Banking on a Better Way to Drive Economic Growth in Cambodia

IFC’s longstanding partnership with ACLEDA has enabled the bank to reach more than 2.5 million of the poorest people in Cambodia. © Iwan Bagus/IFC 

In a village on the Tonle Sap River in Cambodia, skilled metal artisans flatten pieces of silver and copper into pots, plates, bracelets, and other ornaments. Every day, dozens of visitors traveling up the river from Phnom Penh to Angor Wat stop at the village, and their purchases have brought prosperity to the artisans—especially to Um Sreytouch, a 49-year-old widowed mother of four who makes and sells handicrafts in her own shop and supplies her products wholesale to souvenir shops all across Cambodia.

But Sreytouch’s success came slowly, and only after she received a micro-loan of $500 from IFC partner ACLEDA Bank in 1999. After purchasing her first silver and copper, and learning the handicrafts business, she took the next step in 2005, applying for and receiving an ACLEDA Bank loan for $25,000 to expand her workshop, hire more workers, and buy more raw materials. With the bank’s guidance as well as its money, her business flourished and her living conditions improved.

IFC’s partnership with ACLEDA Bank started in 1999, when the bank was a non-governmental organization (NGO). With financing and advisory services from IFC and other development agencies, ACLEDA Bank transformed itself from a largely donor-supported NGO into a highly successful commercial bank. Now, 16 years later, ACLEDA Bank is Cambodia’s largest bank, with a branch network in all provinces and municipalities. This network has helped the bank provide financing and financial services to micro, small, and medium enterprises (SMEs) across Cambodia.

Last year, IFC provided a syndicated loan of $240 million to ACLEDA Bank Plc. to boost lending to these SMEs, of which at least half will support women-owned enterprises. With this funding, ACLEDA Bank Plc. aims to increase its outstanding portfolio of loans to women-owned enterprises to more than $1.5 billion by 2019 .


Hammering Out a Better Future

Sreytouch now employs 10 local artisans in her handicrafts shop. She plans to expand her business, modernize her systems, and hire more staff to “meet the increasing demand from my customers in other provinces,” as she explains.

ACLEDA Bank also continues to grow and serve its customers, many of whom are small business entrepreneurs like Sreytouch. Following its success in Cambodia, ACLEDA established subsidiaries in Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Myanmar, where it continues to cater to both large and small businesses. It has a loan portfolio of $2.9 billion across the Mekong region, supporting both large corporates and small businesses like Sreytouch’s workshop.

IFC’s loan is part of the Women Entrepreneurs Opportunity Facility (WEOF), a global facility dedicated to expanding access to capital for women entrepreneurs. The WEOF was launched by IFC’s Banking on Women program and Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women in 2014 to help close the credit gap for women-owned enterprises around the world. The financing package consists of $100 million from IFC’s own account and $110 million from the French banking group BRED Banque Populaire, Bangkok Bank Public Company Limited, Cathay United Bank and Kiatnakin Bank Public Company Limited, and $30 million from Overseas Private Investment Corporation.


Serving Women Entrepreneurs

More than two-thirds of nearly 10,000 formal women-owned SMEs in Cambodia face difficulties in obtaining loans from financial institutions, leaving a financing gap of more than $170 million per year that could contribute significantly to Cambodia’s economy. Research by Goldman Sachs shows that closing this gap could increase per capita income by around 12 percent by 2030. As more capital becomes available to women entrepreneurs in Cambodia, they will be able to help drive future economic growth and job creation.

IFC’s longstanding partnership with ACLEDA has enabled the bank to reach more than 2.5 million of the poorest people in Cambodia and support micro and small businesses throughout the Mekong region.

IFC’s Banking on Women program is playing a catalytic role in helping financial institutions meet the needs of women entrepreneurs in a sustainable and profitable way. Since its launch in 2010, the program has made 33 investments globally totaling almost $1 billion.

To learn more about IFC’s work in financial inclusion for women, visit

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Published in August 2017


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