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Lessons from Nigeria: What Canadians Can Learn from the 100 Million ‘Unbanked’ and Central Bank Digital Currency

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Despite the widespread use of credit cards, e-transfers, and online banking, the Bank of Canada is actively involved in a significant transformation. It is part of about 100 countries that several years ago began exploring the development of retail central bank digital currency (CBDC). The implications of this digital currency, described as the digital equivalent of cash, have raised concerns, particularly in relation to the possible erosion of the established banking system and susceptibility to hackers’ attacks in the event of hybrid warfare tactics employed by foreign governments. Despite purported benefits for consumers, it is apparent that the qualities that truly differentiate CBDC are not discussed in the same way as its supposed advantages. For example, CBDC does not address the key reasons people use cash, such as the need for privacy and independence from technology. The Bank of Canada acknowledges these limitations and the potential inconveniences that may come with the elimination of cash, as demonstrated by the experience in Nigeria where the introduction of a digital currency led to widespread unrest and forced the government to reinstate the use of cash. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has endorsed the concept of financial inclusion promoted by CBDCs but acknowledges that further evidence is needed to fully understand the benefits and limitations. The development of CBDCs raises concerns about privacy and control of finances, particularly in light of instances in China where such digital currencies are already being used to enforce controls and limits on spending. These developments have been met with skepticism and lack of understanding among a large portion of the population, leading to questions about the true motivations behind the push for CBDC implementation.

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