Kazakhstan central bank reviews digital tenge pilot successes, next steps

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Kazakhstan central bank reviews digital tenge pilot successes, next steps
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The digital tenge, Kazakhstan’s central bank digital currency (CBDC), has been declared a success after a month-long pilot project. A host of business, regulatory and technical improvements are lined up for it in 2024.

During its pilot run, the digital tenge was used to provide schoolchildren with free lunches in Almaty through the local Onay! card, which was originally designed for use in the transit system. The Kazpost postal system operator served as the intermediary for those transactions.

Plastic cards were issued to members of focus groups by four local banks in conjunction with Visa and Mastercard. The cards allowed users to make purchases in person or online and to withdraw cash from ATMs. The participating merchant had the option of accepting digital tenge or converting them to “non-cash” tenge.

A digital tenge card. Source: Islam Yerzhan, LinkedIn

By converting digital tenge, they were integrated into existing point-of-sale and QR systems. The cards were functional throughout and outside of Kazakhstan. The report claimed this level of interoperability was a first for a CBDC.

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Other experiments conducted with the digital tenge included making cross-border payments via SWIFT and issuance of CBDC-backed stablecoins on Binance and KASE platforms. Digital tenge were used for tokenizing gold, value-added tax was collected using a smart contract and a move-to-earn app was trialed.

Related: Uzbekistan permits two banks to issue crypto cards

The National Bank of Kazakhstan and the National Payment Corporation of Kazakhstan (NPCK), a body established in September to administer the national CBDC, have a long list of goals for 2024. They include increasing the number of intermediary banks and further developing decentralized finance applications.

The agencies hope to carry out offline transactions at scale, which would dramatically increase financial inclusion in the country, since internet connectivity is limited in some regions. They will also increase participation in cross-border payment projects. Kazakhstan is an observer in Project mBridge. They also have regulatory and legislative goals that need to be implemented simultaneously, and they hope to increase digital tenge security and processing speed.

NPCK CEO Binur Zhalenov gave assurances in an interview aired on the eve of the report’s release that the digital tenge would not be used for surveillance of users.

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