Khmer Enterprise (KE), renown small-business investor OBOR, and five major financial institutions are joining hands on a programme to promote the financing of promising Cambodian small- and medium-sized enterprises (SME).

The SME Investment Readiness (IR) Programme focuses on finding and upscaling mature SMEs in the Kingdom, helping them effectively raise capital, KE said in a statement.

A partnership agreement was signed to this end on January 28, under which KE is to provide support to start-ups and SMEs with the aim to build a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem in Cambodia.

Access to finance for businesses is one of the prioritised pillars in KE’s support programmes and the SME IR Programme serves to realise that objective, the statement said.

KE CEO Chhieng Vanmunin said that support from the five financial institutions – ABA Bank, AMK, Wing Bank, SME Bank and ACLEDA Bank – will help build an entrepreneurial ecosystem in the country.

“The sponsorship from the banking institutions in this programme demonstrates the endeavour of different stakeholders in the entrepreneurial ecosystem to enhance access to finance for start-ups and SMEs. Khmer Enterprise is pleased to be the platform to engage in such an effort,” the statement quoted him as saying.

OBOR executive director Shivam Tripathi underlined that SME financing remains a major challenge in the Kingdom.

“We are very excited to be working with Khmer Enterprise to bring more SMEs to an investment ready stage. With this programme, we will aim to create a template which can then be used to make even more SMEs investment ready,” he said in the statement.

AMK CEO Kea Borann said SMEs from all over the Kingdom have put in 70 applications to join the programme since registration opened in December, noting that there are just 25 spots available.

He explained that to qualify as “mature”, SMEs must generate more than $100,000 in annual revenue, thereby validating their potential to raise capital and take their business to the next level.

“AMK is proud to support the growth of SMEs in Cambodia through this great initiative in addition to our wide range of financial services that we offer [them],” Borann said, according to the statement.

ABA Bank chief marketing officer Igor Zimarev highlighted that access to financial know-how is important for the sustainable growth of SMEs and start-ups.

“ABA is pleased to contribute to Khmer Enterprise which implements the programme with OBOR to create opportunities and help SMEs, start-ups and entrepreneurs advance and thrive.

“Through this sponsorship, ABA continues to demonstrate its commitment to support the development of the SME sector in Cambodia, which is a vital component of the country’s long-term economic growth,” he said in the statement.

Training for the 25 SMEs under the SME IR Programme will begin early this month, comprising 20-25 hours of workshops on investor requirements, as well as business project and financial management, KE said.

Afterwards, the top five will proceed to a second round, which will consist of intensive one-on-one financial consulting to help them achieve their goals for raising capital, it said.

There is also a $15,000 cash prize, contributed by ABA, AMK, Wing Bank and SME Bank, it noted, making no mention of ACLEDA Bank.