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UAE completes central bank digital currencies pilot scheme

Building, City, Town WAM
The UAE central bank issued the licence last year for MTS Bank

The Central Bank of the United Arab Emirates (CBUAE) said on Wednesday it has completed the world’s largest pilot of central bank digital currencies (CBDC) transactions, with other regulators including the People’s Bank of China’s Digital Currency Institute.

“The project mBridge demonstrated faster, cost effective and secure cross-border monetary settlements using central bank money, identified as a G20 economic priority,” CBUAE said, adding it would be positive for regional and international trade, as well as participating entities.

The pilot was part of Project mBridge, which experiments with cross-border payments using a common platform based on distributed ledger technology (DLT) which central banks can use to issue and exchange their CBDCs.

Central banks around the world have been racing to develop CBDCs as they seek to provide an alternative to cryptocurrencies, but are grappling with technological complexities.

Roughly 100 countries, representing 95 percent of the world’s GDP, are using or looking into CBDCs, according to the Atlantic Council.

Earlier this month, financial messaging system SWIFT laid out its blueprint for a global central bank digital currency (CBDC) network following an 8-month experiment on different technologies and currencies.

CBUAE’s six-week pilot project was conducted with the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, the Bank of Thailand, the Digital Currency Institute of the People’s Bank of China and the Bank for International Settlements.

The pilot saw commercial banks in four jurisdictions use mBridge for 160 payment and foreign exchange transactions totalling more than 80 million dirhams ($21.78 million).

Khaled Mohamed Balama, CBUAE’s governor, said in the statement the project is part of CBUAE’s plan to “support UAE competitiveness, diversity and growth of the financial sector in line with future economic trends.”

He added the central bank would continue to set up “the right governance framework for interoperable CBDCs to deliver tangible benefits to UAE companies and consumers.” ($1 = 3.6729 UAE dirham)