A cross-border team from global law firm Norton Rose Fulbright advised NZIA Limited, a Bahamas-based company specializing in network, blockchain and distributed ledger technology solutions, on developing and implementing the world’s first consumer-ready digital fiat currency for the Central Bank of the Bahamas.
The digital “Sand Dollars” being minted and issued under Project Sand Dollar are known as a central bank digital currency (CBDC) and are the first digital version of a country’s fiat currency issued by a state’s central bank and useable by the public. A fiat currency is a legal tender, such as the US dollar or the euro, whose value is backed by the government that issues it and differs from a commodity money backed by a physical good such as silver or gold.
As part of a phased rollout of the Sand Dollar ecosystem, Sand Dollars and accompanying digital wallets went live for the first time and were made available to the public in the Bahamas on December 27, 2019. As the world’s first consumer-ready digital fiat currency, transactions using Sand Dollars began taking place immediately at local restaurants, supermarkets, bill payment services and even street vendor operations. All merchants and consumers were onboarded through banks and other mainstream financial institutions in the Bahamas.
Unlike privately issued cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin or stablecoins, Sand Dollar is legal tender with the same legal and market acceptability as cash.
With more than 40 central banks and monetary authorities around the world currently considering CBDCs, the Bahamas is set to establish itself as one of the few nations with postmodern financial systems. The benefits of the project include financial inclusion for the unbanked, the suppression of economic costs associated with cash usage, and improved expenditure and tax administration systems for the Government.
Vancouver-based partner, John Kim, who led Norton Rose Fulbright’s cross-border team, commented:
“The innovative nature of Project Sand Dollar required us to provide equally innovative solutions to our client. Our input resulted in a system that would not only meet the requirements of current financial and regulatory regimes, but actually leverage them to provide a CBDC solution that enables people to conduct more secure and instant transactions.”
Simon Kim, the Managing Director of NZIA Limited and the primary architect of the hybrid hardware/software solution that powers Sand Dollar, said:
“With the vision and support of the Central Bank of the Bahamas, we have succeeded in creating an inclusive ecosystem powered by digital legal tender on a distributed payment network. As Sand Dollar continues its rollout across the Bahamas, we look forward to seeing the positive changes our digital payment solution will bring to the people of this beautiful country.”
The Norton Rose Fulbright team also included David Hunter, Hayley Ha, Patrick Chou (Vancouver), Anthony de Fazekas, David Ng (Toronto), Andrew Lom, Jennifer Huh (New York), Stella Cramer (Singapore) and Christina Pretorius and Desiree Reddy (Johannesburg). Mabelle Tay of Ascendant Legal provided local Singapore law advice.
The team assisted on NZIA’s successful RFP response, consulted on the design of NZIA’s unique CBDC solution and drafted and negotiated various documents, including the final agreement between NZIA Limited and the Central Bank of the Bahamas.
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Caroline Arbour, Editorial Advisor