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Online currency: All you need to know about CBN’s e-Naira

Photo Credit: Nairametrics 3 mins read

The importance of technology in almost all aspects of human endeavor cannot be overstated or underrated. In the economic and financial sector, the transition to technologically aided  banking and financial transactions has led to the formation of various products and novel financial processes. 

As a result of this massive techno-financial evolution, people can easily use debit or credit cards, withdraw and send money at Point of Sales Machines (POS) without necessarily having to use the usually crowded ATMs. 

Furthermore,  the development in this sector seems to keep getting better as the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)  is also set to launch an online-based currency called eNaira. As such, we have deduced questions around the eNaira that may be of relevance to the public: What role will the eNaira play in society? And of what benefit is it to ordinary citizens?

What is eNaira?

The eNaira will be a digital representative of the paper Naira currency issued by the Central Bank of Nigeria. It will also  be a complementary legal tender in Nigeria, having the same exchange value as the Naira and maintaining a parity of value as the Naira. One interesting feature of the eNaira is that it will not earn any interest to the holder, and it is built on a blockchain open ledger technology. This simply implies that  you cannot have a duplicate of eNaira or a fake version of it because each note will be unique.

How safe is the eNaira?

If it involves money, then safety is of paramount importance. The eNaira  is designed to solve any verification risk by assuring all holders that each eNaira is a valid token. This authenticity is achieved by building the eNaira block chain that makes it difficult or impossible to change, hack, or cheat the system. Thus, every retailer is likely to accept the eNaira because it cannot be forged or duplicated.

How do I access the eNaira?

The CBN has planned a rollout in a tiered manner. First, it will issue the eNaira to financial institutions like banks. Your bank will then retail the eNaira to you. If your transaction value is  less than N50,000 a day, you don’t need a bank account to get the eNaira; you can use a NIN verified phone number to buy eNaira. If you want to withdraw more than N50,000 but up to the daily limit of N1 million, you will need a BVN in addition to a verified phone number.

The CBN  has very strict “Know Your Customers” protocols for this process. The aim is to assure all retailers of the safety and utility of the eNaira.

Why should I use eNaira?

The eNaira has a low-cost advantage. The daily transfers between accounts are at no cost to the holder of the account and lower transaction cost is a massive incentive, as traders will pay no fees for withdrawals and deposits to any bank account. Thus, there will be no transaction fees but improved financial safety.

How will dollar remittance to eNaira work?

The eNaira will be integrated into the CBN’s forex process, and this is to make it easier to receive remittances to Nigeria. These transfers could be from the CBN crediting eNaira directly to the international Money Transfer Organisation (IMTO). So  a Nigerian abroad sending $100 to his uncle can debit his US bank account and credit $100 to an IMTO, who will buy eNaira from the corresponding bank in Nigeria. Then the  $100 is converted to eNaira instantly,  at a far lower transfer fee.  This is a real benefit and a significant advantage the eNaira will provide to customers.

The potential of the eNaira

Any two parties who can credit a Nigerian banking institution with corresponding currency can use the eNaira. This means a trader banking with UBA in Burkina Faso can settle  his import bills from the Gambia using eNaira. This will be the next level of the rollout for  financial institutions to build out an ecosystem with eNaira as the base product.

Furthermore, the CBN outlines that eNaira will bring the vast majority of Nigerians who have no bank account but have a phone into the formal financial economy. The eNaira can also be used for salary payments and payments for goods and services. So an electrician can accept payment on his phone, store them in his wallet, and make transactions with any vendor.

What are the risks?

The eNaira is online, the BVN and NIN information is also online, so the risk of malicious actors attempting to hack or gain access to the data is very low. Even more, CBN has assured a more secured process with eNaira tokens. Overall,  it appears to be a positive progression towards a cashless  society, with lower costs and higher productivity for Nigerians.

Conclusion

Though the  Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele, has earlier confirmed the country’ s digital currency to be launched soon, the apex bank has postponed the process and is yet to announce the launch of the online Currency.  According to the Governor, the digital currency which is known as the eNaira will be the first of its kind in Africa and will soon be launched into the economy. 

This article was produced per 2021 Kwame Karkari fact-checking fellowship in partnership with National Orientation Agency (NOA) to facilitate the ethos of truth in journalism and enhance media literacy in the country.

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