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How the Tiny Bahamas Beat Global Giants in the E-Currency Race

John Rolle, central bank governor since 2016, describes what his country has learned so far from its pioneering role in central bank digital currencies.

John Rolle, governor of the Central Bank of the Bahamas.
John Rolle, governor of the Central Bank of the Bahamas.

Photograph: Melissa Alcena for Bloomberg Markets


The Bahamas became a global leader in e-money last year when it launched one of the world’s first central bank digital ­currencies—the “sand dollar”—beating China’s “digital renminbi” to the market by six months.

Unlike cryptocurrencies, which are designed to be anonymous and free of ties to monetary authorities, CBDCs are digital fiat—the sand dollar is an extension of the Bahamian dollar. Traded online and over mobile phones, it aims to dramatically accelerate digital transactions in the Bahamas by breaking down barriers between disparate payment platforms. A government-backed common currency will permit rival mobile wallets, which often use proprietary tokens, to transact more easily with competitors.