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UAE Central Bank Unveils CBDC Strategy

UAE Central Bank Unveils CBDC Strategy

Andrew Throuvalas

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| 1 min read


The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is now readying a central bank digital currency (CBDC) for retail and wholesale use, according to a Central Bank of UAE (CBUAE) announcement on Saturday.

The national bank kicked off its digital dirham implementation strategy during a signing event on March 23 with R3 and G42 Cloud, companies that will serve as the digital currency’s infrastructure and technology providers.

Implementing A UAE CBDC

R3 is a major CBDC tech developer that’s been involved with numerous Bank of International Settlements (BIS) projects. Meanwhile, G42 Cloud is part of the AI holding company G42, which agreed to cooperate with OpenAI on financial services technology in October.

“As part of the UAE’s digital transformation, CBDC will help address the pain points of domestic and cross-border payments, enhance financial inclusion, and the move towards a cashless society,” read the CBUAE’s weekend statement.

The first phase of UAE CBDC implementation marks one of nine initiatives in the CBUAE’s Financial Infrastructure Transformation (FIT) Programme. It also features three “pillars” intended for construction over the next 12 to 15 months.

The first is the soft launch of mBridge, which will help the bank facilitate real-time cross-border transactions to settle international trades. Last month, the central bank completed its very first cross-border transaction using the digital dirham and Chinese digital yuan, valued at $13.6 million, through mBridge.

After that, the bank will begin proof of concept work on CBDC bridges with India, whose Reserve Bank is making technological advances surrounding the privacy of its own developing CBDC. Finally, the bank will begin proof of concept work around domestic CBDC use cases, including retail and wholesale payments.

Why CBUAE Wants A Digital Dirham

Aside from strengthening the nation’s payment infrastructure, CBUAE claims it will prepare the country for a potential “tokenized” world in the future, where normal people interact with blockchain-based tokens for financial and non-financial purposes.

“CBDC will accelerate our digitalization journey and promote financial inclusion,” said CBUAE Governor H.E. Khaled Mohamed Balama. “We look forward to exploring the opportunities that CBDC will bring to the wider economy and society.”

Last month, Bridge Tower Capital and Deus X launched a $250 million joint venture to build digital asset infrastructure in the UAE. The venture, BridgeTower Middle East, promotes institutional crypto adoption across the region.

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