The number of Bakong users has increased significantly to 445,000 as of July 31, 2022 with 12.7 million transactions valued at $7.2 billion, from 288,000 users as at end-December 2021 and 45,000 in 2020.

The growth in transactions and value rose by 4.3 times and 6.5 times, respectively, between January and July this year, compared to the corresponding period last year, a report by the National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) showed.

The Bakong project was developed in 2017 via collaboration with Japanese tech firm Soramitsu Co Ltd and local financial institutions. Pilot tests were conducted in July 2019.

Taking its name from a ninth century temple in Siem Reap, the national payment system was launched in October 2020 to provide a peer-to-peer fund transfer service to local banks’ retail customers, financial institutions, and payment service providers.

The digital payment system, based on blockchain technology, is aimed at offering low-cost, secure and fast, convenient payment service to users.

At the Global SME Finance Forum 2022, NBC governor Chea Chanto stated that the development of Bakong has proven to be successful as it boosted payment systems, helped micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises (MSME) sustain business activities.

It also helped prevent the spread of Covid-19 by minimising human contact, reducing unnecessary travel and keeping commercial spaces free from crowds, as well as increasing financial inclusion in rural Cambodia.

“All of these contributions led Bakong to win the 2021 Nikkei Superior Products and Services Awards for its innovative technology and impact on the country’s economic and social development,” Chanto said.

Last July, the KHQR code system was launched to facilitate cross-bank payments via the Bakong system, where 240,000 merchants, mostly MSMEs, have signed up so far.

Meanwhile, cross-border payment transactions with Thailand and Malaysia have also connected and are being expanded to connect with other countries in the region as well, he added.

In June this year, ACLEDA Bank Plc senior executive vice-president and group chief operations officer So Phonnary told The Post that digital transactions processed by the bank last year totalled 143.623 trillion riel ($35.03 billion).

This accounted for 34 per cent of the total market share. As of August 31, 2022, the ACLEDA Mobile app had more than 2.5 million downloads.

Phonnary ascribed the positive results to the Covid-19 pandemic, a surge in digital and technological awareness and adoption and Cambodians’ improving economic condition.

“Moreover, customers and suppliers are encouraged to transact via digital banking channels as much as possible,” she said. “To promote such a strategy, customers are rewarded in many ways including cashbacks, discounts and vouchers.”

Phonnary said the “Pay Me” feature would make it easier for merchants to request payments for customers via QR code, where the payment amount and the receiver account have been determined. The feature also aims to improve efficiency, accuracy and security.

On September 1, 2022, ACLEDA was chosen as the sponsoring bank for KHR cross-border payments via QR code with ASEAN neighbouring countries including Vietnam and Laos.

This is in addition to KHR cross-border payment via QR code in Thailand which was launched in February 2020 to promote the usage of KHR for settlement in the ASEAN region and financial inclusion in line with integration within the ASEAN Economic Community.