The National Bank of Kazakhstan has taken a substantial leap into the realm of central bank digital currencies (CBDCs), joining the global trend with the launch of its pilot phase for the digital tenge, the latest in a series of initiatives heralding the digital transformation of currencies worldwide.
The bank confirmed the initiation of this pioneering phase, marked by the first retail payment executed using the digital tenge, carried out by an official from the central bank itself.
The digital tenge’s pilot phase unfolds within a platform operating in “pilot mode,” involving real users such as second-tier banks and their clientele, as detailed in the bank’s announcement.
Leveraging cutting-edge technology akin to cryptocurrencies, the platform relies on automated, blockchain-based smart contracts for seamless settlements.
Participating banks have swiftly issued digital vouchers and cards, enabling frictionless transactions across this innovative financial landscape.
Preparations for Kazakhstan’s venture into a CBDC commenced as early as 2021, with the central bank laying the groundwork for the full implementation of the digital tenge, slated for completion by the end of 2025.
The envisioned roadmap encompasses an expansive spectrum, including service diversification, exploration of diverse usage scenarios, and the broadening of engagement among platform stakeholders.
The global introduction of CBDCs has piqued significant interest, prompting financial institutions worldwide to advocate for extensive research and legislative frameworks for national digital currencies.
Kristalina Georgieva, the head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), echoed this sentiment, highlighting the potential of CBDCs to replace traditional cash and fortify economies’ financial resilience.
Moreover, the Atlantic Council’s CBDC tracker reveals that 130 countries, accounting for 98% of global GDP, are actively exploring CBDCs, with 19 G20 nations advancing rapidly in their development.
Eleven countries, including China, The Bahamas, Nigeria, Anguilla, Jamaica, and seven Eastern Caribbean nations, have successfully launched CBDCs, underscoring the evolving landscape of global currencies.
Notably, while the majority of nations are forging ahead with CBDC exploration and deployment, the United States has not solidified plans for a national digital currency, albeit progressing in the realm of wholesale CBDCs (bank-to-bank). In fact, Bank of America analysts recently highlighted that 67% of countries’ central banks are exploring CBDCs, encompassing 98% of global gross-domestic product (GDP), with a third already in advanced developmental stages.
The Federal Reserve (Fed) remains engaged in CBDC pilots, yet without a committed issuance, emphasizing the need for executive and congressional support before proceeding.
It is worth noting that CBDCs, serving as digital representations of fiat currency directly issued by a central bank, offer potential advantages such as streamlined cross-border and domestic transactions, enhanced financial inclusivity, and improved execution of monetary policies. However, despite these touted benefits, skepticism persists among citizens and investors.
A WealthRocket survey conducted in June revealed that 39% of 1,500 polled Canadians expressed concerns about potential loss of financial control due to CBDC adoption, showcasing the nuanced reception toward these digital currency developments.