Cambodia: The Rising Star of Southeast Asia

This post is part of a series detailing market specifics on ASEAN nations. Click here to see the rest of the series.

Cambodia, with its rich cultural heritage, has increasingly become a focal point in Southeast Asia for international businesses.

Its strategic location and young workforce, combined with a government that’s enthusiastic about foreign investment, make it an enticing prospect for New Zealand companies.

Vital Statistics

  • Population: Approx. 16.5 million
  • GDP: Approx. $27 billion USD (as of 2021)
  • GDP Growth Rate: 3.5% (Projected for 2023)
  • Major Cities & Population:
    • Phnom Penh (2.3 million)
    • Siem Reap (245,000)
    • Battambang (196,000)
  • Median Age: 25.3 years
  • Major Industries: Garments, Tourism, Construction, Agriculture, Real Estate
  • Primary Language: Khmer
  • Currency: Cambodian Riel (KHR), US Dollar (widely accepted)

Economic Overview

Cambodia’s economy has historically been agricultural, but there has been a noticeable shift towards more diversified industries in recent years. The garments sector, in particular, has been a significant growth driver, with textile exports garnering substantial foreign exchange.

Tourism, primarily driven by attractions like the Angkor Wat, and a budding real estate sector, further fuel its economic engine. Infrastructure investments, often funded by international donors and foreign countries, have supported this growth trajectory.

For New Zealand businesses, this represents a developing market ripe with opportunities, especially in sectors that are in the nascent stages in Cambodia.

Business Culture and Etiquette

Doing business in Cambodia requires an understanding of its unique cultural nuances. While Khmer is the primary language, English is increasingly being used in business contexts, especially in urban centres.

Cambodians place a high value on interpersonal relationships; thus, patience and face-to-face interactions can be immensely beneficial.

Respect for elders and those in authority positions is deeply ingrained. It’s also pivotal for foreign businesses to understand local festivals, like the Khmer New Year, as these can influence business schedules.


  • Untapped Potential in Tech: Cambodia’s burgeoning digital economy has yet to reach its full stride, making it a land of promise for tech-focused ventures.
  • Rising Middle Class: A growing segment with increased disposable income is seeking better goods, services, and experiences.
  • Infrastructure Development: There is a considerable demand for quality infrastructure, from transportation networks to digital connectivity.

Cambodia’s tech sector, though still in its infancy, is showing signs of rapid growth, buoyed by a young, tech-savvy population hungry for digital innovations.

This presents vast opportunities for companies ready to invest in technology infrastructure, software development, and digital services.

Coupled with this, Cambodia’s rising middle class, a result of consistent economic growth, is driving demand for a variety of consumer goods, modern services, and upgraded experiences.

The market is ripe for businesses that can cater to these evolving consumer preferences.

Furthermore, the noticeable emphasis by the Cambodian government and international investors on infrastructure development spells opportunities for companies in the construction, transportation, and telecommunication sectors.


  • Regulatory Environment: Navigating Cambodia’s evolving business laws and regulations can be complex.
  • Political Uncertainties: While the country is largely stable, occasional political turbulence can impact the business environment.
  • Cultural and Linguistic Barriers: Effective communication and understanding local customs are essential for successful business operations.

One of the primary challenges businesses face in Cambodia is the intricacies of its regulatory landscape. Though the government is working to streamline business procedures, staying compliant requires regular updates and local insights.

Political stability, a cornerstone for business investments, is generally maintained in Cambodia. However, occasional political shifts can introduce uncertainties, necessitating a well-informed approach to strategy planning in the region.

Lastly, while Cambodians are increasingly becoming familiar with global business practices, a deep understanding of local customs, traditions, and the Khmer language can be a decisive factor in building successful business relationships and ensuring smooth operations.

Future Outlook:

  • Digital Drive: Cambodia’s aggressive move towards digitization opens doors for technology-oriented businesses and innovations.
  • Integration with ASEAN: As Cambodia becomes more intertwined with ASEAN economies, opportunities for regional trade and collaboration multiply.
  • Young and Skilled Workforce: The nation boasts a young, tech-savvy workforce with a growing emphasis on education and skill development.

Cambodia’s digitization push isn’t merely a trend but a strategic move to position the country as a potential tech hub in the region.

This emphasis on digital transformation is creating a plethora of opportunities for businesses in the tech sector, from infrastructure to software development, and from e-commerce to digital services.

Coupled with this is Cambodia’s role in the ASEAN community.

As it continues to integrate more deeply with other ASEAN economies, doors for regional trade, collaborations, and cross-border partnerships are widening. But perhaps one of Cambodia’s most significant assets is its people.

A young demographic profile, increasingly exposed to technology and with a renewed emphasis on skills and education, means businesses can tap into a vibrant, knowledgeable, and enthusiastic workforce.

In summary, Cambodia’s transformation into an economic powerhouse in Southeast Asia cannot be overlooked. Its strides in digitization, regional collaborations through ASEAN, and a dynamic workforce present both robust opportunities and unique challenges.

As Cambodia’s market dynamics evolve, there’s never been a better time for New Zealand businesses to explore, connect, and thrive in this landscape.

If you’re considering expanding your horizons into Cambodia or simply want more in-depth insights, contact Aseanz today and let’s navigate this journey together.