By Camillus Eboh

ABUJA, June 18 (Reuters) – Nigeria’s Central Bank is
preparing a digital currency pilot that could launch as early as
the end of this year, its director of information technology
said in a recording heard by Reuters on Friday.

Nigeria barred its banks and financial institutions from
dealing in or facilitating transactions in cryptocurrencies in
February after exponential growth in monthly cryptocurrency
transfers to and from Africa.

Central Bank director of information technology Rakiya
Mohammed said the project to create some form of digital
currency had been in the works for two years, and more
announcements were likely in the coming weeks.

“We’re all aware that about 80% of central banks in the
world exploring the possibility of issuing central bank digital
currency, and Nigeria cannot be left behind,” Mohammed said in
the June 10 virtual briefing with bankers.

The Central Bank communications team shared a recording of
the briefing with Reuters.

She said the system would expand digital inclusion, make
remittances from the diaspora easier and smooth international
purchases for Nigerians.

“If you have a central bank digital currency that is backed
by the government, then people can make transactions online
without fear of any default,” Mohammed said.

Europe and the United States are working on regulating
digital assets and their providers, while some other countries,
including China, Britain and Russia, are also considering
launching their own central bank digital currencies.
(Reporting By Camillus Eboh, writing by Libby George; editing
by Philippa Fletcher)