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Bangkok - 12 Feb 2021

News Number: G/06/2021

United Nations and SHE Investments launch a mobile bookkeeping app for women entrepreneurs

Today, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), and SHE Investments are pleased to announce the launch of the KOTRA- Riel bookkeeping app - the first tool designed to support Cambodian micro-entrepreneurs plan, manage cash flows and access formal financial services.

One of the greatest barriers women entrepreneurs face in growing and scaling their business is access to finance. Limited collateral, lack of financial history, and low digital literacy are key challenges facing women micro-entrepreneurs. KOTRA-Riel works to tackle these challenges by creating a simple, user-friendly experience that allows those who are not technically savvy to track business earning and expenses at the click of a button.

ESCAP and UNCDF initiated the Women Fintech MSME Innovation Fund in 2019 to support FinTechs, financial service providers, and innovators to develop, test, and scale solutions that support women entrepreneurs to succeed. Over the past two years, the Fund has provided financial and technical support to SHE Investments; a Cambodian social enterprise whose mission is to build a gender-inclusive ecosystem that enables women-led Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) to scale and create social, economic and environmental impact.

SHE’s core activities include business incubators, accelerators, and investment-readiness programs designed for Cambodian women and introducing innovative tools to improve digital and financial inclusion and financial management, which is where KOTRA-Riel comes in.

The KOTRA Riel app is the idea of SHE’s founding team, particularly Lida Loem, who leads the delivery of SHE’s incubator and accelerator programs. “The women we work with are always complaining about not knowing how to effectively manage their money,” says Ms. Loem. “There are digital tools designed for very educated people, for business-people, for English-speaking people, but not for them.” This led SHE Investments to identify a critical gap in the tools available for the hundreds of entrepreneurs supported by SHE Investments. A simple, Khmer-language application that enables women to track income, expenses, inventory, cash-flow, generate reports for financial institutions, and – perhaps most importantly – separate their household finances from business finances.

“Too many women entrepreneurs in Cambodia and the region are at a disadvantage because they simply don’t have access to the digital and financial tools and knowledge that they need to operate their businesses effectively,” said ESCAP Deputy Executive Secretary Kaveh Zahedi. “We are proud to have supported SHE Investments in developing this bookkeeping solution that is tailored to the needs of local women entrepreneurs. We hope this initiative can inspire and be used by the countless women entrepreneurs that are looking to build their digital and financial skills to access formal finance and in the end to just grow their businesses.”

UNCDF SHIFT Programme Manger Rajeev Kumar Gupta added, “The KOTRA- Riel app will help women MSMEs in Cambodia to reduce their reliance on fixed asset collateral. KOTRA-Riel is an innovative solution that uses business transaction data as an alternative to fixed collateral to make credit assessments. Given the COVID-19 impact on the overall Cambodian economy, this app can be instrumental for the recovery of MSMEs by providing them easier financing opportunities.”

The development of the KOTRA-Riel app was supported by the ESCAP Catalyzing Women’s Entrepreneurship initiative, funded by the Government of Canada and the UNCDF SHIFT ASEAN programme. The app will be rolled out across the country through face-to-face training, bridging the digital and in-person experience, which allows women entrepreneurs to enhance their financial and digital literacy. ESCAP, through its Asian and Pacific Training Centre for ICT for Development (APCICT), and SHE Investments will partner with training providers in disseminating and expanding the reach of the mobile app to women entrepreneurs.    

For more information on KOTRA-Riel, visit: https://www.kotrariel.com/

Note to Editors:

About the Partnership

This initiative is implemented under a regional programme initiative titled ‘Catalyzing Women’s Entrepreneurship: Creating a Gender-Responsive Entrepreneurial Ecosystem’ funded by the Government of Canada and implemented by ESCAP. For more information, visit https://www.unescap.org/projects/cwe

The Women MSME FinTech Innovation Fund is jointly implemented by ESCAP’s Catalyzing Women’s Entrepreneurship programme, in partnership with the United Nations Capital Development Fund’s (UNCDF), under its ‘leaving no one behind in the digital era’ strategy.  The fund is financially supported by the Government of Canada, the Dutch Entrepreneurial Development Bank (FMO) and Visa Inc.

About SHE Investment

SHE Investments is a social enterprise with headquarters based in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Launched by three Australian and Cambodian co-founders in 2015 with a pilot SHE Incubator Program, the first gender-focused, culturally tailored incubator for women entrepreneurs in Cambodia. Alongside the SHE Incubator program, they also design and deliver Accelerator, Financial Literacy, Digital Literacy, Investment Readiness and other programs and innovative tools designed to build a gender inclusive ecosystem to enable women entrepreneurs to scale their businesses and create social, economic and environmental impact for their communities.

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