The National Bank of Rwanda (BNR) reports that Rwanda intends to create its own Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) in the next two years, offering its citizens a simple, cost-effective, and safe substitute for digital currency.

The CBDC’s predicted improvement in financial inclusion in the nation should allow more unbanked individuals to engage in the formal economy.

In an interview, Rwanda’s Central Bank Deputy Governor Soraya Hakuziyaremye disclosed the 2026 deadline.

Read also: Digital Africa, Orange Ventures to support African startups

Hakuziyaremye stated that the Rwandan CBDC is essential because of developments in other countries, citing African nations such as Nigeria, Ghana, and South Africa, which are either in the piloting phase or have already launched their CBDCs.

One of the drivers for this move is seeing the country’s major trading partners test or use the technology. She also stated that, given Rwanda’s ambitions and goals for ICT and a cashless economy, the country needed to determine whether there would be benefits in following the example of other countries.

Rwanda’s CBDC feasibility study begins

The CBDC is being constructed, according to National Bank of Rwanda Governor John Rwangombwa, who made this announcement in November 2023 at the presentation of the central bank’s annual report for the fiscal year 2022–2023 to a joint plenary session of Parliament. Remember that the government of Rwanda presented a feasibility report on CBDC in May of 2024.

The study aims to investigate the possible advantages, dangers, and realities of setting up a retail CBDC in Rwanda.

The Deputy Governor, who collaborated with the Ministry of Finance, ICT, and Innovation to form a task force for the feasibility study, stated that the study revealed numerous opportunities for Rwanda to adopt a national digital currency.

In addressing the possibility of adoption, the Deputy Governor also said that the authority published a survey paper and conducted a public consultation process to address concerns and make the CBDC beneficial to the population to increase adoption. Concerns include data privacy, resilience, and the potential destabilisation of the financial system.

Read also: Orange, d.light team up for off grid Solar Energy in Africa

Rwanda to Test Digital Currency on a Smaller Scale

To evaluate the technology, design, and speed on a smaller scale, Rwanda will also start a proof of concept after the public consultation process ends in four weeks. A six-month global test of the technology for cross-border payments will also be carried out. Subsequently, the digital currency will be tested on individuals and companies.

As Rwanda looks at different CBDC design options, it prefers a retail CBDC distributed through banks. We are also considering developing a CBDC that is accessible even if one is not online, particularly in areas without internet access or smartphones or when the country experiences an interruption of power supply.