Latin American countries have been making steady progress towards CBDCs. According to a report by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the majority of central banks in the region are currently evaluating CBDCs.
While most of the research and development is still in the early stages, a few nations have made significant strides towards the launch of their CBDCs.
The IMF report states, “Only two out of seventeen respondents (Costa Rica and Panama) claimed not to be working on a CBDC. Half of the respondents were considering both a retail and a wholesale CBDC, forty percent are focusing only on a retail CBDC, while only two were looking only at a wholesale CBDC.”
Notably, the Bahamas stands as a pioneer in the region, having launched the world’s first CBDC, the Sand Dollar, in 2020, providing a practical model for other countries to follow.
It’s important to note that the Sand Dollar is currently restricted to local usage, and international transactions still occur through traditional Bahamian dollars via commercial banks, rather than the CBDC.
Leading Countries in the Region Countries like Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, and Ecuador are among the top 20 global leaders in crypto adoption.
Brazil, a key player in the CBDC race, has advanced its digital Real project to the proof-of-concept stage. The Brazilian central bank plans to initiate a public pilot program for the digital Real in 2023 and aims for a full-scale launch in 2024.
Encouragingly, nearly 80% of the Brazilian population already utilises the existing instant payment system, Pix, indicating a strong inclination towards digital finance.
The digital Peso in Mexico is scheduled for completion by 2025. The Central Bank of Mexico sees it as a significant step towards financial inclusion, particularly for the unbanked population.
Colombia has also set its sights on a CBDC. In August 2022, it announced that a digital currency was crucial to the government’s monetary policy and tax reform plans. In collaboration with Ripple, the CBDC initiative aims to combat tax evasion in the country.
Likewise, the Bank of Jamaica successfully trialed its retail CBDC, the JAM-DEX, in December 2021. This achievement paved the way for a phased rollout of JAM-DEX in 2022, bolstering CBDC growth in the region.
Challenges and the Way Forward Several other countries in the region, including Guatemala, Honduras, and Peru, have shown significant interest in CBDCs, with Peru recently announcing its digital currency initiative. Paraguay has even established a Working Group on Digital Currencies to study the implications of CBDCs, indicating potential future adoption.
However, the journey to full CBDC adoption is not without challenges. Many countries in the region face macroeconomic instability, low institutional credibility, and corruption. Therefore, the establishment of a well-defined regulatory framework is crucial to ensure the seamless integration of these assets into the existing financial system.
Despite these obstacles, the potential of CBDCs is immense. They hold the promise of improving payment systems, enhancing financial inclusion, reducing cross-border remittance costs, and strengthening monetary sovereignty.
Latin America’s progress in the realm of CBDCs serves as a guiding light for other regions, setting the stage for an exciting era of digital finance.