An “Ecosystem Networking Day”, organised by Khmer Enterprise (KE) – a unit established by the Ministry of Economy and Finance – was held this week, with the aim of promoting entrepreneurial activities, innovation and value creation in the Cambodian economy through a national ecosystem that supports start-ups and SMEs.
The event was presided over by HE Vongsey Vissoth, Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Entrepreneurship Development Fund. He is also the Minister Attached to the Prime Minister and Permanent Secretary of State of the Ministry of Economy and Finance.
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HE Vongsey Vissoth said that the entrepreneurial ecosystem is indispensable for the promotion of entrepreneurship and is a pillar of private sector development which is a driving force in supporting economic growth, value creation, job creation, economic efficiency and innovation.
Supports all activities in the field of entrepreneurship
The event was designed to provide a platform for all stakeholders to network and engage in open discussions to develop a stronger strategy for future project implementation. Participants lauded some of the activities of the many programs that were successfully implemented with the support of KE, including technical and financial support. The discussion saw the active participation of national and international partners in sharing ideas, improvements and experiences that contribute to the improvement of ecosystems.
“KE have a role as a national nursery, always fulfilling the mission that promotes business growth and supports all activities in the field of entrepreneurship,” he added. It is noteworthy that KE’s support and programs extend to both Cambodian and foreign SMEs or start-ups established in the Kingdom.
In attendance were around 120 representatives from the Royal Government, embassies, Entrepreneurship Support Institutions (ESOs), financial institutions, business associations, members of the business communities that participated in KE’s programs and other stakeholders.
Addressing common challenges in the ecosystem
Speaking at the event, CEO of in-market business consultancy AquariiBD Mr Michael Tan, offered suggestions to address several common challenges that Cambodian SMEs and start-ups encounter in their business operations and in their endeavors to export their products to overseas markets.
These include poor market accessibility, the lack in operational know-how, and inadequate awareness of international market practices and expectations of product packaging and marketing strategies, among others.
“Against the backdrop of negative perception and outdated perspectives of Cambodia, there is an urgent and critical need to raise awareness of about the potential of the Cambodian market and the opportunities it offers, in particular its agriculture products and its strategic location for manufacturing and production, among other favorable pro-business and pro-investment factors,” he said.
“The lack of knowledge and resources in marketing support and strategy compounds the said challenges faced by many SMEs and start-ups. A funded program or centralized conduit to help market Cambodia from the commercial angle in designated target export markets, through a coordinated integrated marketing approach, can help to mitigate them and improve the chances of success,” he added.
Bridging the skills gap in business entities
Mr Tan also observed that SMEs and start-ups, whether Cambodian or foreign established ones, would stand to benefit from an incentive program to hire foreign talent for critical roles to bridge the skills gap in business entities.
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“Given the higher overhead costs of hiring a foreign talent to fill certain critical roles in an organization where their international experience and knowledge are needed, a tax exemption program for a specified number of years for these FTs within the MOLVT ratio of foreigners-to-Cambodian employees, would also help with knowledge and skills transfer.”
The event also provided participants with an overview recount of KE’s activities and programs, and its partners including investment groups, financial institutions and other project implementers, to develop step-by-step more robust and innovative business support projects to enable and grow KE’s entrepreneurs ecosystem.
KE’s vision is to become the national platform for promoting entrepreneurial activities in four priority areas: ICT with a focus on tech start-ups; Services sector which focuses on hospitality and logistics; Agriculture sector which focuses on agro-processing for domestic consumption and for export; and the Manufacturing sector on import substitution.