Give A Day: Developing Cambodia’s digital economy and FinTech landscape

Harrison White

Give a Day held its seventh installment under the topic Cambodia’s Digital Economy, Fintech Landscape and Development Policy hosted by keynote speaker Executive Director of the Techo Startup Center H.E. Dr. Nguonly Taing.

The event was held at the Cambodiana Hotel in Phnom Penh and was attended by several stakeholders in the entrepreneurship ecosystem including government agencies, investors, accelerators, and entrepreneurs.

To read more about the Give a Day program click here.

Group discussions after the keynote speech.

H.E. Dr. Nguonly Taing explained that developing Cambodia’s tech startup ecosystem was vital to establish new drivers of Cambodia’s economic growth and overcome internal and external challenges being presented now and over the coming years.

Techo Startup Center is a conduit between various services to assist Cambodian start-ups to develop and ultimately scale as well as assist in building essential FinTech infrastructure to support the products and services.

“We need to find new growth drivers to make our economy more resilient. The advancement of digital technology creates an opportunity for a new emerging economy, so-called “Digital Economy” that will increase in value from $100 billion in 2019 to an estimated $1 trillion in 2030 for the South East Asian region,” he said.

According to a National Bank of Cambodia 2021 report there were 698.8 million digital payment transactions at a volume of $199.76 billion.

Long-term government strategy

Cambodia is continuing on its long-term vision of becoming an upper-middle-income country by 2030 and ultimately a high income country by 2050; implementing the Cambodia Digital Economy and Society Policy Framework 2021-2035.

The framework aims 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.

“Cambodia’s Digital Economy and Society refers to the digital transformation on every socio-economic sector through the utilization of and takes a maximum advantage on the advancement of ICT and digital technology,” Dr. Nguonly said.

To read more about Cambodia’s push to a digital society click here.

Attendees asked several questions after the keynote speech.

“The Cambodian Government hopes to boost the economic growth and efficiency towards building a civilized society founded on the digital citizen who adopts the digital services with inclusion, trust, safety, and still maintaining our national identity and culture,” he added.

Cambodia’s FinTech categories’ have been split into three categories banking, non-banking and decentralized finance (such as Web 3.0 and blockchain technology).

Regulating these three sectors are four government bodies including the National Bank of Cambodia, Non-Banking Financial Services Authority, Ministry of Economy and Finance and the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications.

Challenges for the ecosystem

According to a Techo Startup Center report common challenges faced by start-ups in Cambodia include limited financial support and follow-on funding, inadequate mentor’s both quantity and quality as well as insufficient materials and equipment (testing tools, science lab tools, sandbox etc).

In addition, there was limited knowledge and skills as well as innovation and high dropout rate from programs, tight schedules with other priorities and commitments, and inadequate fulfillment of reporting documents including financial reporting and key performance metrics.

“In response, the center is developing solutions to these common challenges such as improving the quality of mentorship, more investment pitches, time management and commitment solution as well as injecting funds for early-stage startup and participating in ESO investment pitches,” Dr. Nguonly said.

“In summary, Cambodia is on the verge of a digital era and digital technology continues to transform every socio-economic activity in Cambodia. As an ecosystem we need to join hand with ESOs and other actors to promote and build scalable startups,” he added.

To read more about up skilling Cambodian students to compete in the digital economy click here.

Rajiv Pradhan, Country Director at Swisscontact gives the concluding remarks.

After the keynote speech the events group discussions centered on how ESOs should prepare to leverage this FinTech opportunity and solutions to overcome these common challenges.

According to the groups inclusion of digital payments, policy alignment as well as diversifying tech talent away from banking and finance were key opportunities for ESOs to leverage.

The groups identified solutions to common challenges such as improving basic cyber security knowledge, improving the limited internet coverage outside city center locations, and creating content for the currently low level of general and digital literacy.

The Give A Day program is funded by Khmer Enterprise and implemented by USAID’s WE Act Project through Pact Cambodia and Swisscontact. Monthly meetings are designed to create a routine and space through which ESOs can learn more about each other’s work and differentiate their programs.

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