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Joint $500,000 fund to ‘fuel SME incubation’

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The investment will fund an innovative six-month incubation and training initiative and small-grants programme to help SMEs shift online. SMART AXIATA

Joint $500,000 fund to ‘fuel SME incubation’

The UN Development Programme (UNDP) in Cambodia on December 28 announced a new joint $500,000 investment in grants and e-commerce training for 125 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

The funds are backed by UNDP Cambodia, the Ministry of Commerce and the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF), UNDP Cambodia said in a press release.

The UN agency said the investment “will fuel an innovative six-month incubation and training initiative and small-grants programme to help SMEs move online, sell online, and, for some, sell to overseas customers through a new online marketplace [B2B2C] being developed by the” ministry.

It noted that a quota is reserved for women-owned businesses, or those based in any of the Kingdom’s 24 provinces.

“This joint initiative by the [ministry] and UNDP will form one of the key components of Cambodia’s e-commerce acceleration project [Go4eCam] that aims to boost domestic and international opportunities for small and medium enterprises through a digital platform and create over 10,000 new jobs by 2022 as the one of the main objectives of Go4eCAM.

“Cambodia’s e-commerce sector has grown exponentially in the last decade and the enhanced support comes as the Covid-19 pandemic has forced many more businesses to move online.

“E-commerce and digitisation are seen as crucial to ensure a full, rapid and sustained economic recovery for the country.

“The [government], particularly the [ministry], has stepped up efforts in recent years to strengthen the country’s e-commerce ecosystem including regulatory framework and strategy.

“[These include] passing the landmark 2019 E-Commerce Law, a set of sub-decrees to ease registration for e-commerce-based businesses, the Consumer Protection Law to protect the rights of online shoppers and businesses, and the recently launched E-Commerce Strategy.

“In support of Cambodia’s response to Covid-19, UNDP is working to reskill workers, support the onboarding of 1,000 small and medium sized business into the e-commerce market and promote the adoption of e-commerce across the country.

“[This is done] through an advocacy campaign to create a robust regulatory environment with support from the government of Australia,” UNDP Cambodia said.

Speaking at the launch of the E-Commerce Strategy on November 25, minister Pan Sorasak said that, in the context of the fourth industrial revolution, digital technology is key in sharpening the competitive edge of commercial enterprises, promoting productivity, augmenting exports, creating jobs and reinforcing national economic growth.

Having embarked on a long-term vision to reap the fruits of Industry 4.0 and the innovation-driven modern age, he said the government of the Sixth Legislature of the National Assembly has demonstrated its readiness to develop a digital economy.

It has put in place policy which aims to, among other things, develop domestic industry, diversify the economy and prop up capacity building for the Kingdom’s SMEs, he said.

“The e-commerce law serves as an important legal basis for the development of e-commerce, especially to protect the interests and build high-trust relationships with e-consumers, as well as to entice local and foreign investors to come and invest in Cambodia.

“This is a newly-emergent sector, but it has tremendous potential to generate new sources of growth for the Cambodian economy.

“The strategic document will be a major driver of national economic development, especially for Cambodia’s transformation into a digital economy going forward.

“It will bring us closer to realising Cambodia’s vision to become an upper middle-income country by 2030 and a high-income country by 2050,” Sorasak said.

The press release quoted him as saying at the launch: “The Go4eCAM project is launching at the right time, coinciding with the approval of the E-Commerce Law and the launch of the E-Commerce Strategy.”

UNDP resident representative Nick Beresford said in the press release: “Cambodia’s new e-commerce strategy, combined with the right incentives and investments, could be a game-changer to propel inclusive growth in the recovery from Covid-19.

“Inclusive investment in people, in skills development and in digital infrastructure for everyone [is] absolutely crucial.”

Australian ambassador Pablo Kang said in the release: “Cambodia’s e-commerce sector is rapidly moving forward, driven further by businesses moving online to mitigate the impact of Covid-19.

“As an EIF contributor and through our projects that support e-commerce regulatory acceleration and uptake, Australia is helping equip Cambodians with the necessary tools and skills to compete in this new economy, ensuring that Cambodia’s digital future will be inclusive.”

EIF head Dr Ratnakar Adhikari said: “Cambodia has great potential [in] e-Commerce. The recently launched e-Commerce strategy, supported by the EIF, with concrete plan of action will tackle bottleneck in critical areas, such as the legal and regulatory framework, ICT infrastructure, digital skills and SME support.

“Together with the Go4eCam project and strong partnership on the ground, I strongly believe that Cambodia is putting in place a conductive ecosystem necessary to boost e-Commerce, export competitiveness, promote entrepreneurship and tap into new sources of growth in the digital era.”

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