Kazakhstan Launches Digital Tenge at Financial Congress in Almaty

ASTANA – Kazakhstan launched the initial phase of the digital tenge project at the 11th Financial Congress on Nov. 15 in Almaty, reported the National Bank of Kazakhstan (NBK).

Kazakhstan Financial Congress 2023 “Tenge: Road to the Global Markets.” Photo credit: NBK.

The pilot project to introduce digital currency was initiated in 2021, and its preliminary results were presented at the congress by National Payment Corporation CEO Binur Zhalenov, who conducted the first real retail transaction using digital tenge.

Zhalenov informed that the digital tenge allows people to make payments both online and offline, even without internet access. He emphasized that Kazakhstan has built a technology that integrates existing payment cards with the digital tenge platform, enabling global transactions using such services as ApplePay and SamsungPay.

“The digital tenge can also be programmed. In fact, this is smart money that can be used in smart contracts and innovative financial services,” he noted.

The implementation of the digital tenge will progress in stages, with retail circulation commencing this year. Collaborative efforts with partners and financial market participants are set for expansion in 2024, and full-scale implementation is expected by the end of 2025.

NBK Governor Timur Suleimenov. Photo credit: NBK.

Zhalenov stated the digital tenge is the third form of national currency in addition to cash and non-cash options.

“It unlocks the potential of blockchain technology to create innovative financial services, ensures targeted and efficient government spending, and also builds a ‘bridge’ between traditional finance and the world of digital assets,” he said.

Schoolchildren in Almaty will be the first to use the digital tenge integrated into the Onai card, which enables students to pay in canteens and transfer money into the school wallet.

The digital tenge aims to enhance transparency in government procurement, ensure financial integrity, and bolster cybersecurity measures.

“It is symbolic that today, on the 30th anniversary of the tenge, we also witness a new era of the national currency – an era in the digital space,” said NBK Governor Timur Suleimenov.

The NBK presented a new series of banknotes of the national currency, based on elements of the Saka style and reflecting the country’s heritage from the unique culture of nomads to modern times.

The new series of banknotes will be introduced gradually, with the first note of 5,000 tenge expected to be in circulation by the year-end.

In accordance with international practice, the design of banknotes is being updated in stages to introduce improved levels of security and prevent counterfeiting. Another important element is the popularization of cultural values and Kazakhstan’s history.

The congress, organized by the Association of Financiers of Kazakhstan with the support of the NBK and Agency of Kazakhstan for Regulation and Development of the Financial Market, also addressed current issues of macroeconomic policy and the financial sector.

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