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Ghana May Issue Digital Currency in ‘Near Future,’ Says Central Bank Chief

Ghana is joining the ranks of nations eyeing the launch of a central bank digital currency.

The governor of the West African nation’s central bank, Ernest Addison, said Tuesday that Ghana could issue a digital form of the nation’s currency, the cedi, in the “near future” and is in talks to develop a pilot project in a “sandbox environment.”

Addison’s remarks, made at Ghana’s Annual Banking Conference, were disclosed in a public transcript.

Related: In Wargaming Exercise, a Digital Yuan Neuters US Sanctions and North Korea Buys Nukes

The Bank of Ghana governor said Ghana is undergoing rapid digitization and has a burgeoning mobile banking sector driven by mobile phones. “Mobile money” transfers increased by 70 percent from 2017 to 2018, he said.

In a move to harness that sector, Addison said he had authorized the central bank to issue mobile money backed 1:1 by cedi and held in electronic wallets on Monday – a day before his digital currency announcement. However, he said the mobile money would be different from cryptocurrency, according to Ghanaian news website MyJoyOnline.

“It is just electronic money backed by currency,” Addison reportedly said of the mobile money at the banking event’s press conference. “So [the central bank] cannot create money; they are only having an electronic representation of the cedi that the Bank of Ghana puts into circulation. So it is not crypto.”

The technology behind Addison’s proposed “e-cedi” digital currency is as yet unclear. CoinDesk has reached out to the Bank of Ghana for clarification and will update this article if we hear back.

Related: Three Fronts in the Global Digital Currency Wars

As has been widely reported, China’s central bank is well on the way to launching its digital yuan, saying on Monday that it will initially be used to facilitate retail payments.

Other nations and regions, too, are investigating launching their own digital currencies, including the EU and the U.S, in a bid to not be left behind by China and private initiatives like the Facebook-led Libra project.

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