In March 2023, the Go4eCAM project led by UNDP, which is working with the Ministry of Commerce to assess MSMEs (Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises) transition to digitisation to develop new streams of economic development, presented insights into the progress of the project at the Himawari Hotel in the capital of Phnom Penh.
The session recapped “Track 2” of the strategic Go4eCAM project partnership between the government, Ministry of Commerce (MoC), Khmer Enterprise, and UNDP Cambodia which focuses on Skills and Entrepreneurship for E-commerce (SME eBiZnest).
Go4eCAM project is the technical assistant of the Cambodian Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF) which assesses economic diversification through a digital economy. They aim to showcase MSMEs’ progress, learnings and challenges from the project’s Incubation programme and Innovation Challenges.
Furthermore, they offer support for the digitalisation and e-commerce export between the private sector, public sector and ecosystem support organisations in the Kingdom.
This also means establishing consultation and technical support for onboarding onto the MoC CambodiaTrade.com platform as well as export readiness.
Track 2 Key Learnings – Go4eCAM project & MSMEs Digitising
In total, 101 SMEs have worked under the projects with 40% female participants, and 40% provincial-based enterprises.
Many of the showcased MSMEs are from the agriculture, handicrafts, and construction sectors.
Some of the Go4eCAM takeaways included:
- Low levels of digital knowledge and the capacity of the customers are a challenge.
- MSMEs are learning how to navigate and get their business online – most start with social media first.
- Initial steps to digitise the MSMEs include the use of ERP Systems and basic accounting.
- There are still fears and distrust in online security – such as hacking of digital accounts.
H.E Samheng Bora, Secretary of State MoC said at the event: “if we look at the development charts, Cambodia is quite high when compared to other LDC (Least Developed Countries). Many of them want examples from us, countries like Bangladesh, and others in Africa have contacted me to present to them how our development programme is able to leapfrog others at such a fast pace.
Lessons Learned by Cambodian MSME Participants
We heard from Ms Bou Amara – Programme Analyst at UNDP Cambodia, who told us that the selection process included establishing technical committees to oversee the programme and the final endorsement of participating businesses. There was an open call for businesses to apply and more than 300 applicants did so for the incubation programme.
A representative from cambodiatrade.com told B2B Cambodia “Cambodiatrade is an e-Commerce platform operated by the MoC. It was established to support MSMEs to sell products locally and overseas. We are currently working with overseas markets in China. Korea, Australia and France.”
Local Cambodian MSMEs participating in the programme such as Keiy Tambanh Khmer (TTK) said that they benefitted from staff learning about digital marketing, social media marketing (SEO) etc.
Natural Food Store also added that there were challenges as the programme took place during the pandemic so learning sessions took online which took some time to get used to. The internet connection issue and assignment challenges due to COVID restrictions were part of the experience.
TTK also said that both businesses and customers were adapting to e-commerce as it was new for both groups during the pandemic and they had to learn how to package and export products.
E-commerce is likely to undergo sustainable growth in Cambodia, with strong government support, as well as the growing urban population, high internet penetration, and social media adoption rates, higher consumer spending, and a robust technology start-up ecosystem.