Electronic payment transactions worth 415.5 trillion riel ($102 billion) were made nationwide last year, marking a 34.5 per cent rise over 2020, as the number of e-wallet accounts reached 13.6 million, amounting to more than 80 per cent of the total population, according to the central bank.

The National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) said in its 2021 Financial Stability Review (FSR), released on June 17, that the Kingdom’s payment systems have drastically improved in recent years, with the adoption of digital options skyrocketing during the pandemic.

The large proportion of young people with access to mobile devices and internet, coupled with supportive regulatory frameworks, have encouraged banks and financial institutions to introduce innovative digital payment services with agents across the country, which in turn has significantly helped boost financial inclusion, it added.

NBC assistant governor and director-general Chea Serey said at the FSR’s launch that fast-growing digital payment systems have facilitated the flow of goods and services transactions, adding that the resulting changes were most evident during the Covid-19 lockdowns last year.

She also pointed out that electronic payment transactions, including amounts in US dollars and the local currency, were equivalent to about 3.8 times the 2021 gross domestic product (GDP), suggesting a GDP estimate of roughly 110 trillion riel for last year.

Cambodia Microfinance Association (CMA) spokesman Kaing Tongngy told The Post on June 19 that the spread of Covid-19 last year, which prompted major lockdowns in the capital and surrounding Kandal province, compelled huge numbers of people to embrace electronic payments, for convenience, to reduce the risk of transmission, or to save time, among other reasons.

He also noted that the NBC-backed Bakong blockchain-based payment system, with more than 20 linked major financial institutions, has made inter-institutional and customer transactions easier and scrapped a variety of service charges.

“The expansion of the digital payment infrastructure took off at a time when circumstances were difficult and electronic payments were required. These are the conditions that have driven the increase in electronic payments over the last one or two years,” Tongngy said.

The FSR indicated that 343.8 million transactions worth nearly 200 trillion riel were made via e-wallet accounts last year, representing a 17.3 per cent increase in value over 2020.