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Local Bank Provides Hope to Thousands of Potential Micro-Entrepreneurs

“The US$4,000 my wife borrowed from ACLEDA means we now have the operating capital to buy the materials we need so that we can fill our orders quickly and also develop an inventory of equipment that we can sell to keep a steady flow of income coming in.”

--Leap Roth, micro-entrepreneur

Leap Roth
Leap Roth, who lost a leg to a bomb explosion in the 1980s, started his own work, in partnership with his wife, Yi Lab.
Phnom Penh, August 5, 2007. Leap Roth was quick to answer when World Bank President, Robert B. Zoellick, asked him whether borrowing from ACLEDA Bank had helped his business to grow.“Yes”, he said proudly, pointing to his busy Phnom Penh, Cambodia workshop where his staff of 10 make rice threshers, trucks, carts and other farming equipment. “The US$4,000 my wife borrowed from ACLEDA means we now have the operating capital to buy the materials we need so that we can fill our orders quickly and also develop an inventory of equipment that we can sell to keep a steady flow of income coming in.”

Leap Roth, who lost a leg during the 1980s when a bomb fell on his rice mill, started his small workshop five years ago, in partnership with his wife, Yi Lab. In an average month, the small business sells five rice threshers, five trucks and a variety of other farming tools.

“My husband and I are equal partners in this business,” says Yi Lab proudly. “We both manage the employees, negotiate sales with customers and keep track of the finances.”

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World Bank in Cambodia
IFC in Cambodia
Mekong Private Sector Development Facility
During his visit to the thriving production workshop, Mr. Zoellick said he welcomed the chance to meet two of Cambodia’s entrepreneurs.

 “The success of the microfinance industry in Cambodia is remarkable given the challenging business environment and the difficulty of reaching rural and remote areas.  I am delighted that the Bank Group has been able to help ACLEDA grow from an NGO to a licensed financial institution that now provides working capital to small business owners, more that two-thirds of them women. We hope to help ACLEDA expand its successful service to other areas, too.”

Yi Lab is one of 181,000 urban and rural Cambodians who borrow, save and/or transfer money as customers of ACLEDA Bank. Since 1993 ACLEDA has grown from a small NGO into one of Cambodia’s largest commercial banks and the only bank targeting poorer entrepreneurs. Across Cambodia, ACLEDA has 166 branches in all 24 provinces and although it is now a fully licensed bank, ACLEDA still specializes in lending to artisans, shop keepers, market traders and other micro and small entrepreneurs.

The International Finance Corporation (IFC), which is the private sector arm of the World Bank, has played an important role, along with other development agencies, in helping ACLEDA Bank grow into what Moody’s Investors Service rates as one of Cambodia’s best managed banks.

In 1999, IFC advisory services, which are delivered through the multi-donor Mekong Private Sector Development Facility (IFC MPDF), helped ACLEDA to make the transition to a fully-licensed commercial financial institution and in 2003, IFC led shareholders in increasing equity so ACLEDA could take the final steps to getting a banking license. IFC has also loaned ACLEDA a total of US$11 million for on-lending to micro, small and medium enterprises, and in 2007, provided the bank with a trade finance guarantee which will help more Cambodian SMEs enter the global market.
ACLEDA visit
ACLEDA grew from a small NGO to one of the largest licenced financial institutions in the country, serving over 180,000 poor urban and rural Cambodians.
In 2005, ACLEDA won IFC’s Client Leadership Award and in 2006, ACLEDA won a CGAP Award for Financial Transparency.
Mr. Richard Ranken, IFC Director for East Asia and Pacific, who accompanied President Zoellick on his visit to the small Cambodian machining workshop, had high praise for Cambodia’s commercial microfinance institutions which now serve almost 600,000 borrowers across Cambodia (about 21 percent of the country’s 2.9 million households).
"We in IFC have been able to contribute to this success because we provide both financing and advise on global best practices, supported by a strong on-ground presence. We are very proud of the success achieved by Cambodia's microfinance sector because it shows very clearly that even in a challenging business environment such as Cambodia's, it is still possible for businesses to succeed with good practices and financial transparency. Cambodia's successful MFIs set a powerful example for the whole private sector."
Over the last ten years, IFC’s strategy in Cambodia has been to support a broad spectrum of locally-owned businesses in the emerging private sector. IFC’s investments, in addition to ACLEDA Bank, include a soya milk factory, a hotel, and the company that operates the airports in key tourist destinations – Siem Reap, Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville. "These businesses are good models", said Mr. Ranken, "because they have good corporate governance practices, they build human resources, and they contribute to the local community."

For more information about the World Bank program in Cambodia, visit

For more information about the IFC program in Cambodia, click here


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