Barbados, a paradise island in the West Indies, is known for its azure beaches, tidal waves, shipwrecks, homegrown grown Barbadian hospitality and, more recently, an influx of remote workers. Now, one can add cryptocurrency innovations to that list as well. Bitt, a Barbadian fintech firm developing blockchain technology, has successfully created the eNaira central bank digital currency (CBDC) for Nigeria and is on the path to creating an electronic hryvnia for Ukraine.
In an exclusive interview with Cointelegraph, Brian Popelka, CEO of Bitt, discussed the technology behind the eNaira and the roadmap for the firm going forward.
Brian Popelka: It’s really a stablecoin minted by the Central Bank of Nigeria. Unlike any of the typical cryptocurrencies or even a stablecoin, this […] is a digital version of the fiat currency within Nigeria. So, this is government money. It can be transacted by a user who has downloaded a wallet through the various app stores and at participating merchants. The ecosystem that we’ve worked with the CBN, the Central Bank of Nigeria, to deploy our technology allows the central bank to have minting and all the rights around minting.
Then, they distribute the digital version of that coin to participating financial institutions. Afterwards, those financial institutions can transact with merchants and consumers using the eNaira. So, a little bit different than Bitcoin in that it is a fiat currency. And while we certainly utilize smart contract technology, […] we’re built on a Hyperledger transaction network. So, it’s a closed loop within the Nigerian government.
CT: Why did the Nigerian government select you, a crypto firm that’s based in Barbados, out of all the fintech firms in the world to embark on this project?
BP: Certainly born in Barbados, we have an office out of the U.S., and we are very proud of our Caribbean roots. Because really, the idea for digital currency was hatched in a […] developing region, where the ability to move funds around digitally can have a significant impact in the Caribbean. For example, 95% of all transactions are done physically through notes and coins — 95% of them. So, part of the mandate in the Caribbean, similar to Nigeria, was to […] sort of do fewer transactions, using notes and coins, which, of course, helps to eliminate some costs related to the printing and management of notes and coins.
But the Central Bank of Nigeria has been on this project for a long, long time. For several years, they have done a lot of work to educate themselves on the process. But the reality is that we’ve been six years in the business, we have a mature product already built, we didn’t have to build it to suit Nigeria — we already have a product built. And we were already deployed in the Eastern Caribbean with the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank. We were one of several, and they cut it down to a dozen. And one of the key reasons that they landed on us was, of course, we’d already had it out; [we] had the deployment, and they had a very tight timeline for being able to deploy this. So, we met about an eight-week timeline to be able to go live.