Reaching Beyond Borders

Director of Economics at the Caribbean Development Bank, Dr. Justin Ram, delivering the 2019 keynote presentation.

Bitt’s third annual Central Bank Meets Blockchain Conference was hosted under the theme ‘Beyond Borders’. The impressive speaking faculty that included politicians, central bankers, policy-makers, and executives of regional and international businesses, presented the audience with the lessons learned from their various real-world case studies.

Jonathan Johnson, CEO of Overstock.com and President of Medici Ventures Inc., a major shareholder of Bitt Inc., opened the conference with a strong affirmation of that global conglomerate’s commitment to Bitt as a Barbados-based digital currency and blockchain expert. While mentioning Bitt’s greatest achievement to date – the contract with the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) to create the world’s first central bank digital currency (CBDC) on the blockchain – Johnson ended with these powerfully reassuring words: “This is the place that will lead. This will allow this region of the world to leapfrog into the future. Just like early adopters of the internet, early adopters of blockchain technology will be rewarded. Their citizens will be freer, they will be less dependent, they will participate in a grand world economy on a scale that we have not seen yet.”

Building on Johnson’s sentiments, Rawdon Adams, CEO of Bitt, provided the audience with an update on the fintech company’s progress since 2018. This included the pilot with the ECCB as well as several other business opportunities that could potentially enable regional cross-border payments, the significance of which was central to the conference’s theme. 

Further making a case for a transformational solution to the challenges of regional economic integration, Dr. Justin Ram, Director of Economics at the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), delivered the timely keynote presentation on the development implications of digital currencies and the Caribbean Settlement Network (CSN). Therein, the point was made that many central banks and governments around the world are looking to this and similar technology as a response to enduring developmental challenges.

Illustratively, both Walter Roban, Deputy Premier of Bermuda, and Derek Rolle, Deputy Governor, Central Bank of The Bahamas outlined the details of the digitisation pilots of their respective countries, thereby underscoring that e-Government and digital currencies will be introduced in the near future for both territories. Similarly, Francis Fontanelle, Advisor at Eastern Caribbean Central Bank, provided insight into the early stages of developing the world’s first CBDC built on the blockchain that will also be, by virtue of the geography of Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU), the world’s first cross-border CBDC.

For the tech-savvy seated in the audience, ‘Central Bank Meets Blockchain – Beyond Borders’ covered a wide spectrum of content ranging from the very theoretical to the practical implications for the man on the street, as well as the ease of doing business. This meant that  Dinesh Shah, Director of Fintech Research of Bank of Canada’s presentation on the logistical details of Canada’s CBDC ‘Project Jasper’ was followed closely by that of Bruce MacKenzie, Chief Strategy Officer of Massy Group. In doing so, MacKenzie vividly illustrated how CBDCs would eliminate frictions for his regional conglomerate, its business partners, and ultimately consumers.

To take it a step further, however, Chief Economist at Bitt, Marla Dukharan, moderated an enlightening panel discussion on the role of digital currency and the Caribbean Settlement Network (CSN) in the Caribbean’s socio-economic transformation. Each of the four panelists, Alicia Nicholls, Trade Specialist at UWI Cave Hill; Racquel Moses, CEO of the Caribbean Climate-Smart Accelerator; John Williams, CEO of the Cave Shepherd Group of Companies; and Geoffrey Scott, CEO of ICBL, provided insight into how the CSN could eventually transform intra-regional trade to the benefit of both consumers and businesses.

Thus raising the question posed by the day’s final featured speaker, Carmelle Cadet, CBDC Consultant: who will the region trust to deliver its digital currency solution? During her presentation, Cadet not only embraced the idea of the CSN but challenged the diverse audience to lobby their policy-makers to do the same for the benefit of the citizens of the Caribbean.

In sum, the underlying message of the third annual Central Bank Meets Blockchain Conference was clear. Bitt’s ability to harness the capabilities of blockchain and distributed ledger technology has the potential to create a future that includes faster, more secure and more affordable cross-border payments for the governments and citizens of the Caribbean.