Cambodia Internet Startup Association (CISA) has announced a partnership with Cambodia Association of Finance Technology (CAFT) to provide “high-quality” multilingual industry analysis reports, co-organise virtual and in-person activities, and mark a “brilliant milestone” in Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) cooperation.

A primary goal of the collaboration is “bringing together the diverse parts of the internet industry and fintech community in Cambodia to create an impact, and nurturing more internet talents”, according to a statement issued by CISA, which pitches itself as the Kingdom’s “first Chinese association of internet start-ups and companies”.

A memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed to this end on March 12 on the sidelines of the “Forum of the Post-Covid digital economy development in Cambodia”, which has “gained supports from both public sectors and private sectors”, the statement said, listing entities such as the finance and telecoms ministries, Huawei Cambodia, Zhengheng Group and CAFT as examples.

CISA board director and co-founder Jack Lee in the statement said the vision of his association “is to empower Cambodian internet start-ups and build a brilliant milestone along the path of the ‘Belt and Road Initiative’”.

Lee, who is also the founder of Smile Shop App, said his association “is committed to expanding business networking, incubating start-ups, and providing services related to training, investing and financing”.

He noted that CISA was jointly initiated by “Chinese leading players” in the Cambodian internet sector, such as Smile Shop, Gold Zone Media,, Compass Real Estate, CamHR and FOCUS DIGITAL.

“CISA seeks to initiate the close collaboration with other start-up 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 Cambodian internet industry, we aim to empower local start-ups and SMEs [small- and medium-sized enterprises] and help them compete in regional and international market[s],” he said.

CAFT secretary-general and Pi Pay co-founder Tomas Pokorny “affirmed the positive impacts of CISA on empowering start-ups in internet industry through leading in more investment and facilitating industry networking”, according to the statement.

“He [Pokorny] 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 standardised, 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,” it said.

Pokorny was quoted as saying: “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 next decade.

“Despite start-ups sector is growing, Covid slowed down external funding in Cambodia. Under this circumstance, internal capital ventures efforts will play key driving role of start-ups investments. This presents opportunity for early-on external new-comers to the sector,” he added.

Pokorny also drew attention to investment opportunities in areas such as digital banking, mobile payments, and business-to-business (B2B) financial solutions, as well as blockchain and decentralised financial applications.

He also highlighted some of the challenges facing the Cambodian digital economy, proposing that many could have concealed opportunities.

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

Ministry of Economy and Finance director of Macroeconomic and Fiscal Policy Chea Kok Hong, who doubles as an adviser to the Supreme National Economic Council, provided a brief overview of government policies and investment opportunities pertinent to the digital economy, the statement noted.

He said in the statement that the government’s vision is to build a “vibrant” digital socio-economic ecosystem, by laying the groundwork to bolster digital adoption and transformation among the state, people, businesses and other social actors to spur new economic growth and support social welfare as the novel coronavirus settles into an endemic stage.