It’s difficult to see where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been. This idea of examining the present in order to understand what’s coming around the bend is at the heart of Anakut, Southeast Asia Globe’s podcast. Meaning future in Khmer, each episode of Anakut adresses an important, cross-cutting issue effecting the Kingdom through in-depth discussions with leading figures in the country.
In the fifth episode of the podcast, co-hosts Andrew Haffner, reporter and editor at the Globe, and Seavmeng Samoeurth, founding member of sociopolitical discussion group Politikoffee, tackle the concept of leapfrogging and the potential impacts of this development strategy in Cambodia.
Sitting down with Manu Rajan, CEO of mobile digital payment provider Wing, and Kem Bora of investment firm Mekong Strategic Partners, the conversation begins with Industry 4.0 and what this much-anticipated industrial development might mean for Cambodia.
MSP’s Bora explained, “ I think when we are talking about Industry 4.0 and leapfrogging, it really very much cuts across multiple sectors in the economy.”
He continued, “You see the demographic shifts, but also the technological shifts, changing different industries. Education, agriculture … investing. These are just a few examples of where you are not going from A to B, you are going from A to C.”
… there’s no real technical schools teaching this stuff, so many people are learning from YouTubeKem Bora, Mekong Strategic Partners
This ability to bypass legacy systems is particularly useful in countries like Cambodia, where, due to historical circumstances, certain industries and technologies have not kept pace with global trends.
Haffner offers the classic example of leapfrogging telecommunications by skipping landlines and going straight to mobile connections. But he also emphasized the importance of improving soft-skills and education in order to take advantage of leapfrogging – particularly when it comes to the financial inclusion that many of these technologies state is their aim to improve.
Rajan understands the need to improve financial education for people new to the world of formal banking and fintech.
“Absolutely, it has to go hand-in-hand with financial education,” Rajan agreed. “Even in the countries that have led as examples of financial inclusion in the world, the very next thing they did after making it easier to access finance was drive financial literacy.”
Bora offerend another intersection between leapfrogging – technology and education.
“I’ve met many software engineers in Cambodia … and for the most part, there’s no real technical schools teaching this stuff, so many people are learning from YouTube.”
Increased internet access provides Cambodia’s population with the ability to reimagine education. “Today, we have a lot of tools by which people can leapfrog the traditional system of education.”
Over the course of 40 minutes, the conversation touches on automation, urban/rural divides and the National Bank of Cambodia’s blockchain-based digital banking platform, Bakong. However, it eventually circles back to Cambodia’s favorable position in terms of leapfrogging, as co-host Seavmeng poses the question, “Does Cambodia have any advantage over other ASEAN nations?”
Bora thinks so, citing Cambodian culture, the nation’s demographics and the lack of legacy infrastructure.
“As you know, in Khmer we typically say it is easier to build ten new homes rather than to fix on broken one,” he explained. “Here you can start from scratch, and to me, when you compare that with more developed neighbors of ours, we are, in a way, ahead.”
This article was first published in Globe Media Asia’s Focus Cambodia 2021-22 magazine.
The full podcast series can be found online wherever you listen to podcasts and at