Cambodia’s fledgling digital currency, co-developed by a Japanese startup, has chalked up about 10 million accounts, the central bank governor told Nikkei in an interview in Tokyo.
That means about 60% of the country’s population is likely able to use the Bakong, as the digital currency is called, to make payments or transfer money.
Governor Chea Serey also said the National Bank of Cambodia will expand a cross-border payment network for the Bakong in cooperation with UnionPay International, China’s leading card payment service, and other foreign partners.
Chea spoke with Nikkei on Monday while in Tokyo to attend conferences related to the summit among the leaders of Japan and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
Only a small percentage of Cambodians have a bank account, a situation that has made it difficult to secure reliable payment methods for companies and individuals alike. The NBC jointly developed the Bakong with Soramitsu, a Tokyo-based blockchain technology startup, with the digital currency going into circulation in October 2020.
The Bakong, perhaps the world’s first central bank digital currency, enables anyone to make monetary transactions with a smartphone.
Chea said the number of Bakong users “has reached approximately 10 million accounts out of [Cambodia’s] total population of 16 million. However, I don’t want to be complacent.”
The NBC is striving for “financial inclusion,” Chea said. “I think we could do more [to increase the number of Bakong users] by focusing on consumer protection and cybersecurity.”
As for taking Bakong digital transactions to other countries, Chea said, “we have already launched cross-border payment connectivity with Thailand, Laos and Vietnam.” She added that the blockchain-based currency is also on its way to China via UnionPay.
In addition, the central bank has signed a memorandum of understanding with Alipay, the digital payment service of Ant Group, a Chinese financial service company affiliated with Alibaba Group, Chea said.
The NBC has also signed MOUs with the Central Bank of Solomon Islands and the Reserve Bank of Fiji as well as with the National Bank of Rwanda. Meanwhile, it has signed a memorandum of cooperation with Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry to eventually enable QR code-based payments between the countries.