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NBC head underscores value of women’s access to finance

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National Bank of Cambodia director-general Chea Serey said improving women entrepreneurs’ access to finance will support communities and stimulate economic activity. Photo supplied

NBC head underscores value of women’s access to finance

Unlocking greater access to formal finance for Cambodian women will play a strategic role in the process of the Kingdom’s economic development, National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) director-general Chea Serey said on Monday.

She said this at the Training on the Trainers (ToT) Programme on Financial Literacy of Women Entrepreneurship Development jointly organised by the NBC and the Ministry of Women’s Affairs in Siem Reap with the support of credit card issuer Visa Inc.

Improved access to finance for women entrepreneurs will not only grow their businesses and make a positive difference in their family welfare, but will also support communities and stimulate economic activity, she said.

“The more women are able to access formal financial services and use them critically and responsibly, the more they will be able to chip in for their families’ and communities’ socio-economic development.

“This will in turn lead to higher living standards, business opportunities, saving and financial emergency preparedness, resulting in their families’ and communities’ improved access to basic services, inter alia, education, sanitation, health care and clean water.

“Accordingly, improving financial literacy – especially for women and women entrepreneurs – will serve as the foundation for Women’s Financial Inclusion Development,” Serey said.

The programme is one of the key priorities outlined in the National Strategy for Financial Inclusiveness 2019-2025, which underscores women’s financial inclusion and raising financial literacy.

Well-known businesswoman Keo Mom said the rise in women entrepreneur’s access to finance is especially evident in the surge of properly drafted financial reports and more effective business models.

Mom is the CEO of snack manufacturer Ly Ly Food Industry Co Ltd and the vice-president of the Cambodian Women Entrepreneurs’ Network (CamWen) initiative.

She said: “Most members of [CamWen] have received training on how to prepare a fitting financial report when they require financing from financial institutions.

“But many challenges remain [for emerging women entrepreneurs] as financial institutions still require collateral in exchange for loans.”

As CamWen’s membership climbs past 600, Mom wants to secure more funding to provide training in other provinces, promote attentiveness to business models and financial reporting, streamline financial literacy and education efforts and further draw in more members to her network.

The International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, claimed in a report published in August last year that the prevalent belief that women entrepreneurs in Cambodia are less outgoing and have a lack of leadership skills and the required initiative to run a business is a misconception.

The report said 90 per cent of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) owned by women were profitable in 2018.

But the IFC found that only three per cent of women entrepreneurs have access to formal credit from microfinance institutions and banks.

It estimated that the unmet demand for credit from women entrepreneurs was $4.2 billion – a figure that is equivalent to almost 63 per cent of Cambodia’s national budget of $6.7 billion for last year.

NBC deputy governor Neav Chanthana in January said 59 per cent of Cambodia’s adult population has access to formal financial services, of which 17 per cent is with banking institutions.

Another 42 per cent are with other financial institutions, 12 per cent with informal financial services and 29 per cent with both formal and informal financial services.

“To access financial knowledge is fundamental to improve financial inclusion in Cambodia,” she said.

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