The Central Bank of the Bahamas (CBOB) is preparing to launch its new digital currency, the so-called Sand Dollar, on 20 October, with the eventual goal of making it interoperable with global currencies.

The CBOB has already made a pilot testing of the Sand Dollar in the districts of Exuma & The Abacos Islands, and the digital currency is now an official line item on the bank’s balance sheet.

Bobby Chen, CBOB’s assistant manager of electronic solutions, said:

“At the moment, it is currently only used in a domestic setting, but eventually we are working on a solution that will make it interoperable with other global currencies.”

Chen said six financial institutions have been authorised to provide Sand Dollars in the Bahamas: Omni Financial Group, Cash and Go, Mobile Assist, Kanoo, Money Maxx and Sun Cash.

Covid stresses the need for API cardless onboarding

A major component of the national rollout, according to CBOB Head of Banking Cleopatra Davis, is the API (application programming interfaces) card-less onboarding.

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“Some of the central strategies around Sand Dollar is the API cardless onboarding. This became extremely important during the time of COVID-19 because we realized it’s not business as we know it prior to COVID-19. So, mobility and face-to-face may not be as easily accessible,” she said.

“So, through the API cardless onboarding you’re going to be able to have access to Sand Dollar without physically entering a business place to do so.”

Hurricanes and tropical storms call for offline functionality

Another strategy development is the Sand Dollar’s offline functionality.

“This is critical as we would have seen with Hurricane Dorian. How do we continue to transact if we don’t have electricity, if we don’t have a cell phone network? This is a key component, a key strategy that was built into the Sand Dollar platform,” Davis said.

“Also, the need to be interoperable with other wallets. That’s a key strategy that we’re working on as well as the RTGS/ACH integration, which would allow the movement of Sand Dollar to and from your bank account, which would then convert to fiat as it hit your bank account.”

An initiative “geared towards improving financial inclusion”

Project Sand Dollar is a Bahamian Payments System Modernization Initiative (PSMI) that is upgrading financial market infrastructure and digitising the Bahamian dollar.

PSMI is “geared towards improving financial inclusion and serving a country that has geographical payment infrastructure constraints (a network across 700 fragmented islands),” the bank wrote in an earlier report.