National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) governor Chea Serey has lauded the French government for its pivotal role in the expansion of the Kingdom’s financial industry, particularly its robust growth in the microfinance sector.

During her meeting with French ambassador Jacques Pellet and French development agency AFD director Sandrine Boucher on September 29, Serey spoke highly of AFD’s historical and continuing support for Cambodia, especially their dedication to the microfinance sector, according to an NBC statement.

Their involvement includes ongoing financial backing and technical expertise, aiming to widen and strengthen access to financial services in the Kingdom.

The central bank chief highlighted AFD’s enduring support for the industry and acknowledged the agency’s firm dedication to further the market’s growth, which she believes will play a crucial role in enhancing people’s lives and stimulating economic progress.

She suggested escalating collaborative efforts, particularly with the NBC’s Centre for Banking Studies, to augment the breadth and calibre of education while refining the existing courses and subjects. Furthermore, she called upon AFD to fortify the skills of personnel responsible for museum administration and central bank communication through scholarships or by tapping into the expertise of French specialists.

Detailing AFD’s initiatives in the country, Boucher noted their financial support to microfinance institutions (MFIs) and the provision of technical assistance to various financial entities. The collaboration with the Cambodian Microfinance Association (CMA) aims to boost institutional capacity and enforce customer protection protocols.

“AFD is keen on intensifying our alliance in evolving the microfinance industry [in Cambodia]. We’re enthusiastic about maintaining transparent discussions with the NBC and pertinent bodies to foster responsible lending, amplify risk management and bolster financial awareness,” Boucher said, also touching upon AFD’s collaborations in other spheres, including green financing and utilities.

The latest NBC data reveals that as of June, Cambodia is home to five deposit-taking MFIs, 82 non-deposit MFIs and 118 rural credit establishments. The market witnessed a 14.8 per cent increase in consumer credit, amounting to $9.7 billion. These loans predominantly benefitted households (34%, up 18.4%), trade and commerce (23.2%, up 15%), agriculture (17.7%, up 13.2%) and services (13.4%, up 8.9%).

Other sectors include construction (4.4%, up 14%), transportation (4.2%, up 0.2%), manufacturing (1.9%, up 30.8%) and others (1.3%, up 42.4%).

Deposits stood at $4.9 billion, translating to roughly 2.7 million accounts.