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Source: Adobe/Сергей Шиманович

The National Bank of Kazakhstan has initiated a pilot phase for its central bank digital currency (CBDC), becoming the latest bank to jump on the CBDC craze. 

In a recent announcement, the bank said the pilot phase started with the first retail payment using the digital tenge, carried out by an official of the central bank.

The pilot phase of the CBDC involves the issuance of the digital tenge on a platform launched in “pilot mode,” with real users including second-tier banks and their clients, per the announcement. 

The platform uses advanced technology that underlies cryptocurrencies, leveraging automated and blockchain-based smart contracts for settlements. 

Participating banks have issued digital vouchers and cards to facilitate seamless transfers.

Kazakhstan has been actively preparing for the implementation of a CBDC since at least 2021. 

The central bank’s announcement stated that the full implementation of the digital tenge is planned to be completed by the end of 2025. 

The roadmap includes expanding the range of services, exploring various usage scenarios, and broadening the participation of platform stakeholders.

Central Banks Continue to Issue CBDCs 

The introduction of CBDCs has been a topic of global interest, with financial institutions advocating for countries to undertake research and establish legislation for national digital currencies. 

Kristalina Georgieva, the head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), said Wednesday that CBDCs have the potential to replace cash and provide financial resilience to economies. 

According to the Atlantic Council CBDC tracker, 130 countries, representing 98% of global GDP, are currently exploring a CBDC, while 19 of the G20 countries are in the advanced stage of their CBDC development.

In total, 11 countries have fully launched a CBDC, which include ChinaThe BahamasNigeriaAnguillaJamaica, and seven Eastern Caribbean countries.

It is worth noting that the United States is among the few countries that have no confirmed plans to launch a digital currency.

However, the country has been still moving forward on a wholesale (bank-to-bank) CBDC.

As reported, Bank of America analysts have recently said that central banks for 67% of countries are exploring central bank digital currencies (CBDCs), which represent 98% of global gross-domestic product. Among them, 33% are already in advanced development stages.

“The Federal Reserve (Fed) continues to pilot CBDCs but has not committed to a CBDC and will not issue one without executive branch and Congressional support,” the analysts wrote.

CBDCs are digital currencies issued directly by a country’s central bank using a centralized ledger, operating as tokenized versions of its existing fiat currency.

Bank of America said that the benefits and risks of CBDCs depend on their design and issuance. 

Potential benefits include more efficient cross-border and domestic payments, financial inclusion, and better implementation of monetary policy.

However, there have also bee strong skepticism of CBDCs among citizens and investors.

survey by WealthRocket in June, for example, found that 39% of 1500 polled Canadians held concerns about losing control of their finances due to CBDCs.

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