The Central Bank of the Bahamas has announced the country’s “Sand Dollar” — a state-backed virtual currency — is now available nationwide.
According to an Oct. 20 Facebook post from Project Sand Dollar, the central bank digital currency (CBDC) became available to all 393,000 residents of The Bahamas from roughly 10:00 PM UTC. This makes The Bahamas the first country in the world to officially roll out a CBDC.
China is currently testing a pilot program for its digital yuan with a $1.5 million giveaway, and Cambodia’s “Bakong” digital currency is expected to become operational in the coming months following its pilot launch in July 2019.
Sand Dollar transfers are made by mobile phone, with roughly 90% of the Bahamian population using mobile phones as of 2017.
According to the Sand Dollar website, residents of The Bahamas can use the digital currency at any merchant “with a Central Bank approved e-Wallet on their mobile device” and transaction fees are “negligible.” The central bank selected transaction provider NZIA as its technology solutions provider for the rollout of the digital currency.
The central bank of the Bahamas has been preparing for the launch of the CBDC for a few years. In 2019, it started a pilot program using 48,000 digital Sand Dollars on the islands of Exuma and Abaco, which have a combined population of fewer than 25,000 people. Each Sand Dollar is pegged to the Bahamian dollar, which is in turn pegged to the U.S. dollar.
The Sand Dollar is intended to drive greater financial inclusion within the archipelago nation of more than 700 islands, about 30 of which are inhabited. Cointelegraph reported in September that Chaozhen Chen, the assistant manager of eSolutions at the Central Bank of The Bahamas, said the CBDC would help provide “access to digital payment infrastructure or banking infrastructure” for underbanked and unbanked residents.