The Central Bank of the United Arab Emirates (CBUAE) has announced it has finalized mBridge, the world's largest pilot of central bank digital currency (CBDC) transactions in cooperation with the Digital Currency Institute of the People's Bank of China, its Chinese counterpart. Other partners included the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, the Bank of Thailand, and the Bank for International Settlements, the institution said in a statement. "This project – the first pilot use of wholesale CBDCs in the MENA region – reflects the CBUAE’s drive to create world-class financial infrastructure and innovative payment systems, which comes in line with UAE leadership’s directives to support the UAE’s economic competitiveness and empower the diversity and growth of the nation’s financial sector," the CBUAE said.Over the course of the “pilot project, commercial banks in the four jurisdictions used the mBridge platform to conduct over 160 payment and foreign exchange transactions totalling over AED80 million (USD22 million) over a six-week period,” according to the Emirati bank. The initiative demonstrated faster, cost effective and safe cross-border monetary settlements with the use of central bank money, the CBUAE said. mBridge “provides an efficient, regulatory-compliant and scalable cross-border payment solution with CBDCs at its core, designed to operate across different jurisdictions and currencies.”Khaled Mohamed Balama, the bank’s governor, commented that the project reflects the UAE’s determination to establish the country as one of the leaders in the field of CBDC development and issuance, as well as the preferred regional hub for advanced financial infrastructure.“This project is part of the CBUAE plan to support UAE competitiveness, diversity and growth of the financial sector in line with future economic trends. We will continue to establish the right governance framework for interoperable CBDCs to deliver tangible benefits to UAE companies and consumers,” the official said. In November 2021, reporting on the initiative’s progress, the bank said that 22 “project participants from all four jurisdictions identified fifteen possible business test cases to assess the mBridge Trial Platform’s ability to enhance real- world cross-border payments. The identified business test cases cover transactions across eleven industries (amounting to AED 1 billion) to be tested on the mBridge Trial Platform.”“Five banks located in the UAE took part, including First Abu Dhabi Bank, Emirates NBD, Dubai Islamic Bank, HSBC, and Standard Chartered Bank, in some of these fifteen cases. International trade settlement was prioritised in the identified business test cases given the high volume of trade between the four jurisdictions, amounting to USD 731 billion,” according to the CBUAE. It is noteworthy the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is the world’s fastest-growing market, and the UAE is the third-largest crypto market in all of MENA, according to a recent report by blockchain analysis firm Chainalysis.
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