Lina Sophat
Lina Sophat is the Secretary General of the Cambodia Women Entrepreneurs Association (CWEA). In addition, she serves as Vice Chairman of the CWEA Advocacy Committee and CWEA Official Representative to the Ministry of Labor and Vocation. She is also a Managing Partner at Anna & Associates Law Office.

Cambodia Women Entrepreneurs Association: Supporting women-led inclusive businesses in Cambodia

Interview with Lina Sophat, Secretary General of the Cambodia Women Entrepreneurs Association and IB Focal Point
East Asia and Pacific
24. Nov 2021

Cambodia has developed a framework and strategy for promoting Inclusive Business. What do you think are the most important ways the government can support inclusive businesses in Cambodia?

The Cambodia Women Entrepreneurs Association, CWEA, is supporting and motivating the entrepreneurs to increase their business portfolio. CWEA aims to further improve and strengthen the economic position of women entrepreneurs’ platforms in the local Cambodian economy, as well as their regional and global business presence. CWEA aims to professionalize members with a strong portfolio to qualify them with more business opportunities. CWEA supports the use of services connected with the development phase of an entrepreneur though the IBeeC strategy and is encouraging the government to get high level (cabinet) approval. It is also supporting integrating IB content in the new SME development plan.

Several companies in Cambodia recently received Inclusive Business accreditation. From your experience, how does IB accreditation open doors for businesses in Cambodia?

Accreditation has the following benefits:

  • It increases the visibility of accredited and verified industries — entrepreneurs that are working to provide income for the people.
  • More companies will engage in new IB investments to promote income generating activities that will help poverty alleviation in the country.
  • It supports the policy work and provides new information to guide policy decision makers and will help with implementing those policy decisions for supporting IB at an impact level, for a better enabling environment for IB.
  • A strong cooperation mechanism between the public and private sector, impact investors, business facilitators and development partners will be institutionalized.
  • Cambodia’s approach and practice in promoting IB will be further appreciated at the ASEAN regional level, in the country, and globally.

How many women-owned inclusive businesses in your association have been accredited? How does this recognition empower women entrepreneurs?

Lyly Food Industry, one of our members, is one of the first IB Champions to be accredited based on the criteria set by the screening committee.

Cambodia has developed a strategic framework for promoting IB, the Inclusive Business Enabling Environment for Cambodia (IBeeC) Strategy. What is the role of CWEA in coordinating and supporting the development of Inclusive Business in Cambodia?

The Cambodia Women Entrepreneurs Association participates as a permanent member of the IB accreditation committee. We plan to work with the Ministry of Industry, Science, Technology and Innovation (MISTI) on specific branding of women led companies with IB models. Furthermore, with MISTI support, CWEA will conduct an internal survey to its members to see which company is interested in transitioning into IB and will repeat this survey at least one time in the coming three years.

We will also support the IB business coaching guide and use the guide for business mentorship. CWEA will also participate in the discussions to set up an IB risk reduction and social incentive fund for impact investors, as well as discussions on how IB can be included in the new investment law.

Do you think that impact investors have become increasingly interested in inclusive businesses in Cambodia?

It’s too early to say at this point, as we just recently recognized the 18 IB Champions. We are expecting the first champions will provide good visibility and viability and serve as an inspiration to the upcoming companies who will be interested to be validated and accredited as IB companies.

What kind of trends in Inclusive Business do you foresee in Cambodia for the coming year?

Ethical business is growing and this can be incorporated in the products on e-commerce platforms. We are very positive that through the IBeeC, there are many things that can be done in different business sectors in the Kingdom.