Re-Imagine Cambodia 2030

Melanie Mossard
27 min readMar 6, 2021

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Disclaimer: This is a personal blog. Any views or opinions represented in this blog are personal. All content provided on this blog is for informational and inspirational purposes only.

Re-Imagine Cambodia 2030

Even though 2020 didn’t start as we wish, this might be the time to reflect what we want the next decade to look like to “build back better”. Personally I have hope for the upcoming 10 years…

In this article, I will share what Cambodia could look like in 2030 if we use the current innovations that are currently emerging, happening, prototyped, and if we would scale them up. This article might sound utopian for a few or it might give hope for others. In any case, I am sure it can direct the spotlight onto grassroots innovations that are happening right in front of us, here in Cambodia, which are in their infancy, or which might don’t have the recognition they deserve yet.

With 68% of its population under 30, Cambodia is in a great position to design its country. So much will happen in the next 10 years, and it’s up to us to be the change we want to see in this country.

By 2030, I hope that the global definition of “Growth” would have shifted significantly, moving away from a purely economic understanding towards a more comprehensive assessment taking into account the people and the planet. Understanding the limits of economic growth and initiating this change could increase more fairness and sustainability of the system. The GDP would not be the main indicator that we would refer to, but we would rather use the Gross National Happiness Index to measure how countries are performing. It includes indicators such as Psychological well-being, Health, Education, Time use, Cultural diversity and resilience, Good governance, Community vitality, Ecological diversity and resilience, Living standards, to measure the quality of life and happiness of its inhabitants.

Can growth be driven by the principle “How can we make the country better for our children, and their children?”, and move away from this old principle on the short-term growth aiming at maximizing the profits in the short term? As, although children are only 33 percent of the global population, they’re 100 percent of our future.

Let’s dive deeper into each sector and explore which change could happen/is already happening in Cambodia and let’s get inspired by solutions from around the world that would have the greatest impact in Cambodia. #LetsNotReInventTheWheel

Agriculture

Despite rapid urbanization, in recent years Cambodia is still dominated by the countryside, as 76% of the population is living in rural areas and over 31% of the labor workforce is employed in the agriculture sector. Agriculture is definitely one of the sectors that would face lots of change in the upcoming years. Climate change will be one of the main reasons for it, as droughts will be harsher and floods will be more devastating. The growing heat waves and power cuts will make the crops even more vulnerable. In addition, the Mekong water flow management will become a new source of conflict for the populations crossed by the river. New resilient agriculture needs to be adopted, and this is what the future can look like:

👨‍🌾 Agriculture

  • Farmers will become tech-savvy and will make decisions on which crop to grow, when, and how, thanks to easy to access data that they will collect from their smartphones. Their children will help them through this transition and teach them how to use these new tools.
  • SmartAgro would master regenerative agriculture practices and would bring back fertility to tired soils thanks to their cover-crops, composting, and no-till techniques.
  • Smart Farm Assistance will equip farmers with smart irrigation systems that will help them irrigate their crops in the most efficient way; saving time, money, and water.
SmartFarm Assistance sensors in a greenhouse in Battambang. Photo credit: Impact Hub Phnom Penh
  • Agribuddy would have mainstream data-driven agriculture thanks to their network of buddies. They would have connected farmers to the market more easily.
  • Saart Mushroom would help mushroom growers increase the quality and yield of the mushrooms, thanks to their solar-powered growing rooms controlling humidity and temperature.
IoT controlled mushroom growing room in Takeo
IoT controlled mushroom growing room in Takeo — Photo credit: Impact Hub Phnom Penh
  • New resilient agriculture practices would emerge and be mainstreamed such as permaculture, hydroponics, or aquaponics. It would help farmers adapt to the growing droughts. AgroNature will be leading on it.
  • Cambodia would focus on the production of niche agricultural products with high-value which would be known internationally. Kampot Pepper would be used by the best restaurants in the world. Krassna Cambodi would lead the production and would empower thousands of farmers to grow niche Cambodian raw materials such as Cambodian liquid resin, Elephant Yam, Wild Almond Nuts, agarwood and Siam Cardamom.
  • Agri Smart would be making low-cost and low-tech machines that would help Cambodian farmers mechanize their production, and increase their productivity while preserving the environment.
Eli Rice Seeder by Agri-Smart — Photo credit AgriSmart
  • The world demand for cricket would have risen a lot since crickets contain two to three times more complete protein than a beefsteak of the same weight and it’s very rich in iron, vitamins, and fiber as well. In addition, a cricket steak represents a huge ecological advantage, compared to a chicken one. Its production requires only one-third of the land and would require more than 30% less water.
  • Cricket House would be leading on the cricket production in Cambodia and would have rolled out Cricket House across the country. Community farmers will dry and process their cricket locally thanks to low-cost solar dryers. It would be a great source of additional income for the farmers. The demand for cricket-based products would be exploding and companies such as Criche and Pcr would be supplying it.
  • Incorporating innovation together with agriculture and technology, Vitamin Air will be actively engaged in reforestation efforts, permaculture, and natural organic farming. Vitamin Air will provide business and employment opportunities for students, and for families of surrounding forest communities while serving as guardians to protect and preserve Cambodia’s national forest lands. Research and development initiatives will include drone-assisted forest surveillance and seed bombings, together with alternative water and irrigation systems for enhanced reforestation practices. Community development initiatives will extend into general education programs, occupational training, eco-adventure tourism, as well as outdoor living and learning programs.
  • A new generation of regenerative farmers would have emerged after joining WeFarm educational camps. Proud farmers’ children or curious graduates from the city would reconnect to nature and thrive for regenerative and sustainable agriculture practices. They would also be able to learn permaculture practices at the YiFamily.
  • People would be more and more careful of their health and would understand that what they eat directly affects their health. People would choose local organic vegetables from producers like KaseHealth, or Khmer Organic, and would want to know exactly where the product comes from. Wrapping fruits and vegetables in plastic would not be necessary anymore as they would have built trust with their customers and farmers over the years about their supply chain control and standards.

🍍Food and plant manufacturing

  • The agro-industry would have risen exponentially as now fruits and vegetables would be manufactured in Cambodia directly. The hygiene and manufacturing standards would be aligned to the international standards, and agro-processing manufactures would be run by the new generation of ITC, RUA, UBB, and RULE graduates from the FoodSTEM project, who would innovate new and healthy recipes.
  • Sustainable beauty products would be locally produced, using natural and authentic ingredients from Cambodia revealing their healthy properties, by Senteur D’Angkor, Bodia, LumR Ang, Dai Khmer or Boran Care.
Boran Care making some shampoo from Kaffir lime. — Photo credit: Impact Hub Phnom Penh

💡 Great inspiration from abroad:

  • Rural areas would be empowered thanks to programs similar to Serve For China which is creating a network of young graduates originally from the provincial areas, who come back to their village and support the local farmers. Serve For China fellows undergo extensive training prior to and during their village assignments that cover three core areas: public policies and agricultural knowledge, including agricultural policies, land reforms, political systems in villages, but also leadership development, including team-building, communication, and negotiation skills; and business skills, such as accounting, marketing, and branding, case management.
  • Rooftops will be covered by aeroponics systems that would allow the urban citizens to grow pesticide-free vegetables like Aeroroots is doing in Nepal.
  • Food engineers will have their own maker space, called Kitchen Hub, where they will be able to create, prototype, and make small-batch production of their manufactured products, while getting support from experts in food-engineering, packaging, and access to market, like Impact Hub Yangon is doing in Myanmar.

Energy and Resources Management

Resources are becoming scarce, and we would need more than ever, think about how can we use waste as a new resource instead of pulling new raw materials from our shrinking natural resources.

Resources have always been limited but their increasing scarcity will become much more noticeable in the years ahead. Despite this, energy consumption in Cambodia increased by 23% between 2018 and 2019. We will need to work together to think of innovative ways to manage our resources, abandoning worn-out approaches of exploitation. Cambodia hosts a high number of promising Start-Up companies and initiatives developing working concepts of the circular economy, responsible resource usage, and recycling.

⚡Energy

  • Off-grid communities and villages would leapfrog the traditional energy grid by leveraging low-cost distributed solar and storage thanks to Okra Solar. Okra’s plug & play smart grids would be set up in remote communities across Cambodia using IoT to interlink distributed systems — allowing the efficient sharing of power and providing 24/7 clean energy to off-grid households. This model would also be considered for neighborhoods within urban areas that want to move away from fossil fuel-based power.
Okra Solar microgrids sharing energy across villages. — Photo credit: Okra Solar
  • A new generation of renewable energy talents would be unveiled, thanks to the EnergyLab’s startups and internship support programs.

💧Water Sanitation and Hygiene

  • A new generation of Water Sanitation and Hygiene Entrepreneurs and professionals would have emerged thanks to the training of the Center for Sustainable Water.
  • Industries and households would be equipped with wastewater management systems made out of eco-friendly biological filters extracted from recycling coconut waste by SUdrain, which would treat organic wastewater and domestic sewage.
  • TapEffect would connect households in isolated and under-served areas in Cambodia to direct access to safe and affordable piped water.
Tap Effect team connecting under-served areas with tap water. — Photo credit: TapEffect Cambodia
  • Virgin factory waste would be recycled, turning them into new soap thanks to NGOs such as the EcoSoap Bank, which will be distributed at a very subsidized price to NGOs and schools in need.

♻️ Circular economy

Khmer Green Charcoal factory transforming coconut shell into charcoal. — Photo credit: KGC
  • Restaurants would have their food waste eaten by black soldier flies larvae, thanks to Ruy Reach, which would then transform the larvae into animal feed and sell the natural compost produced to plant nurseries.
  • Growing cricket would be easy thanks to cricket feed developed by PCR made out of waste from the cassava-top. The cricket would be also able to lay their eggs into some rice biochar.
  • HUSK! would support smallholder farmers to transform their rice husk into biochar, a soil conditioner that enhances water retention improves nutrient uptake, and increases fertilizer efficiency.
Rice husk becoming biochar — Photo credit: Husk!
  • ATEC* Biodigester will transform organic waste into biogas for cooking and fertilizer for farming through their biodigester.
  • The smallholder-farmers raising cows could make additional revenue by producing vermicompost from the cow dungs, thanks to Junlen.
Vermicompost workshop by Junlen — Photo Credit: Impact Hub Phnom Peh
  • Old batteries will be regenerated by EcoBatt Energy.
  • Garment factories based in Cambodia would have adopted circular principles in their supply chain. Clothes will be made from safe and renewable materials such as lotus or banana leather from Samatoa, new business models would increase their use, and leftover fabric would be turned into new like Tonle and Dorsu have been pioneering. Garment factories would commit to using sustainably sourced materials.

🌱🗑️ Environment and waste management

  • Cambodia would be a plastic-free country as single used plastic would be banned from the shops' thanks to the strong advocacy from GoGreenCambodia.
  • Cambodia would have got some autonomy in recycling instead of relying on neighboring countries. Recycling facilities would be processing industrial waste, like ChipMong Ecocycle through their co-processing system or plastic waste like Gomi Recycle 110.
  • Naga Earth would have a large-scale factory where they will be recycling, reusing, and repurposing discarded materials, such as cooking oil, plastic, glass, paper, and more, into biodiesel, cleaning products or hotel accessories.
NagaEarth turning cooking oil into biodiesel — Photo credit: NagaEarth
  • Citizens would contribute to the city’s waste management effort by voicing areas that require cleaning up, areas that have improved, and requesting bins, thus generating real-time data. In turn, this data would be submitted to the municipality which will process the data, verifying the information, and placing bins where needed. These efforts, in addition to changing behaviors, would contribute to the creation of a more responsive and strategic plan for waste collection, thanks to the app created by GoGreenCambodia.
  • Households would compost 70% of their daily waste on their balconies thanks to the balcony composter from Compost City. LengDei would host weekly activities for families and gardening lovers to foster their love for nature and soil.
Compost City balcony compost kit — Photo credit: Compost City

💡 Great inspiration from abroad:

  • Flowers from each temple would be recycled and turned into new scents, thanks to Phool, from India.
  • Leftover fabric and old clothing materials would be turned into industrial materials such as insulation pads, or shoddy pads.
  • The solid waste from the rivers will be collected thanks to floating barriers such as Sea Defence Solutions or Sungai Watch before ending up in our oceans.

Education

As mentioned earlier, “children are 33% of the population but 100% of our future”. Education is the most essential lever to trigger in order to empower capable, curious, committed, and compassionate leaders that will build the Cambodia of tomorrow. Here is what could happen…

🧑‍🏫 Primary and Secondary education

  • The Project-based learning curriculum of Liger Leadership Academy would be scaled up across the country. Project-based learning has the capacity to be co-designed by kids for kids and would put a strong emphasis on developing the socially conscious, entrepreneurial leaders of tomorrow.
  • Environmental education will be part of the curriculum developed by GoGreen, and each school will have a compost system, learn recycling and gardening, and will be able to understand the soil, and the cycle of life, thanks to Compost City. or Coconut School.
  • A new generation of coders would have emerged thanks to the access to the Koompi computers. This very affordable computer combining modest hardware with powerful open-source software would empower the next generation of Cambodian youth as the developers and innovators of tomorrow.
A young girl at Vitamin Air, learning how to use a computer — Photo credit: Vitamin Air
  • High schools would be able to implement a blended learning curriculum in their school with high-quality STEM-related digital content alongside school-based & learning management systems thanks to Tesdopi Learning Ecosystem by Edemy.
  • Students will be able to learn by doing, using the KlemBox, the affordable and innovative experiential learning provider aligned with the national curriculum. With the KLEM Box, students will be able to learn about how to build a hydroponics system, set up a basic clean electric system, or understand how cells work, and much more.
Students building their own clean energy machine at the Clean Energy week — Photo credit: Klembox

🎓 University education

  • All the universities across the countries would have access to an entrepreneurship curriculum thanks to the SmartStart Unipreneurship platform, a certified curriculum in Khmer endorsed by the Ministry of Education Youth and Sport, and the Ministry of Post and Telecommunication.

🤾🏻‍♀️ Extra-curricular support

  • WEduShare would continue to equip more and more Cambodian students to study abroad and strengthen their skills to be able to compete for scholarships and have access to the best education and exposure.
  • Wapatoa will be the go-to platform for young university students where they will be able to find fun, inspiring and intelligent content in Khmer and in English regarding knowledge that makes their life easier and more meaningful.
  • The Khmer language would not be a barrier anymore, since thanks to the Khmerism keyboard, it would be much faster to type, and many of the international platforms such as TED-Ed, Khan Academy, or Code.org would be translated by groups of volunteers or organizations such as InSTEDD iLab Southeast Asia to become accessible in Khmer.
  • Students’ ability to access quality education would be driven by their self-learning habits that they would have learned through apps like Tesdopi, or online courses through Koompi Academy or Impact Hub online.
  • Youth would be able to make career choices based on easy-to-access information related to TVET thanks to “Are you Ready”, an inspirational magazine on TVET careers, or from Little Scientist, a magazine igniting the scientific spirit of kids.
  • A large-scale mentorship program would have emerged, powered by Wedu, to nurture the lifelong leadership development of women around Cambodia from all sectors.
  • A new generation of STEM professionals would emerge thanks to the exposure they would receive since very young by joining the STEM Festival every year, enrolling as one of Sisters of Code, or playing with Doydoy since they were toddlers.
  • Youth will “make stuff”. Training programs in IoT, wood and steel processing and robotics will be run by Arrowdot, Makerbay, and the new Innovation Center’s Maker space at NIPTICT.

💡Great inspiration from abroad:

  • The School 42 would open a campus in Cambodia and train the next generations of coders. The school would be free for all and without teachers, as all its pedagogy is based on peer-to-peer learning.
  • Universities would involve their students, alumni, and private sector stakeholders in the design of their curriculum, their campus, and their vision through participatory methods like IESEG did in France, in order to better fit the job-market demands and constantly improve the quality of the teaching and university-life approach.
  • A platform such as Prekelt in India will take care of supporting rural high school students matching them with mentors originally from the same province, who are their seniors and already pursue higher education. Their role would be to guide the high school graduates in their universities’ choice, find safe and affordable accommodation and make it easier for them to move from their hometown to a new city.

Society & Culture

🤔 Mindset /lifestyle

  • People would be aware of the pressing issues of climate change and how badly it is affecting Cambodia. They would take decisions of what they consume, buy, and in their work keeping in mind their children’s wellbeing and how it could affect them.
  • A new generation of young and educated graduates who would realize that they can be the change they want to see in Cambodia, and would kick start impactful projects, NGOs, and businesses with this strong desire to make Cambodia a better place for their children.
  • Finding a job would not be only about “how much can I get paid here”, but rather “what is the work environment here? Will I be able to grow, to learn from my colleague and to see the impact of my work in others’ lives?”. They would be looking for a career with purpose, helping others while being able to get paid for it. Youth would aim at reaching their Ikigai.
  • Practicing sports would be easier thanks to the new stadiums made for the SEA Games 2023, and the easy-to-access fields. National and international fashion companies would also make it more accessible to practice sports thanks to their range of affordable footwear and sportswear products.

♿ Accessibility

  • Access to the job market would be much easier thanks to the personalized professional training led by Inclusion+ who would also facilitate and advocate for better job integration in companies.

💆‍♀️Mental health and personal development

  • More youth would experience mental health issues, growing pressure and break-down. Platforms such as Untangle or SpeakOut would be their main community would they get emotional support from peers and feel not alone anymore. In addition, mindfulness classes and the practice of yoga will be included in schools’ programs and in the local communities across Cambodia thanks to Azahar.
  • Companies and NGOs would have realized the importance of investing in their staff’s wellbeing for better cohesion and loyalty to the organization. Vipassa would conduct mindful leadership workshops for them across the country and staff would be able to enroll in their Academy where they can grow and find their potential.
Vipassa meditation group session — Photo credit: Vipassa

💁‍♀️ Women empowerment

  • Girls would have access to sexual and menstrual education at school thanks to Green Lady Cambodia and it would become a new norm to get reusable pads for their period.
Reusable pads by Green Lady Cambodia — Photo credit: Green Lady Cambodia
  • Sisters of Code chapters would have spread across the countries and high school girls would have great programming skills and would have boosted their confidence, as well as feel empowered for a successful digital future.
Sisters of Code learning group — Photo credit Sisters of Code
  • It will be normal to have female engineers, coders, makers and more women will be represented and fill leading positions in politics and administration.

🎨 Art & Creative Industry

  • The Factory Phnom Penh will be a landmark in ASEAN for its iconic events and its creative hub cultivating the next generation of entrepreneurs, makers, and creative professionals.
Factory Phnom Penh during the Street Fiesta — Photo credit: Factory Phnom Penh
  • SmallWorldSmallBand will continue to inspire the new generation of Cambodian youth thanks to their positive and empowering songs like BanTe, where everyone can identify themselves.
  • Battambang will be the creative capital of Cambodia, and every year hundreds of young creative professionals will be trained by Phare Ponleu Selpak. Phare Circus (the social enterprise of Phare Ponleu Selpak the school), will help the mother NGO reach financial-self sustainability, provide gainful employment and careers in creative skills making it towards a vibrant Cambodian creative industry and brand Cambodia positively as the Kingdom of Culture.
Phare Circus at the end of breaking the World Guinness record of the longest Circus performance — Photo credit: Phare Ponleu Selpak
  • During Khmer New Year all the main cities of Cambodia will host their BonnPhum Festival and will showcase Cambodian art traditions while putting the spotlight on a new generation of contemporary artists mixing Khmer heritage and new influences such as Prumsodun Ok & Natyarasa or La Chhouk.
  • Wapatoa would be the platform of reference for youth looking for quality content in Khmer and English on productivity tips, wellbeing, art, and student life. They would have supported the next generation of positive content creators through their media collective by providing funds, training and connections.
  • Phsar Art by Nowhere, would be the most respected art festival and market of the year, where young artists would showcase their art for the first time and connect their first fans and buyers.
  • Cambodian cuisine will be known to the world thanks to Chef Nak’s passion for celebrating, developing, and preserving the art of Cambodian (Khmer) cuisine. Through the publication of recipe books and Facebook shows, Chef Nak will be portraying hundreds of authentic and native Cambodian ingredients and spices in a delicious variety of home-made dishes, while making sure culinary culture and stories are shared across different generations.
  • Apple Love MakeUp artist would have built up a professional makeup school, from which Hollywood productions would be sourcing their artists.
  • E-commerce platforms such as Sepak would help handicraft producers access the market by selling their products on their platform but also thanks to their design training to help them develop products that fit the market needs.

💼🛬 Diaspora

  • The children of the Cambodian diaspora will be back after watching this heart-touching documentary the Roots Remains (full movie here), and will be leading impactful projects such as Caroline promoting sustainable tourism practices with her Green Bamboo Resort, or the artist Fonki with his unique and incredible “kbach” style graffiti, inspiring a new generation of Cambodian street artists.
  • Cambodian diaspora will come back and invest some of their wealth and expertise into promising startups.

🕸️Youth participation in Governance

  • The government would invite in each of their official meetings representatives from the Youth Council who are under 25, who would bring the perspective from the youth and would share their desires and concerns for the country they want to live in.

Living & Communities

While Cambodia’s urbanization is happening at an impressive speed, with Phnom Penh growing in the direction of 3 million citizens at a consistent pace, its lack of comprehensive planning creates numerous problems. To make our cities safe, sustainable and improve the overall quality of life, let’s explore what are the existing solutions already happening.

🏘️ Sustainable and accessible housing for all

  • My Dream Home would continue to make affordable and ecological housing thanks to its lego bricks and will focus on building life-long, cross-generational living, with shared facilities and services such as communal dinners, joint daycare, urban gardening, and public fitness facilities. For self-sufficient sustainability, the community will be responsible for its own water harvesting, clean energy generation, and local food production.
MyDreamHome lego bricks — environmental friendly bricks — Photo credit: Impact Hub Phnom Penh
  • Eco-Bricks would be providing another great alternative as they are using 30% of shredded plastic waste in their lego-shape and resistant bricks.
  • Buildings will be energy efficient and business owners, organizations, government and schools will spend much less energy thanks to the gamification of the power consumption initiated by ATS and Sevea.
  • The very heavy and wood-intensive furniture would not be fashionable anymore, people would prefer buying elegant furniture from discarded wood from old houses that would have been designed and manufactured by Pisor workshop.
  • The Government would support the creation of student apartments where students from the province would be able to get very cheap accommodation in Phnom Penh to continue their studies Implementation would follow a similar model as the Harpswell Foundation, providing in-house leadership support to the tenants to grow their soft skills.
  • Every new building would be designed taking into account access needs from people with disabilities and hotels would have at least one room accessible.

🔗 Smart city and urban mobility

  • Electric vehicles would be mainstreamed and we would see drivers from every age driving their comfortable and energy-efficient Voltra, their hipster Tinky Bike or the convenient Oyika’s electric motorbike.
Tinky Bike — the hipster E-Bike — Photo credit: Tinky Bike
  • Phnom Penh and Cambodia would be finally accessible for people with disabilities, especially to move across the city thanks to the innovations developed by Agile such as the Mobilituk, the powered wheelchair, or the adapted rickshaw. It would make it easier for people with disabilities to move around and have access to great quality jobs.
  • As many special lanes for bicycles would be built across the city, it would be much more convenient to commute using an e-bicycle like Grood or Soben, rather than using an expensive-to-maintain car that would be stuck in traffic jams most of the time.
Soben — Bamboo composite bike — Photo credit: Soben
  • LumaSystem would have set up a data-driven waste management system to monitor the trash collection (weight, location, time), optimize the collection routes, and detect dysfunctions.
  • A Cambodian community of LowTechLab would be up and running, where passionate makers would share their passion for making low-tech tools, and open-source their innovation on the platform for others to use them out.

“Low-tech” are technologies, services and know-how that meet the following criteria:

— Useful : A low-tech meets essential needs in the fields of energy, food, water, waste management, construction materials, housing, transport, hygiene, or health.

— Sustainable : Robust, repairable, recyclable, it is designed to ensure that its ecological and social impact is optimal from production, distribution, use until the end of its life

— Accessible : Unlike high-tech, its cost and technical complexity are not prohibitive for a large part of the population.

Tourism

Tourism has long been the backbone of Cambodia’s economy, constituting over 10% of the total, national GDP. However, tourism is mostly targeted to Siem Reap, the southern coast, and Phnom Penh and suffered greatly from the current pandemic situation. This stresses the need for economic diversification and further development of alternative touristic concepts. Cambodia has huge, untouched potential regarding both fields, which the following organizations intend to activate.

🏖️ Tourism

  • More than ever, tourists will be looking for an authentic experiences out of the crowded tourist attraction. They are looking for meaningful experiences where they see that their money directly impacts the most in needs. Haystome would match them with handicraft makers with whom they can learn old, traditional techniques, recipes, or craft practices.
Cooper carving class with Master Vybol during a Haystome Masterclass — Photo credit: Haystome
  • The Ministry of Tourism would have partnered with the best video makers and photographers of the countries such as VibeSoul, or Run Away, the Cambodian Backpacker, and Asia Media Lab, who would showcase the Cambodian nature, tradition, food, and incredible landscapes and built up a unique Cambodian brand recognized internationally.
  • A new generation of tourists is emerging. They are Cambodian youth, traveling in groups and looking for adventures and fun. They are appreciating the forest and nature with Derprey or Solo Landscapes trips, and following famous travel pages such as Run Away, Unseentra, Planet Diew.
  • Siem Reap and Angkor Wat would not be the single main tourist attraction of Cambodia anymore. Secondary destinations would have emerged, especially Community Based Tourism destinations, where travelers could stay in homestays and enjoy the peace and fresh environment of the countryside thanks to Impact Explorer.

💪🌴 Community empowerment and natural resources management

  • Conservation NGOs will team up with young and caring entrepreneurs to develop conservation community enterprises (CCEs) and Community-Based Eco-Tourism (CBET) in rural areas, where profits and conservation will go hand in hand, led by the YEA or CDRT or Sansom Mlup Prey Cambodia with their IBIS Rice project.

Finance, Access to capital, Private business

While economic diversification is necessary, it demands high and continuous investment. Crowdfunding and philanthropist initiatives constitute alternatives to classical “investment banking”. This would make it possible, to tailor financing to socially and environmentally conscious companies, bringing real added value to Cambodia.

🏦 Financial Management

  • SMEs would all have access to easy-to-use accounting solutions such as BanhJi or Kotra Riel.
  • Financial literacy courses would be provided from high school and at any age thanks to Monkiri.

💸 Access to capital

  • Saving groups like the Lady Saving Group and Friends Help Friends would be spread across Cambodia and would help their members save money together for mutual help group members, contribute to better living and funding of entrepreneurial projects, and build friendship and solidarity among friends.
  • The traditional TongTin will be digitized thanks to TongTin app.
  • It would be easy to access prototyping funds to kickstart and grow innovative projects, thanks to funds given by incubator programs such as SHE Investments and their Thriive program or Impact Hub Phnom Penh.
  • A new generation of local angel investors and philanthropists will emerge. They will have inherited from their parents’ money and assets and would be looking to use this money in a more impactful way by investing in early-stage and impact-driven projects, or by donating money to innovative NGOs solving Cambodia’s pressing issues.

🧑‍💼SMEs and Private business development

  • Women run 65% of the businesses in Cambodia, but 96% of those businesses are micro-sized and engage less than 4 people. SHE Investments will bridge the gender gap in the SME sector by scaling up women’s micro-small enterprises, supporting them to enter the formal economy and create long-term social and economic impact through job creation and women’s economic empowerment.
  • The private sector would be driven by long-term strategic thinking and would collaborate with external stakeholders to grow and stimulate their internal entrepreneurial mindset in order to develop innovations internally and externally like Smart Axiata has been doing for the past years.
  • Intrapreneurs (eg: entrepreneurs within a company) would be leading innovative and visionary projects complementing and strengthening the core activities of the company.
  • Community Champions will be leading local and decentralized cooperatives bringing together their strengths and networks, and increasing their bargaining power in the supply chain.
  • Companies would have shadowing programs where young graduates would be able to follow the work-life of successful managers and leaders, from which they can learn by observing for a few days or weeks.
  • Internships would be compulsory in the curriculum and special programs would be created to train the interns. They would also have the option of doing some apprenticeship where companies would pay for the school fee, and then would provide a secured job opportunity.
  • Each of the big companies would be obliged to give away 2% of their profits to CSR activities like in India.

💡Great inspiration from abroad :

  • Crowdfunding platforms such as Indiegogo or Start Some Good would be all accessible for Cambodian bank account holders since Cambodia would be on the list of the eligible countries for Stripe’s online payment solutions.
  • Crowdinvesting would be possible and funders would be able to fundraise directly from individuals who would like to put their capital in a more meaningful project than a bank, like Lita.co is doing in Europe.

Public services, Healthcare, and landmines clearance

While the situation regarding Cambodia’s healthcare system and further public services has been increasing in terms of quality and coverage since reforms starting in the 90’s, concepts targeting the need for public service digitalization are still missing. With increasing network coverage and almost 16 million internet users as of 2019 the demand for such solutions and new interconnectivity is clearly visible. Talking about healthcare one must mention Cambodia’s own wounds. With millions of landmines still undetected, clearing these leftovers of civil war will keep on being a key field in desperate need of innovative ideas

🗳️ Public services access

🏥 Access to healthcare

  • Peth Yoeung thanks to their cloud-based EMR and hospital operating management system would have digitized all the patient’s medical records of patients in Cambodia and beyond. Every citizen would have a medical identity that would be centralized and accessible easily wherever in the country.
  • Meet Doctor would allow anyone to get affordable and easy to access online consultation through their telehealth solutions.

💣Landmines clearance

  • Thanks to their amazing sense of smell, APOPO’s team of mine detection rats would have found the hidden landmines quickly, with each rat able to search an area the size of a tennis court in just 30 minutes, something that could take up to 4 days using conventional methods.
Apopo rats in action in Siem Reap — Photo credit: Apopo
  • Once identified, the robot Demine Robotics would take care of the excavation, transportation, and identification of UXO and landmines in ways previously impossible. They would clear all the areas difficult to access and Cambodia would be mine-free. New areas would be available to turn it into fertile agricultural land or parks to be explored with peace of mind.
The robot “Jivit” excavating its first explosives in live clearance operations in Cambodia — Photo credit: Demine Robotics

And what about Impact Hub?

We would have invested in easy-to-access inspiration and training toolkits in order to decentralize entrepreneurial activities across the country thanks to the creation of local Phum Impact. We will continue to connect the dots, identify and empower the next generation of Cambodian Changemakers through our training and mentoring programs. We would have invested in people and their ideas through our prototyping funds that would allow anyone to try, test, fail, learn and succeed. We would continue to advocate for a friendlier entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Impact Hub Phnom Penh community

How to make it happen?

Solutions are already here, it’s time to give them a chance to grow and scale. It doesn’t require lots of money, it requires passion, commitment, network, and partnerships.

  • If you are a decision-maker, an investor, a donor and you are interested in any of these projects, get in touch with the founders, meet them, know their story and their ambition. Help them get access to strategic partnerships and the right funding opportunities.
  • If you have skills, a network and you are interested in any of these projects, get in touch with the founders, meet them, know their story and their ambition and explore how your skills can benefit them.
  • If you are a journalist, a reporter or video maker and you are curious to know more about these projects, get in touch with the founders, meet them, know their story and their ambition and write about them, let the world know that these practices and innovation are already happening in Cambodia!
  • If you are a government official or a policymaker, involve these organizations and their experts in the discussion of the drafting of new policies. Be open to their vision and support them in providing data related to their industry. Bring youth at the table, who would bring the perspective from the youth and would share their desires and concerns for the country they want to live in.

As we always say at Impact Hub Phnom Penh, “Impact cannot happen in isolation, it requires collective action.”.

I wrote this article after watching this powerful movie: 2040, since then, I always dreamt of having a Cambodian version of it, so if you are a video maker, and you would like to be part of this project, ping me! 🎥

Our future is in our hands. We have 10 years.

Finally, I would like to finish this article with my favorite quote:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” — Margaret Maed

About me:

I am Melanie Mossard, part of the founding team of Impact Hub Phnom Penh. I have been living in Cambodia since 2015. I have the incredible chance to have a job where I meet, mentor, and support pioneers every day. These pioneers are the first in their industry, the first to solve problems that people always wish to be solved, the first who say “let’s do it”, even though the support system is still at its infancy and they have to face even more infrastructural barriers to make it happen.

I believe in people and their power to take action.

A big thank you to the contributors who helped me adjust this article.

This is the V.1 of the article, I would love to hear your thoughts on it, and also help me identify other solutions that deserve some spotlights that would contribute to make Cambodia a better place. Get in touch with me through LinkedIn and drop me some comments there.

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