Khmer Enterprise to Double Startup and SME Investment to $10M

Khmer Enterprise has committed to double its investment in the nation's startup and SME sector next year to $10 million as part of the Kingdom's post-pandemic recovery plans.
At the special luncheon on Cambodia's Startup and SME Ecosystem featuring a presentation by HE Vongsey Vissoth, Minister Delegate Attached to the Prime Minister. Kiripost/Siv Channa
At the special luncheon on Cambodia's Startup and SME Ecosystem featuring a presentation by HE Vongsey Vissoth, Minister Delegate Attached to the Prime Minister. Kiripost/Siv Channa

At yesterday’s luncheon discussing Cambodia's startup and SME ecosystem, Vongsey Vissoth, permanent secretary of state of Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF), said Khmer Enterprise (KE) will increase its investment portion from $5 million to $10 million as part of the nation’s Covid-19 recovery plans for the sector.

He also warned that 2023 will be the worst year for the economy as Cambodia has to navigate its policies on a timely basis amid the Ukraine war, global inflation, China’s economic slowdown, and geo-political tension. Despite being optimitic with the positive growth forecast by the International Monetary Fund,

“We have to be careful and mindful about the future,” he said.

“Next year, we’ll double the budget for KE because we want to increase investment,” said Vissoth, who is also the chairman of the board of trustees of the Entrepreneurship Development Fund, a government trust fund. KE has so far supported tech startups through grants and seed funding. Ongoing discussions have been centered around co-investment to grow more startups.

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Vongsey Vissoth, permanent secretary of state of Ministry of Economy and Finance. Kiripost/Siv Channa
Vongsey Vissoth, permanent secretary of state of Ministry of Economy and Finance. Kiripost/Siv Channa

When discussing Cambodia-EU partnerships, Vissoth also urged the European business community, at the EuroCham Cambodia-organized luncheon, to invest more in nurturing Cambodia’s entrepreneurship, in addition to some priority sectors with tax-incentives. He also touched on the limited entrepreneurship skills and risk-taking culture in Cambodia.

Vissoth said he told the EuroCham chairman to attract people from European countries to come, live, and work in Cambodia, so they can help train and nurture the entrepreneurial human capital in the country, which demands both skills and talent. He said Cambodia needs to create more decent jobs, not just jobs.

“I used to believe that entrepreneurship is by birth, you’re born with that. But the latest evolution indicates that no, entrepreneurship is a process.” Yet, he noted a key element also depends on the nation’s policy and environment.

Vissoth said KE, Techo Startup Center, and SME Banks work more like a private sector than government institutions. “Our philosophy is to work like a private sector [organisation].” Efficiency, transparency, creativity and innovation are among the reasons for these institutions to take on the business startup model and mindset to execute, he explained.

Vongsey Vissoth, permanent secretary of state of Ministry of Economy and Finance. Kiripost/Siv Channa
Vongsey Vissoth, permanent secretary of state of Ministry of Economy and Finance. Kiripost/Siv Channa

When asked about the establishment of KE, Vissoth gave an analogy as an answer, saying that in a big battlefield, there is a need for commanders. There are a lot of soldiers and KE’s role is to build commanders, he added. “Without commanders, we cannot fight.” He noted that the idea and philosophy behind KE as the battlefield is comparable to the business sector. The overall support, in addition to building the ecosystem for entrepreneurs, is another step.

Also presented and explained were three key programs, which include recovery, reform, and resilience for the country’s post-pandemic economy.

He said the MEF will review tax incentives schemes for SMEs to be more instrumental, while also improving coordination of SME supporting agencies. The ministry will also “finalize the draft law on SMEs and draft SMEs development strategy 2022-2026” as well as “review mechanisms and instruments to expand financial access to SMEs”.