The eNaira arrived on the world’s nascent CBDC scene after months of hopes, disappointments, a last minute postponement, and a great deal of doubt. However, Nigerians all over the globe have started using the digital currency and user feedback is coming in.
Onwards and upwards
Nigeria’s eNaira CBDC launched on 25 October, 2021. According to Financial Times, around 400,000 wallets came online across the world in less than two weeks. Naturally, there were comparisons to El Salvador’s Bitcoin Lightning Network-enabled Chivo wallet.
Many of the Chivo wallet’s milestones were announced by El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele. In early October, Bukele reportedly claimed that three million people – or around half the country’s population – had downloaded the wallet. Meanwhile, late September saw 2.1 million active users.
For his part, tech and crypto influencer Alex Gladstein said,
“Will be interesting to track this v the Chivo wallet in terms of downloads. And while I discourage people from using Chivo, it’s worth noting that is connected to an open monetary network while eNaira is not[.]”
However, those comparing download stats in both countries need to keep one factor in mind. While Nigeria’s population is approximately 213,005,095 people, El Salvador’s is 6,530,293.
CBDC vs Bitcoin
It’s vital to remember the differences between the eNaira wallet and the Chivo wallet. The former connects Nigerian users to a digital version of their own currency, while the latter allows El Salvadorans to access Bitcoin.
Attitudes towards crypto matter as well. Despite widespread anti-Bitcoin protests in El Salvador, President Bukele is bullish on both buying and mining the king coin.
On the other hand, crypto adoption is high in Nigeria and decentralized currencies have been used to fund protests against police brutality. Not surprisingly, the Nigerian government wanted banks to shut down the accounts of all crypto users – and expose them.
The adoption question
There was quite a buzz after a local news source reported that Zimbabwe’s Permanent Secretary Charles Wekwete confirmed on-going consultations with private stakeholders about legalizing crypto payments. Wekwete’s statement was a cautious one and he did not announce any official dates or decision.
Still, the question stands – How would a hypothetical Bitcoin adoption closer to home affect eNaira adoption? It’s also worth noting that a number of African countries were amongst the top 20 in Chainalysis’ Global Crypto Adoption Index in 2021. Considering this, it’s clear that the Nigerian government’s CBDC will be pitted against the people’s chosen coins.
What’s more, this isn’t just a Nigerian issue. In a speech in early November, Fabio Panetta, an executive board member of the European Central Bank, said,
“Users may lack sufficient incentives to fully appreciate the public benefit created by the availability of a CBDC and – given the vast supply of private digital monies – could express insufficient demand for it.”