The National Bank of Cambodia has officially launched its retail central bank digital currency (CBDC) named Project Bakong, co-developed by Japanese fintech company SORAMITSU. The central bank is the first in South East Asia to do so.
Bakong is a multi-stakeholder system that enables instant and final transactions using digital Cambodian Riel (KHR) or United States Dollars (USD).
The National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) began its CBDC work in 2016 with the inauguration of Project Bakong, named created from a temple of an ancient Khmer Empire. The project’s aim was to explore the capacity of digital payment systems to mitigate burdens for banks, to encourage the use of the Riel, and most importantly, to enhance financial inclusion among underserved citizens.
The central bank began its pilot use in July last year. So far about 20 financial institutions have participated in the project, with dozens more expected to join.
Users of the mobile app can make payments and transfer money from their e-wallets by scanning QR codes or tapping on phone numbers.
Pen Chenda, a senior official of the Cambodian Association of Finance and Technology, said Bakong would particularly benefit small businesses due to costs and risks associated with handling cash.