Nigeria’s new digital currency was developed by a subsidiary of Overstock.com

Sarah Tew / CNET

The Central Bank of Nigeria on Monday launched a digital currency designed for use with its physical currency. ENaira’s release was officially announced via a Press release issued by the Central Bank of Nigeria.

A central bank digital currency is a type of cryptocurrency controlled by a country’s central bank. More than 100 countries, including the United States and China, explore the development of a CBDC, according to the IMF.

The first CBDC to be launched in Africa, eNaira was developed by Bitt, a Barbados-based financial technology company that also developed a CBDC called DCash for the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank earlier this year. Medicis companies, a venture capital fund initially set up as a subsidiary of Overstock.com, has acquired a majority stake in Bitt. Medici Ventures is now part of a Limited partnership controlled by Overstock.com and Pelion Venture Partners, a venture capital firm.

“Overstock has always focused on the development and growth of new and emerging technologies,” Overstock CEO Jonathan Johnson said in a statement to CNET. “In 1999, that emerging technology was the Internet and e-commerce. Several years ago, we formed Medici Ventures as a subsidiary to focus on another emerging and world-changing technology: blockchain.

Overstock.com, an online store that sells furniture and home appliances, became the first major retailer to accept Bitcoin payments worldwide in 2014. Overstock’s interest in crypto persisted, with its subsidiary investing in more than 20 blockchain startups since. According to Johnson, there is “no direct connection” between Bitt’s business and Overstock’s core e-commerce business.

Nigeria’s economy is the largest in Africa, with an annual GDP of around $ 432 billion. In 2020, the country contracted economy due to increased unemployment due to COVID-19 and lower demand for exports. Although economic conditions have improved, more than a third of Nigerian adults were unbanked in 2020.

The new digital currency could potentially expand economic opportunities for Nigerians, giving them access to a digital wallet accessible via smartphone. Two digital wallets supporting eNaira launched Monday also. These wallets, the eNaira Quick Wallet and the eNaira Merchant Wallet, are now available for download from the Google Play Store and the Apple Store.

President Muhammadu Buhari said on Monday that eNaira – and the blockchain technology behind it – have the capacity to grow Nigeria’s GDP $ 29 billion over the next decade. Yet her country’s adoption of the new technology was limited and tightly controlled. In February 2021, the Central Bank of Nigeria Rod the country’s banks and financial institutions to use cryptocurrency. Despite the ban, cryptocurrencies remain popular in Nigeria, seen as a way to protect against volatility and conduct business transactions.

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