Which jurisdictions head up the retail central bank digital currency league table?
Authors: Jonas Gross, John Kiff
While much attention is focused on the retail central bank digital currency (rCBDC) ruminations of China, Europe and the United States, aside from China, smaller jurisdictions are actually leading the way. Although the People’s Bank of China launched their rCBDC pilot in April 2020, Banco Central del Uruguay completed its first pilot already in April 2018, the Central Bank of the Bahamas fully launched their Sand Dollar in October 2020, and the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank launched a pilot in March 2021. In this post, we take a deep dive into these leading rCBDC efforts.
Overview and overall retail CBDC landscape
According to our CBDC Tracker there are currently at least 57 central banks exploring retail CBDC (rCBDC), of which 15 have either launched, piloted, or are in the very advanced exploration stages. We say “at least” because our count is based on reliable public sources (almost all from the central banks themselves). However, according to the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), 58 of the 65 central banks surveyed at end-2020 were exploring rCBDC. In any case, the growth in the number of rCBDC explorers has been remarkable (see figure below).
Before moving on to who’s doing what, it is important to be clear as to what is and is not rCBDC. The BIS defines rCBDC as a broadly available general purpose digital payment instrument, denominated in the jurisdiction’s unit of account, that is a direct liability of the jurisdiction’s monetary authority. There is also wholesale CBDC, which is limited to a set of predefined user groups, typically financial institutions. That’s not what we’re talking about here. Also the “direct liability of the monetary authority” condition precludes the Marshall Islands SOV and Cambodia’s Project Bakong.
We categorize the status of the 57 central banks that we track based on their exploratory stages (see figure below). There are 5 jurisdictions that have either fully launched (Bahamas) or have launched pilots (China, Eastern Caribbean Central Bank, Jamaica, and Uruguay). Another 12 are in the advanced stages of rCBDC research, of which 5 have started (or soon will start) proofs of concept…