The Belfast Coin UK’s First Official Digital Currency: What Happened?

In May 2019, news broke out that Belfast had released plans to launch the UK’s first Digital currency called the ‘Belfast Coin’. The launch had been planned for late 2019, where it would be introduced to the city.   

In a statement on the 8th May 2019, the Belfast city council commented, ‘Belfast is set to introduce its own digital currency later this year following a successful application by the city council to be part of a global city currency challenge.’ Grainia Long, Belfast Commissioner for resilience said later on in the statement the “Belfast Coin will be introduced later this year and it’s our hope that it will initially give an economic boost to local businesses, as well as helping Council achieve other long-term goals, including environmental improvements.”

The concept of the Belfast coin was to provide an incentive for locals to do the right things everyday. Fin Extra explained that ‘Belfast Coin will operate as a rewards platform, aiming to encourage locals to carry out “impactful behaviours to further improve the city”.’ Under this bracket comes practices such as recycling, low wastage, volunteering and other environmentally friendly as well as morally correct actions. In reward for these positive actions, locals will be rewarded with coins. The main purpose however was to benefit local businesses. The official Colu website explained the reasoning for this stating, ‘Research shows that almost 50% of any transaction made at a local business remains in the city. By contrast, when a purchase is made at a national or global outlet, more than 80% of the transaction ends up outside the city.’

In order to put the original idea into existence, The Belfast city council teamed up Colu, an ‘Israeli payment company’. At the time, Colu had clarified to Cointelegraph that the Belfast coin will not be based on blockchain technology. Although the Colu About Us says that they are powered by blockchain at press time, a Colu spokesperson has clarified that the app is not actually blockchain-based.’ This is according to Yahoo in 2019 regarding the new digital currency. 

With the Belfast coin now over a year old, theoretically the idea of promoting actions that benefit others and the planet through rewards, is seen as positive, however, before launch the concept got a lot of negative feedback from members of the public. Since its launch, the coin has gone relatively under the radar, which leaves a question to what happened. 

What happened now in 2021

After working so far in a few cities in Israel, Europe and the US, Colu will set up a subsidiary in the US and concentrate on the US market. It will continue to operate from Israel, but has ceased operations in the Israeli and European markets. The company confirmed to its customers that the app will be removed from use on December 31, 2020 and the money deposited by consumers will be repaid to their credit card accounts automatically.

Colu may have known that the imminent rivalry with payment applications such as Google Pay and Apple Pay is a losing fight entirely. As per Globes, the announcement of the move to the US and the closing of the digital wallet in other areas is the latest in a string of downsizing changes and revisions to the evolving environment Colu has encountered in the past year.

Established in 2014, Colu uses a system of city coins to empower citizens to boost the local economy and connect individuals, corporations, and institutions.

To find out more about the city coins, you can visit the Colu website by clicking the link colu.com


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Image: Ben Kerckx 

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