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Bakong: a new dawn of cashless Cambodia?

Bakong. What’s in a name?


Cambodia’s National Bank is capitalizing on blockchain technology to transform the country into a cashless society. Its recently launched Bakong Project is all about:

  • the backbone for real-time retail payment in
    Cambodia.
  • connects FIs and payment providers together.
  • enables participants to provide service to their end users directly from payment gateway/client module.
  • allows end users to make transactions (send, pay, deposit, and receive) through NBC generic app or/and participants existing app

One remarkable thing to note in the name is the project itself. In a latest LinkedIn post, the National Bank of Cambodia’s General Director Chea Serey explained that “Bakong Project is named after Bakong Temple, the first temple mountain of sandstone constructed by rulers of the Khmer empire in the 9th century? The design of Bakong logo follows the structural layout of the temple. Cambodia’s Independence Monument built in the capital city is modeled from this temple. Bakong as such is a symbole of national pride, independence and sovereignty! ”

After a few years of talks and buzzes of Fintech, now is the time to see where the direction is going. The message from the Cambodian bank leader is simple and clear: independence and taking on the new trend of totally connected, and transparency. In one of her speeches, she claimed that “the NBC’s approach to new technologies or more specifically to FinTech has mostly been: watch, learn and execute!” And fail fast or not, let’s wait and see.

A few years back, I asked Cambodia’s Fintech expert the tech trend in Southeast Asia for my contributing column piece in RedHerring (Asia’s Top Tech Trends in 2018: By the Letters). His response: “The current trend, or hot thing right now, is fintech,” says Phnom Penh-based investor Chanda Pen. “And media content creation.”

Actually, Bakong isn’t the first in this space. Before, we’ve heard of Tesjor. And I’m the past few years, we’ve been bombarded by discounts and promotions from PiPay.

Here’s a message I saw on Facebook Page of Bakong:

“Forget your wallet? No problem! Enjoy effortless shopping and dinning with Bakong’s merchants countrywide.
Go cashless, go Bakong.
Bakong-Next Generation of Payment System in Cambodia.
#bakong #bakongcashless #bakongmerchant”‏

What’s in a name? Cryptic. Bakong without ‘o’ and ‘g’ with a little rearrangement = Bank

To recap, the main objective of Bakong Project is to provide an easy, fast and low-cost payment system to the public to allow Cambodian people get access to financial services. In an interview published on the Bankong official Facebook Page, H.E Chea Serey said “Based on our research, the current payment infrastructure does not allow cross platform transfer and the transaction cost is relatively high which is not convenient for low-income people and people in rural areas. The research also shows that younger generation are technology savvy as reflected in high penetration of mobile phone usage, especially smart phones. For these reasons, the National Bank of Cambodia explored possible solution and started Bakong Project base on Blockchain technology.” In this regard, the NBC’s Bakong is one of the first central banks that launch blockchain based application for payment system.

According to Cointelegraph Japan, Bakong was developed by Japanese blockchain company Soramitsu. It uses the company’s “Hyper Leisure Iroha”.

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