Azerbaijan aims to become Caucasus leader in cashless payments

The World Bank Group has agreed to support the further expansion of cashless payments in the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic and set up the first cashless zone in Azerbaijan, to increase financial inclusion for the rural population.

The Electronic and Digital Financial Services Project, implemented by the IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, will join forces with the Ministry of Finance of the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic, the Central Bank of Azerbaijan, and Azerbaijan’s Financial Market Supervisory Authority to develop new guidelines for cashless payments. The aim is to transform Azerbaijan into the region’s leader in cashless payments by mobilising data processing centres and mobile network operators.

Funded by Switzerland’s State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), the creation of the new cashless payment infrastructure will allow citizens to use their mobile phones for financial operations, including paying bills and transferring money. These services are vital to keep up with global trends, in particular, because only 29 per cent of adults in Azerbaijan have an account at a financial institution, compared to about 50 per cent in the region, according to World Bank figures.

“Cashless payments have always been among top priorities of Nakhchivan’s leadership, and a number of projects implemented in recent years have contributed to creating an enabling environment. So, it is no surprise that new and sophisticated phase of electronic payments system for the country will be piloted in Nakhchivan and we are happy to cooperate with IFC in this area,” said Sabuhi Mammadov, Minister of Finance of the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic. He added: “This project is part of a broader effort to strengthen cashless and digital payments, and will not only promote financial sector development, but will also ensure convenience for local population and boost access to electronic payment systems in the country.”

Jesper Kjaer, IFC Senior Manager, Europe and Central Asia, said: “Our goal is to make financial services accessible to Azerbaijani people living all over the country. We welcome the government’s support for this project—our joint efforts will not only enable residents of Nakhchivan to make payments easily, but will ensure better access to basic financial services.”