Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, and South Africa Launch Joint Central Bank Digital Currency Pilot

The joint initiative will prototype shared DLT platforms enabling institutions to settle cross-border transactions using central bank-issued digital currencies.

The central banks of Australia, Singapore, Malaysia and South Africa have announced a joint initiative to trial international settlements using central bank digital currencies (CBDCs).

The initiative, dubbed Project Dunbar, will prototype shared platforms enabling direct transfers between institutions using digital currencies issued by multiple central banks. The pilot’s findings will be used to inform the “development of global and regional platforms” in addition to supporting the G20’s roadmap for improving cross-border payments.

Project Dunbar will be carried out in partnership with the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) Innovation Hub from its Singapore Center. The project will engage multiple partners to develop different DLT platforms and explore different designs that would enable central banks to share CBDC infrastructure.

A joint announcement emphasizes the efficiency savings associated with distributed ledger technology (DLT)-based payments, stating:

“These multi-CBDC platforms will allow financial institutions to transact directly with each other in the digital currencies issued by participating central banks, eliminating the need for intermediaries and cutting the time and cost of transactions.”

Assistant Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) Michele Bullock highlighted that “enhancing cross-border payments has become a priority for the international regulatory community,” adding that the RBA is “very focused” on the matter in its domestic policy work.

“Project Dunbar brings together central banks with years of experience and unique perspectives in CBDC projects and ecosystem partners at advanced stages of technical development on digital currencies,” said Andre McCormack, the head of the BIS Innovation Hub Singapore Centre. He added:

“With this group of capable and passionate partners, we are confident that our work on multi-CBDCs for international settlements will break new ground in this next stage of CBDC experimentation and lay the foundation for global payments connectivity.”

The RBA has consistently downplayed the need for a domestic CBDC however, citing the success of the New Payments Platform, which allows instant digital transfers 24-hours a day.

Project Dunbar is expected to demonstrate technical prototypes of shared DLT platforms at the Singapore FinTech Festival in November of this year. The initiative expects to publish its complete findings in early 2022.