How did UNCDF SHIFT ASEAN support Cambodia's Financial Inclusion Strategy?

By adopting National Financial Inclusion Strategies (NFIS), countries can promote a more effective and efficient process to achieve financial inclusion. For example, these strategies can outline structured coordination between public and private stakeholders to focus on key targets.

The energy and expertise required to ensure these strategies are inclusive and achievable is immense. In 2016, ASEAN Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governments established the ASEAN Working Committee on Financial Inclusion (WC-FINC). The WC-FINC was launched in close consultation with the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) Shaping Inclusive Finance Transformations (SHIFT) in ASEAN programme, supported by the Australian Government. The committee aims to promote and foster initiatives to advance financial inclusion across ASEAN, serving as a platform for member states to share progress and facilitate knowledge sharing. Specifically, the committee was created to:

  • Support NFIS development and implementation plans;
  • Elevate capacity building to enhance the financial inclusion ecosystem;
  • Promote innovative financial inclusion via digital platforms; and
  • Increase awareness of financial inclusion and consumer protection among member states.

Under the WC-FINC framework, UNCDF has been supporting countries in ASEAN, specifically Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR and Viet Nam, in developing strategies to enhance financial inclusion for those left behind. This work covers several areas of SHIFT’s expertise, particularly:

  • Data and analysis: To support evidence-based decision making that incorporates a gender lens;
  • Learning and development: To provide trainings for policy makers and regulators to build capacity for facilitating increased financial inclusion in the country;
  • Advocacy: Work with government partners and ensure financial inclusion efforts leave no one behind.

As part of the support provided through the WC-FINC, UNCDF has been partnering with the National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) in developing their country’s NFIS since the committee’s launch in 2016. This support includes:

  • Shaping sex-disaggregated targets and indicators to ensure a gender-sensitive strategy. This included data analytics trainings for NBC staff.
  • Supporting the setting up of the Inter-Ministerial Working Group on Financial Inclusion Strategy in Cambodia. This helps ensure a collaborative approach for the strategy’s success.
  • Sharing best practices from other ASEAN countries to implement in Cambodia as part of the strategy. For example, the use of biometric identification measures as an alternative to traditional Know-Your-Customer (KYC) measures.
  • Activities for increasing financial literacy as a key part of the strategy.
  • Launching demand-side surveys, the UNCDF FinScope Diagnostics, to understand the financial inclusion landscape and inform baselines and targets.

To learn more about the development process of the strategy and UNCDF's support in it, please see the video below of an interview with Mr. Heng Bomakara, Deputy Director General of Banking Supervision and the Head of the NBC financial inclusion working group, where he explains about the key learnings NBC gained as they developed their strategy.

Putting a gender lens in the National Financial Inclusion Strategy

In 2017, UNCDF worked with the NBC in using UNCDF FinScope data to improve financial inclusion policy making in relation to the strategy. This included providing data analysis and training support for the NBC to design sex-disaggregated indicators for the strategy.

Through this technical assistance, the NBC incorporated financial inclusion indicators in its NFIS that reflect suitable targets for achieving financial inclusion and are disaggregated by gender, thus laying the foundation for a gender-sensitive strategy. These, for example, include:

  • percentage of adults (male/female) with basic financial/accounting knowledge
  • percentage of adults (male/female) using mobile phones for payments
  • percentage of adults (male/female) with savings account at a formal financial institution
  • percentage of adults (male/female) making digital payments
  • percentage of adults (male/female) having income transferred to their bank account

The development of the NFIS indicators coincided with an ambitious Customer Journey Action Research (CJAR) from UNCDF in 2018 . The CJAR worked with four financial service providers in Cambodia and examined data that cover 5.4 million loan and savings records for 2.3 million customers, covering 60 percent of the depositors and 53 percent of the borrowers from the Cambodian microfinance sector. The analysis provided key insights on customer entry, usage, uptake, and exit using gender disaggregated big data and helped feature savings mobilization more prominently on the NFIS.

UNCDF further supported the NBC in developing a financial inclusion roadmap and an action plan to achieve the targets set out in the financial inclusion strategy. The roadmap includes a number of policy goals, including:

  • Encouraging savings in formal financial institutions
  • Promoting innovative credit products for SMEs
  • Enabling the expansion of payment system capabilities
  • Improving broader access to insurance
  • Strengthening the capacity of the financial sector regulators
  • Increasing consumer empowerment and protection and financial sector transparency

Through UNCDF's technical support, the NBC was able to set ambitious and achievable targets. Specifically, the NBC set its target to reduce financial exclusion of women by half (from 27 percent to 13 percent) and increase the usage of multiple types of formal financial services from 59 percent to 70 percent by 2025.

With the NFIS planned to be launched soon, the focus now turns to implementation. To support Cambodia and other ASEAN member states part of the WC-FINC, UNCDF conducted a monitoring and evaluation workshop in Brunei in October 2019. During the workshop, the establishment of frameworks for measurement and monitoring for NFIS across the ASEAN region was initiated. Moving forward, UNCDF will continue to support the NBC in its efforts to achieve women’s financial inclusion in Cambodia, particularly with regards to implementation and continuous monitoring of the strategy.

About the United Nations Capital Development Fund

The UN Capital Development Fund makes public and private finance work for the poor in the world’s 47 least developed countries (LDCs).

UNCDF offers “last mile” finance models that unlock public and private resources, especially at the domestic level, to reduce poverty and support local economic development.

UNCDF’s financing models work through three channels: (1) inclusive digital economies, which connects individuals, households, and small businesses with financial eco-systems that catalyze participation in the local economy, and provide tools to climb out of poverty and manage financial lives; (2) local development finance, which capacitates localities through fiscal decentralization, innovative municipal finance, and structured project finance to drive local economic expansion and sustainable development; and (3) investment finance, which provides catalytic financial structuring, de-risking, and capital deployment to drive SDG impact and domestic resource mobilization.

UNCDF’s Shaping Inclusive Finance Transformations (SHIFT) in ASEAN programme is supported by the Australian Government.


The views expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of UNCDF, the United Nations or any of its affiliated organizations or its Member States.