Tanzania's top financial sector officials on Tuesday called for a clearer global consensus on Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs) and crypto assets as the country continues to contemplate the direction to take on the rapidly evolving concepts.
Finance and Planning Minister Mwigulu Nchemba told a regional conference hosted by the Bank of Tanzania and International Monetary Fund that both topics needed more "thorough discussions" before the country could make commitments, a view that was echoed by Bank of Tanzania governor Prof Florens Luoga.
The virtual convention, which continued on Wednesday, was called specifically for Anglophone countries in Sub-Saharan Africa to gain more insight on issues such as financial inclusion and integrity, digital and cybersecurity risks, legal issues and interoperability in relation to CBDCs and cryptocurrency dealings.
Another similar conference is planned later this year for Sub-Saharan Africa’s Francophone countries.
According to Dr Nchemba, the Bank of Tanzania is "finalising preparations of a business case for establishment of a CBDC in Tanzania and evaluation of crypto assets after recording significant progress" in formalising digital financial services.
"Banks [in Tanzania] have developed solutions to integrate informal small business and saving groups to the formal banking system through digital platforms. These innovations will demand reforms in legal and institutional structures to enable requisite governance," the minister said.
Prof Luoga noted that CBDCs and crypto assets have become "critical contemporary issues" impacting central bank policy making and operations around the world.
"We need solutions to the challenges we have faced or expect to encounter in dealing with these issues. For CBDCs, it is apparent that some central banks are still at conceptual discussions and research, others already have set the ball rolling to the experimentation phase, and a few have launched," Prof Luoga said.
“Crypto assets have increasingly become common, and due to their ramifications, there is a quest for interventions through tighter regulations.”
According to IMF deputy managing director Bo Li, central banks in each country are expected to determine their own main objectives before embracing CDBCs "as there is no across-the-board formula for all countries."
Mr Li said the IMF's main focus in the global cryptocurrencies debate is to promote the establishment of a "strong, comprehensive and consistent regulatory framework" for dealings in crypto assets.
"In both cases (CBDCs and crypto assets) it is important to ensure a balance between protecting consumer privacy and promoting financial inclusion and integrity," he said.
IMF has said it "neither encourages nor discourages" countries to issue CBDCs but provides technical assistance to those that choose to do so on design features that support public policy objectives alongside efficient, resilient and competitive payment systems.
According to a concept note for the conference, experimentation with CBDCs across Sub-Saharan Africa is still in its nascent stages.
Data provided by the Fund's Chainalysis unit indicates that Kenya and Tanzania are among selected countries in Sub-Saharan Africa that have "registered rapid adoption of crypto assets". Other countries are Nigeria, South Africa and Ghana.
"These countries rank high on the index, in large part, because they have huge transaction volumes on P2P platforms. Many residents use P2P platforms as their primary on-ramp into cryptocurrency, often because they lack access to centralised exchanges," says the note.
Nigeria became the first African nation to formally launch a CBDC when it introduced the eNaira in October 2021. Ghana and South Africa are at various test stages and Kenya recently issued a white paper for a planned CBDC.