The governor of the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK), Patrick Njoroge, has suggested the lack of access to smartphones of more than half of Kenya’s mobile phone users is working against its plan to launch a CBDC. He warned the central bank may be forced to delay its rollout of the CBDC as a result.
According to Njoroge’s remarks published by Business Daily, proceeding with the rollout of the digital currency will likely see Kenyans without a smartphone being locked out. This blockade of non-smartphone users, in turn, works against the central bank’s goal of further narrowing the proportion of the population that is financially excluded.
The CBDC will have a minimum viable technology requirement, which may be a sort of fourth-generation (4G) environment. There is an argument to be made that such a development could lead to greater financial exclusion such that some people may fall out of the financial system just because we have adopted a CBDC… This is something we need to be careful about.
The governor suggested the CBK may have to wait until Kenya has more smartphone users. As noted in the Business Daily report, out of the 59 million mobile devices being used by Kenyans, about 56% or 33 million of these are non-smartphones or feature phones. Feature phones are not internet-enabled, which means owners of these devices are precluded from using a CBDC.