Home Resilience ‘DCash’ digital currency to aid island’s recovery from volcanic eruption

‘DCash’ digital currency to aid island’s recovery from volcanic eruption

St Vincent: the island's La Soufrière volcano erupted in April | Credit: Richard Todd; Pixabay

The Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) has made ‘DCash’, the digital version of its Eastern Caribbean dollar, available for public use in St Vincent and the Grenadines.

The ECCB launched blockchain-based DCash – which enables people to pay for goods and services, and send funds to other DCash users, using a smart device – in March across four of its member countries, in doing so making it the world’s first retail central bank digital currency (CBDC) within a currency union. In extending its use to St Vincent and the Grenadines, it is now reaching a fifth country.

The ECCB, the monetary authority for eight island economies in total, sees the roll-out of DCash in St Vincent and the Grenadines (known locally as ‘SVG’) as having an important role in helping the rebuilding and recovery efforts that have followed the eruption of the La Soufrière volcano in April.

‘The DCash platform provides a safer, faster, cheaper way for persons to send and receive funds via the use of a smart device, and seeks to increase financial inclusion in the ECCU [Eastern Caribbean Currency Union], especially to those who do not have access to traditional banking services,’ the ECCB said in its announcement.

The ECCB is promoting DCash’s rollout in SVG via a promotional campaign that proclaims ‘DCash is Here!’ and ‘Rebuilding SVG One Digital Payment at a Time!’.

‘Key to assisting with rebuilding efforts’

It is estimated that about 20,000 people – about one fifth of SVG’s population – were evacuated from their homes after La Soufrière, the highest peak on St Vincent, began erupting. Although some temporarily left the island, most opted to stay put.

The United Nations (UN) launched a funding appeal. “This is a crisis that is going to last certainly more than six months in the sub-region, in St Vincent and other islands,” said Didier Trebucq, the UN’s resident co-ordinator for Barbados and the Caribbean, at the time.

Economic losses could amount to about 30 per cent of GDP, given the damage to infrastructure, housing and crops, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said last month as it approved US$11.6m in emergency finance.

‘The ECCB sees the roll-out of DCash in St Vincent and the Grenadines as key to assisting with the rebuilding efforts in that country,’ the ECCB said.  

Individuals and business owners who hold accounts with the RBTT Caribbean Bank, St Vincent and the Grenadines (RBTT SVG) are now able to sign up to use DCash through that financial institution. Individuals who do not hold accounts with the RBTT SVG can sign-up with the St Vincent Cooperative Bank.

The ECCB said that it ‘continues to work with other financial institutions in St Vincent and the Grenadines to have them DCash-ready in the coming weeks’.

Using a ‘DCash Wallet’ app, SVG citizens and residents can transfer DCash to and from other DCash Wallet holders or merchants. DCash can also be converted to physical EC currency through a DCash merchant teller. Business owners, through use of the DCash Merchant app, can also process transactions with consumers and other businesses.

Resilience among the objectives

DCash is already available in Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, Saint Christopher (St Kitts) and Nevis, and Saint Lucia.

When the digital currency launched, the ECCB said it was aiming to go live with DCash in its four further member nations – Anguilla, Montserrat, the Commonwealth of Dominica, as well as SVG – by September at the latest, incorporating lessons learned from the initial rollout.

The ECCB said that it saw the introduction of the digital currency – developed in conjunction with a Barbados-based fintech company, Bitt – as helping to increase financial inclusion, competitiveness and resilience across the islands’ economies. Part of the motivation to launch the CBDC is also an aspiration to halve the use of traditional notes and coins by 2025. Unbanked citizens need to meet ID verification compliance requirements at participating non-bank financial institutions.

A launch event for the initial rollout featured an engaging island-to-island live demo of EC$100 DCash transactions, with the central bank’s governor, Timothy Antoine, describing the digital currency as a “critical first step in the grand project of building out a digital economy” in the ECCU.

Another island nation, the Bahamas, was the first country to launch a CDBC, with its ‘Sand Dollar’ becoming the first fully deployed digital version of a fiat currency last October. Elsewhere in the Caribbean, Jamaica’s is starting a pilot of a CBDC this month with the National Commercial Bank.


=>>> Global Government Fintech’s dedicated ‘Digital Currencies’ section <<<=

Eastern Caribbean nations roll out blockchain-based digital currency’ – our news story (4 April 2021) on DCash’s launch

WATCH DCash Day – Online Launch event’ (01:31:49): the demo DCash transactions are from about 00:39:35 to 00:45:30

Credit: ECCB Connects (via YouTube)