The Bahamas Central Bank has confirmed that its pipeline CBDC ‘Sand dollar’ will roll out next month as anticipated. This will mark the first retail-oriented CBDC to be integrated with fundamental financial market pillars as the world gradually shifts to digital payments. According to the announcement, Bahama’s Sand dollar is ready for national release and will be scaled past the pilot regions of Abaco and Exuma as of October 20.
Notably, the Sand dollar has been in the works since 2018 and came about as one solution to onboard more of the Island’s population into a ‘bank-like’ ecosystem. The latest development, therefore, marks a significant milestone for the prospectus Bahamian digital dollar, which might ultimately boost financial inclusion. The announcement noted,
“Although average measures of financial development and access in The Bahamas are high by international standards, pockets of the population are excluded because of the remoteness of some communities outside of the cost-effective reach of physical banking services.”
Sand Dollar Stakeholders
The Central Bank of Bahama will roll out Sand dollar in collaboration with Authorized Financial Institutions (AFI’s); these include Credit Unions, Money Transmission Business (MTB), Payment Service Providers (PSPs), and Commercial banks. They will act as the intermediaries between the regulator and retail market by providing services such as digital wallets and transactional operations.
The Sand dollar gradual national release will happen in two phases, with the first one being KYC and due diligence readiness amongst the AFI’s. This will cover all account tiers, including digital wallets that will be launched as part of the Sand dollar ecosystem. The Central Bank added that it would continuously increase engagement with the private sector stakeholders.
As for the second phase, emphasis will be on government services and public utilities; this stage is expected to kick off in 2021 between the first and second quarters. Likewise, the AFI’s are also in preparation mood with three PSPs, once a commercial bank and four MTBs already authorized to operate as Sand Dollar AFI’s.
“These AFIs are enabled to offer Sand Dollar services to stakeholders either through their custom apps (after successful completion of a cybersecurity assessment) or through the generic Sand Dollar app.”
Notably, the Sand dollar network has undergone an intensive cybersecurity assessment, which is, in turn, complemented by similar testing procedures by AFI’s before being integrated with this CBDC. Also, the Sand dollar wallets are embedded with 2FA features. The Central Bank, however, highlighted that Bahamians would enjoy confidentiality but not the anonymity of fiat.