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Saudi Arabia’s central bank launches Ripple pilot


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The Saudi Arabia Monetary Authority has commenced its Ripple xCurrent pilot.

The Saudi Arabia Monetary Authority (SAMA), the kingdom's central bank, has signed on with Ripple to use the Ripple xCurrent payment system.

"This ground-breaking pilot program is the first of its kind to be launched by a central bank. Participating banks from the KSA (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) will use xCurrent to instantly settle payments sent into and out of the country, with greater transparency and lower costs," Ripple announced.

"SAMA's use of xCurrent has the potential to radically shift how banks in the KSA send money globally. The KSA now has access to every financial institution (banks and payment providers) on RippleNet, which will not only help modernize their payments systems, but also further their reach into major corridors."

SAMA is the second central bank to make a concrete move towards blockchain systems after England's central bank trialled a Ripple system in 2017.

"Central banks around the world are leaning into blockchain technology in recognition of how it can transform cross-border payments, resulting in lower barriers to trade and commerce for both corporates and consumers," said Dilip Rao, Ripple's head of infrastructure innovation.

The launch of a pilot program represents a relatively quick turnaround from the kingdom's previous stance, Reuters notes.

"Most regulators in the Gulf initially expressed scepticism about fintech and last year the Saudi central bank warned citizens against trading bitcoin because it was outside the bank’s regulatory reach. But Bahrain, keen to boost its role as a regional financial center, has been exploring the use of digital currencies and in the last few months, regulators in some larger Gulf economies have followed suit."

Different Ripple systems have already been taken up by many financial institutions and payment companies, and the xCurrent system, in particular, is being held up as the most advanced Ripple solution available.

Other Ripple systems such as xRapid are reportedly being trialled by Western Union and other big names, but haven't progressed to the pilot stage. Central banks have unsurprisingly been slower to move towards digital currencies than most, and the launch of a pilot program SAMA might be a major feather in Ripple's cap.

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