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ABUJA: Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari launched the country's new digital eNaira currency on Monday as Africa's largest economy looked to tap into the growing popularity of virtual money and cryptocurrencies.

With its eNaira currency, Nigeria joined China and others who are using or piloting central bank-backed digital tenders as the global use of e-payment systems expands.

"We have become the first country in Africa and one of the first in the world to introduce a digital currency to our citizens," Buhari said at the official launch. He said the new virtual currency would improve cross-border trade, financial inclusion for those outside the formal economy and increase remittances.

Nigeria has seen booming interest in cryptocurrencies as people look for ways to avoid the weakening naira currency and combat high costs of living and unemployment in Africa's most populous country. Central bank-backed digital currencies or CBDCs and cryptocurrencies are both virtual money though the CBDCs are legal tender regulated by central banks while cryptos are out of government control.

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