Binur Zhalenov, the chairman of Kazakhstan's National Payment Corporation (NPC), conducted the inaugural transaction with the country's newly launched central bank digital currency (CBDC), the digital tenge.

Using a debit card linked to a CBDC account during a public speech, Zhalenov marked the official launch of the digital tenge in Kazakhstan's retail market. The NPC, established in September, collaborated with major payment providers Visa and Mastercard, as well as local banks, to integrate the CBDC into plastic cards.

The CBDC platform, which leverages cryptocurrency technology, will explore automated and blockchain-based smart contracts for settlements. Zhalenov highlighted the digital tenge's potential applications in smart contracts, innovative financial services, and digital asset transactions.

The development roadmap for the digital currency includes a focus on offline payments by 2024, with plans to incorporate the CBDC into cross-border trade by 2025. The initiative, which began development in February 2023 with an initial launch target of 2025, aims to position Kazakhstan at the forefront of digital currency adoption.

The rollout coincides with increased regulatory scrutiny over the country's broader crypto market. Earlier in November, Coinbase, the world's second-largest cryptocurrency exchange by trading volume, has been blocked in Kazakhstan for violating recently enacted crypto laws.

The global push for national digital currencies has garnered attention from financial institutions. Kristalina Georgieva, head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), has advocated for CBDCs, stating that they can replace cash and offer financial resilience to economies.

However, major economies have so far refrained from reaching a conclusion on the issuance of central bank digital currencies in their respective countries.