Cambodia’s financial technology (fintech) start-up scene is poised to emerge amid the rapidly expanding Fourth Industrial Revolution and its evolving needs for digital technologies which are set to upend traditional economic frameworks in the region and in the wider world.
Last week, Cambodia Fintech Association (CFA) and Cambodia Association of Fintech and Technology (CAFT) announced that they had merged to better navigate the Kingdom’s technology landscape, digital environment and innovation pathway into the next level. The new association will continue under the CAFT label.
Pen Chanda, the CEO of the new CAFT sat down with The Post’s May Kunmakara to discuss the current state of digital technology and the changes it has brought to the Kingdom.
How have tech start-ups changed the information and communications technology (ICT) game in the Kingdom?
Cambodia’s start-up scene has shown steady growth, particularly in the fintech industry, but it is still in its nascent stage. There is more that needs to happen and be addressed, and this is what CAFT is all about.
We want to help support start-ups by serving as their unified voice to the regulators, connect them to financial institutions, the community and offer the support they need to grow their ideas and businesses into their full potential.
How will the development help integrate the unbanked population into financial markets?
Fintech is one of the fastest growing industries in Cambodia and has made financial services and products more accessible and affordable to the masses. Digital access to these products and services has paved the way for greater financial inclusion of Cambodians.
With the National Bank of Cambodia’s support of our payment service institutions, we are looking at a brighter future in which currently unbanked Cambodians are able to access financial services in a non-traditional way.
Does the Kingdom have adequate regulatory frameworks in place to manage and oversee the industry?
It is quite efficient and very helpful to the fintech community but it is still constantly evolving. As the fintech industry grows, adaptability is the key to the creation or modification of options for regulatory frameworks.
One example is the e-commerce law that was enacted in November last year which is not only helpful for businesses but for consumers as well.
Other areas where the regulator has been supportive include – establishing a Payment Services Institution licence to regulate payment companies through guidelines and governance that ensure a safe operating environment and supporting the establishment of the (new) CAFT to organise the voices of the fintech community and work collaboratively between members and the regulator to share ideas and developments.
What steps has the government taken to transition the Kingdom into a digital economy?
Taking into account the government’s plan to transform Cambodia into a digital economy by 2023, I believe that we are still on track.
One key indication of this is the instrumental support of the government’s primary tactic of providing citizens and business owners an integrated portal (known as the Single Portal) connected across its agencies, which has proven its value during the pandemic.
The private sector’s progress towards the goal is underpinned by the emergence of several innovative tech start-ups that reshape the lives of Cambodians and how they do business.
The digital infrastructure will enable transparency and ease of doing business in Cambodia which will continue to stimulate small and medium-sized enterprise growth and innovation.
How will CAFT contribute to the development of fintech and digital business in the Kingdom?
CAFT is comprised of the top fintech companies and business leaders in the country who are here to serve and help the fintech community grow to its maximum potential.
We are an association that values innovative ideas and is supportive of start-ups that have the potential to impact the digital revolution in Cambodia.
Last and most importantly we are a unified voice for the regulators ready to lend a hand on how we can help Cambodia grow its digital economy.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity