentation tilted: “Central Bank Digital Currency: Is it time for Digital Malawi Kwacha Yet? , Malawi University of Business and Applied Sciences (MUBAS)’s economic expert Dr. Betchani Tchereni dared participants on whether Malawi was ready with digital currency.

Tchereni on digital currency

Dr Tchereni backed the introduction of eKwacha arguing that the digital currency is accurate tracking, permanent ledger and among others.

He however poses fears on eKwacha including complex technology, regulatory implications, competing platforms and implementation challenges.

“Perhaps one of the most outstandingly known cryptocurrency is Bitcoin which has become a cultural and financial phenomenon (Scott A. Wolla, 2017). While many people have heard of Bitcoin, far fewer understand it.

“In short, Bitcoin is a digital currency, or “cryptocurrency,” that allows person-to-person transactions independent of the banking system. Bitcoin is not a physical coin that you keep in your purse or wallet. Rather, it is a virtual currency—a digital computer code you store in a virtual wallet in cyberspace and access with a computer or smartphone app,” reads in part Mchereni’s presentation intro.

It added, “Some see Bitcoin as revolutionary because it allows people to transfer money to each other very easily (like sending an email), even across international borders.

“Lately, however, many people are buying this virtual currency purely as a financial investment, hoping it will appreciate, rather than using it for transactions. So which is it—currency or financial asset? Or perhaps the line dividing one from the other is not very clear”.

He however warmed that anonymity and lack of centralized control make digital currency highly attractive to criminals.

But many participants both on virtual and physical lauded the presentation with reservations on relevance of introducing eKwacha in Malawi amid high inflation of kwacha currency against major exchange rates.

Malawian participant from Australia told the meeting virtually that the nation has many pressing issues must focus on than introducing digital currency.

“The central bank must be serious. You cant come up with these topics when the nation is grappling with poor monetary policies. We need our inflation down that the kwacha gain weight.

“What are lending or borrowing rates in commercial banks? I remember I failed to access loans for businesses in Malawi due to high interests rates. These are monetary policies RBM must dwell on that petty issues,” chides James from Australia.

Closing up the conference, RBM Governor, Dr. Wilson Banda pledged to consider on economic experts recommendations.

Banda therefore described the conference as fruitful and key to unlocking better options for economic growth.

The governor promised to introduce waivers for investors interested in establishing a Development bank which plays a vital role in stimulating productivity

About 105 countries, representing over 95 percent of global GDP, are exploring digital currency.

In May 2020, only 35 countries were considering e-currency.

A new high of 50 countries are in an advanced phase of exploration (development, pilot, or launch).

About 10 countries have fully launched a digital currency, with China’s pilot set to expand in 2023. 

Jamaica is the latest country to launch digital currency, the JAM-DEX.

Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy, launched its e-currency in October 2021.

Many countries are exploring alternative international payment systems. The trend is likely to accelerate following financial sanctions on Russia. There are 9 cross-border wholesale (bank-to-bank) digital currency tests and 3 cross-border retail projects.

Of the G7 economies, the US and UK are the furthest behind on digital currency development. 

The European Central Bank has signaled it will aim to deliver a digital euro by the middle of the decade.

19 of the G20 countries are exploring a CBDC, with 16 already in development or pilot stage. 

This includes South Korea, Japan, India, and Russia. Each has made significant progress over past six months.

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