The Jamaica Information Service (JIS) recently reported that the Bank of Jamaica (BOJ) is “building cryptocurrency awareness.” The statement was provided on Wednesday, by the Bank of Jamaica (BOJ) Deputy Governor Livingstone Morrison, at the central bank’s quarterly media briefing.
Morrison says the central bank must create opportunities for the exploitation of certain technologies, including cryptocurrency, while pointing out that such technologies should not pose undue risk to the local financial system.
The Bank has subsequently established an internal group of persons who are working to build awareness of these kinds of technological happenings across the world. The group are also guiding regional efforts.
“Whatever we do in Jamaica will have a ripple effect across the region, certainly if the benefits are to be fully accessed.”
- Livingstone Morrison, Bank of Jamaica Deputy Governor
Jamaica is one of several small countries that were abandoned by a number of large, international coorespondent banks under the premise of “de-risking” or “de-banking.” At least six countries in the Caribbean lost most of their international banking partners, which found these island nations to be no longer profitable.
The small island nation was one of the hardest hit, losing at least seven of their correspondent banks, according to Allan Wright, an economist at the Inter-American Development Bank.
The lack of international banking networks across the region has affected the day-to-day lives of many Caribbeans, having made it difficult for local businesses to receive remittances and pay suppliers outside of their own country. Even payments between next-door Caribbean neighbor countries have a hard time being completed.
"I am concerned that all is not well in this world of small countries with small financial systems. In fact there is a risk that they become more marginalized."
- Madame Lagarde, International Monetary Fund Director
Gabriel Abed, the co-founder and Director of Barbados-based Bitcoin wallet and payments solution Bitt told BraveNewCoin that he has spoken to the BOJ Deputy Governor about cryptocurrency multiple times, and was initially shocked to hear Morrison say, “Cryptocurrency is the future.”
Abed claims that he has also spoken with the country's Prime Minister about the subject. “I have also spent time with the Prime Minister of Jamaica who is well aware of our mission,” he stated.
The Bitt co-founder added that the PM has also made positive comments, that blockchain as a tool that will build Jamaica's future, and the two have since discussed using a blockchain to record real estate title deeds. “It is up to the regulators to allow companies like Bitt to offer next generation digital services to the average Jamaican,” Abed said, “Without a doubt the interest amongst citizens and businesses is huge.”
“Any approval from the Bank is likely to take shape in the form of mobile money.”
- Chad Bryan, Jamaica Information Service
While a plethora of mobile Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency wallets exist, the solutions currently offering Jamaicans the ability to hold Jamaican dollars (JMD) in their mobile wallets is still lacking, most likely due to old laws still on the books which the JIS states, “Requires approval from the BOJ.”
The state sponsored outlet named a Bitcoin wallet and money transfer service called Caricoin, noting that they have been in discussion with the central bank. The UK-based company has been working to enter the Jamaican market since 2016, and is attempting to offer Jamaicans an easy onramp into the world of cryptocurrency.
The Caricoin wallet offers Bitcoin balances in Jamaican Dollars (JMD), as well as allowing customers to buy both bitcoin and mobile top-ups from Jamaican bank accounts.
Joining them in tackling the local market is Abra, a mobile bitcoin wallet platform that allows Jamaicans to load, carry, and send JMD from within their mobile wallets, making the Bitcoin-backed transactions appear to use a local-currency solution. However, the ability to fund Abra wallets with Jamaican bank accounts is not yet possible.
Abra allows its users to cash in and out with their local, peer-to-peer Abra tellers. While the app holds only Bitcoin inside the device, it uses smart contracts to show users that they are sending, receiving, and holding only JMD, at a rate that doesn’t fluctuate with Bitcoin’s price.
In the meantime, Bitt’s wallet and service aren’t available in Jamaica as yet, but may offer Jamaicans the best of both worlds once it arrives. Bitt offers nearby Barbadians the ability to hold their local currency inside the Bitcoin-based wallet, alongside depositing and withdrawing from their own bank accounts.
“We are well positioned to enter the market with a product that has been designed from the ground up for the people of the Caribbean,” Abed told BraveNewCoin, adding that “Bitt has a banking partnership ready to go in Jamaica so any opening of that market is an amazing opportunity for us.”