Which Southeast Asian country has the highest GDP growth rates averaging in high single digits over the past 15 years, a high demographic dividend with more than 70 percent of its population below 30 years of age, very high Internet-penetration rates and a strong English-speaking population? One would be tempted to mention the likes of Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia or perhaps the Philippines. However, it’s the Kingdom of Cambodia that has witnessed consistent economic growth rate over more than the last decade and continues to outperform most emerging markets globally.
My first visit to Cambodia was in April 2014. I distinctly remember the first images of the capital Phnom Penh, almost a year ago. The city seemed like a normal developing metropolis – heaps of traffic, billboards, flyovers and construction. Upon closer inspection over the next couple of days, it was evident to me that this was a very interesting place in which to do business.
Being an angel investor with a keen interest in technology and entrepreneurship, my reason behind visiting Cambodia was purely opportunistic. I wanted to see for myself what opportunities this country, which had witnessed one of the strongest economic growth rates in the world over more than 15 years, had to offer investors and entrepreneurs like myself.
10 reasons for the discerning investor to pick Cambodia
Cambodia has largely been off the radar for most investors. Call it a case of lack of promotion/PR by the government or the ghosts of the Khmer Rouge era, actual foreign interest and investment into the country is significantly lacking when compared to its neighboring peers, namely Thailand and Vietnam. However, in my humble opinion, not only does Cambodia have tremendous opportunities to tempt the discerning entrepreneur, it also offers distinct advantages over its global peers in the frontier and emerging markets. I summarize the most relevant ones below:
1. Strong economic growth for over a decade
2. Relatively stable political environment
3. Very high percentage of young population (70 percent of the population below 30 years of age)
4. Largely prevalent English skills
5. A very high number of young graduates available to join the workforce each year
6. Highly dollarized (USD) economy
7. Ease of doing business – 100 percent FDI in most sectors permitted
8. Evolving investor-friendly regulatory environment
9. Minimal exchange controls
10. Part of the ASEAN group of countries – slated to benefit from the ASEA Economic Integration (AEC)
Whilst the country still has numerous challenges, the opportunities far outweigh the negatives and those investors that overcome the initial psychological hurdles of entering a country with a rather checkered history will benefit immensely in the process.
This post was originally published on e27.
Featured Image Credit: JM Travel Photography / Shutterstock