France Cambodia Business Forum showcases extensive business opportunities in Kingdom

Tom Starkey

The two-day, multi-venue France Cambodia Business Forum – organized by Forum d’Affaires France Cambodge – has kicked off with a series of workshops, mini-conferences and speeches from key figures in business and government.

Speaking at the event, organizer and Executive Director of the French Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Cambodia Martin Brisson, said it is of special value for future business.

“The main purpose is to showcase the opportunities in Cambodia for French business. This forum will bring more French companies to invest and explore export opportunities, but also encourage French entrepreneurs to start a business in Cambodia. Our goal is to support Cambodia’s economic development as well as to catch the opportunities within this very competitive and growing market.”

“Events like these are myth busters. People outside of Cambodia have a perception gap, thinking that Cambodia might be a small country in terms of population or otherwise, and be largely undeveloped. Events like this bridge the perception gap.”

Brisson said that sharing in-country knowledge for business is key, especially given the opportunities of wider business in the region.

“We know that Cambodia is a great gateway to ASEAN which comes with access to millions of consumers. It is also a region that has a business-orientated environment, and this is important to share during forums like this.”

“We hope to see an increase in trade and increase in investment between both countries as a direct result,” he added.

French government earmarks Cambodia for increased economic ties

The workshop started at Institut Français du Cambodge on financing with Bpifrance, concerning solutions offered by the French government and its operators to French companies abroad. The workshop was led by Direction Générale du Trésor (FEXTE, FASEP), Chèque Relance Export et Proparco and moderated by French Foreign Trade Advisor and partner of Citystar, Etienne Chenevier. 

The forum then travelled on to Sofitel Hotel, where a speech from Minister and Secretary-General of the Council for the Development of Cambodia, Sok Chenda Sophea, as well as special guest Francois Corbin, was delivered on the comparative advantages of investing in Cambodia following the government’s new Investment Law. To read more about the new law on investment click here.

Attendees also heard from CCIFC Chairman Soresmey Ke Bin and CCEF Chairman Arnaud Darc, before the event moved to the Factory for a final series of mini-conferences on key industry sectors in Cambodia, including Construction, Tourism, Retail, Energy and more.

The mini-conferences were moderated by CCIFC Board Member and Executive Project Director of Golden International Investments Vaizoue Huynh, with Sarah Lubeigt, CCIFC Deputy Secretary-General and Country Director of Bioderma and Kovi Valoo, CCIFC Board Member and CEO of Legrand Cambodia.

The 20 conferences were designed to give a better idea of the promising sectors of the Cambodian economy, as well as to showcase success stories.

French-Cambodia Business Forum
France Cambodia Business Forum press conference.

Speaking at the talk on industrial diversification, Secretary of State at the Ministry of Industry, Science, Technology and Innovation, Kan Chanmeta, said that growing the electronics and automobiles sectors is part of the governments’ diversification plan.

“Cambodia’s development has been as a result of government policies, including the rectangular strategy, the digital economy and society policy framework, 2021-2035, industrial development policy 2015-2025 and Cambodia Science Technology and Innovation (STI) roadmap.

“Now, we look to industrial diversification through electronics and automotive sectors. These are high skill and high-value sectors which have a broad value chain.”

He said meanwhile, the current dominant sectors in Cambodia, namely Agri processing and textiles, currently require low skills and has few value chain steps, which were not resistant to the economic effects of the pandemic.  

Cambodia’s construction sector is ready to bounce back

Speaking on the forum for Construction, Michel Cassagnes, Managing Director of Archetype said the sector is ready for a bounce-back after the COVID downturn.

“In 2019, construction projects were valued at $11.4 billion, up 35% compared to the previous year. But that was down by over $7 billion in 2020 and 5.3 billion in 2021. In 2022 Q1, we have seen a value of $565 million, with a projected figure of $2 billion but hoping to reach $3 or $4 billion by year-end.”

“In 2019, daily workers on construction site were around 150,000. But 2022 only 25,000. We think this is the bottom of the curve and expect a major increase.”

He said that there are many opportunities for construction companies. To read more about Cambodia’s 2022 real-estate trends click here.

“There are only 15 internationally branded hotels in Cambodia, but 10 more are coming in the next 5 years. There is big opportunities for a mid-scale hotel in the city and massive demand for resorts, especially in Kampot.”

“There are also opportunities in the industry, consumer goods manufacturing projects for buildings, agricultural products, para-pharma products, beverages, packaging, a major hub for PPP and cold storage facilities to mention a few.”

France Cambodia Business Forum at the Factory.

“At the moment industrial projects are at around 500/USD per m2, and office grade b 700 to 800/USD per m2.”

Also in attendance was Arnaud Dufresne, CEO of Chip Mong Retail, who said there is big opportunities in retail. “CMRT will be one of the leading mall developers with the largest portfolio in Cambodia, of 10 malls.”

This year the company announced the completion of the chip mong mega mall, followed by the chip mong tower which is due next year with the year after seeing the chip mong 50m mall and chip mong 6a mall.”

All of this development will, of course, need energy. On hand to discuss the opportunities in the sector was CEO of Sevea, Cécile Dahomé, 

“Cambodia’s energy needs are set to grow rapidly and new solutions in the sector will need to be made, such as solar energy. Cambodia currently requires more power than most neighboring countries, including Thailand. A lot of that power is currently sourced from Laos, so in-country solutions will be needed.”

“Solar energy is one of those solutions and there are lots of opportunities for investment at this time, as well as in the energy sector in general,” she added.

French produce is popular in Cambodia

Although not served at the refreshment desk during the day, wine and spirits were on the menu, as opportunities in the sector were discussed by Managing Director Cambodia of Pernod Ricard Ludovic Ledru.

“We see strong economic fundamentals with potential growth [in Cambodia], and this will be translated to the wine and spirits industry.”

He said this is because of the increasing purchase power of consumers of which some 24% are urbanized.

“The emerging HNWI population, due to strong business cooperation and trade with foreign organizations, is driving stronger demand for prestige goods.”

“The industry remains favorable due to open advertising market and favorable appropriate legal and tax framework. Non-punitive tax levels or discrimination between imported alcohol and locally made. Strongly suggest investing in Cambodia to help create wealth for the kingdom.”

He said the company is now working closely with the government to produce a legal drinking age for alcoholic beverages.

“We aim to lead industry growth, educate and train local talent and shape the industry in partnership with all stakeholders.”

There were also talks on even more opportunities, including in healthcare, digital entrepreneurs’, logistics and more, in what was a star-studded event in the business world. Day two is set to offer event more, with more networking opportunities, a look back on Cambodia and France’s close relationship and a ‘pitch your business opportunity for budding entrepreneurs. 

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