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CISA embarks on ‘new journey’ in Cambodia’s digital economy

Cambodia Investment Review

The first Chinese association of Internet startups and companies in Cambodia, Cambodia Internet Startup Association (CISA) has kicked off its new journey in 2022 with a ‘fruitful forum’ on post-COVID digital economy development in Cambodia. 

Initiated by CISA, held in Cambodia Academy of Digital Technology on March 12, 2022, this forum has gained support from both public sectors and private sectors, including the Ministry of Economy and Finance, Ministry of Post and Telecommunication, Huawei Cambodia, Zhengheng Group, Cambodia Association of Finance and Technology (CAFT).

The much-anticipated event was a great opportunity for entrepreneurs, investors, and government officials to enhance the dialogue and share insights about the outlook of digital economy development in Cambodia from various perspectives. 

Jian Shen, the founder of Gold Zone Media and co-founder of CISA, was MC for the forum and said he was glad to resume the offline activities after a pause of one year and a half due to COVID. 

The forum began with the opening remark by Sam Sethserey, the president of Institute of Research and Innovation of Cambodia Academy of Digital Technology (CADT), the host of the event. He shed light on the progress of CADT on the education of digital talents to enhance the readiness of Cambodia for Industry 4.0 and digital transition. 

Jack Lee, former General Director of Haier Asia Pacific Market, current director and co-founder of CISA, and founder of Smile Shop App, briefed the audience about CISA. 

Jian Shen CISA
Chea Kok Hong, deputy director general of Policy Planning of Ministry of Economy and Finance

CISA was initiated jointly by Chinese leading players in the internet industry in Cambodia, including Smile Shop, Gold Zone Media, 58cam.com, Compass Real Estate, CamHR, FOCUS DIGITAL, etc. CISA is committed to expanding business networking, incubating start-ups, and providing services related to training, investing, and financing. 

To read more about Smile Shop App click here.

“CISA seeks to initiate close collaboration with other startup investment communities and serve as a bridge to facilitate the communication among business communities in Cambodia. By leading more investment from China to the ecosystem of the Cambodian internet industry, we aim to empower local startups and SMEs and help them compete in the regional and international market” Jack Lee said.

“The vision of CISA is to empower Cambodian Internet start-ups and build a brilliant milestone along the path of the “Belt and Road Initiative, he added.

Building a vibrant digital economy in Cambodia

Chea Kok Hong, deputy director-general of Policy Planning of Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF), advisor to the Supreme National Economic Council, gave an overview of government policies and investment opportunities in the digital economy. 

He mentioned that the vision of the Royal Government of Cambodia is to build a vibrant digital economy and society by laying the foundations to promote digital adoption and transformation in all social actors including the state, citizens, and businesses, to accelerate new economic growth and promote social welfare in the new normal. 

More importantly, his excellency highlighted the new investment opportunities in the digital economy in Cambodia, including the fiscal incentives and the upcoming Multi-Purpose Special Economic Zones Master Plan- Preah Sihanouk Province. 

Yuanpeng Dong, Chief of Communication Officer Huawei Cambodia spoke next, saying Huawei, as a well-known world-leading provider of ICT infrastructure and smart devices, has been dedicated to building a fully connected intelligent Cambodia through the strategic focus on information transmission, distribution, storage, processing, and interaction.

He added that Huawei has changed the landscape of digital infrastructure in Cambodia and enhanced the digital inclusiveness for all people and facilitated Kingdom’s industry digital transformation. 

To read more about Huawei ICT investment in Cambodia click here.

After the coffee break, Tomas Pokorny, the Secretary-General of CAFT, co-founder of Pi Pay, led us to a deep dive into digital payment and inclusive finance in Cambodia. 

Firstly, he affirmed the positive impacts of CISA on empowering startups in the internet industry through leading in more investment and facilitating industry networking. 

Then he pointed out some key trends in Cambodia’s digital economy and fintech ecosystem, for instance, increased acceptance of digital payments, quick response (QR) code for digital payments to be aggregated and standardized, electronic know-your-customer (E-KYC) on the horizon, strengthened interconnectivity through Project Bakong, increasing innovative financial solutions to tap the consumer and MSME segment, etc. 

Tomas Pokorny, the Secretary-General of CAFT, co-founder of Pi Pay and Jack Lee, former General Director of Haier Asia Pacific Market, current boarder Director and co-founder of CISA, and founder of Smile Shop App.

“Cambodia is relatively a small market in terms of population size, but this market has been growing vibrantly and still has huge potential to tap. New emerging trends will surface and present opportunities for the sector within the next decade,” he said.

“Despite startups sector is growing, Covid slowed down external funding in Cambodia. Under this circumstance, internal capital ventures efforts will play a key driving role in startups investments. This presents an opportunity for early-on external newcomers to the sector, he added. 

Investment opportunities in the digital transformation

Tomas Pokorny also highlighted investment opportunities in mobile payments, digital banking & B2B financial solutions, decentralized finance and financial operations, as well as blockchain. 

He concluded his speech by saying that he is not only optimistic but also realistic, meaning that he could see both opportunities and challenges in the digital economy in Cambodia. However, he is persuaded that those challenges could be disguised opportunities. 

To read more about CAFT click here.

“There are many fintech as well as non-fintech opportunities in Cambodia that may be capitalized upon, just based on mere realization how much of Cambodian population is not yet digitally and financially inclusive”, He added.

By the end of the forum, witnessed by excellencies and other guests, CISA signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Cambodia Association of Finance Technology (CAFT), marking the beginning of their strategic partnership. 

With the senior level resources and the deep relationships they have formed in this region, they will jointly serve the members through providing high-quality multilingual industry analysis reports, co-organizing online and offline activities, bringing together the diverse parts of the internet industry and fintech community in Cambodia to create an impact and nurture more internet talents.

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