Business Summit In Bangladesh 2023: Key Takeaways

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As Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, put it, “your dreams and our vision have the potential to become better together.” This indicates the definition of business, which is nothing more than a long-held goal that requires a visionary push to become a reality.

For Bangladesh to achieve its goal of being a developed nation by the year 2041 and realize its aspiration of doing so, the country has organized the business summit in order to identify partners and touchstones for the long journey toward supremacy.

The Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Commerce, and the Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA) hosted Bangladesh’s first ever three-day business summit from March 10–13, 2023. Moreover, the summit emphasizes Bangladesh’s economic and market strength as well as tangible trade and investment prospects in Bangladesh by bringing together national and global business leaders, investors, policymakers, practitioners, policy and market analysts, academics, and innovators.

Moreover, ministers from seven nations, including the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, China, Bhutan, and the United Arab Emirates, as well as top executives from 12 multinational corporations and more than 200 foreign investors and business leaders from 17 countries, attended the conference. The large number of participants also demonstrates the reach.

Additionally, three plenary sessions on strategic themes were conducted, as well as 13 parallel technical seminars, B2B meetings, networking sessions, an open house reception, and guided tours for overseas participants.

In contrast, the Bangladesh Business Conference couldn’t come at a better moment, what with the COVID-19 wave, the war between Russia and Ukraine, and the badly interrupted global economy and supply chain. In addition, Bangladesh has the potential to become the trade and investment centre of South Asia due to the country’s geostrategic significance as well as the tremendous business prospects that are already available. Bangladesh was an ideal area to invest because to its consistent economic growth, large demographic dividend community, and a government with a strategy that successfully blended development with digitization.

Pivotal Takeaways from Business Summit

The summit was a showcase for the hard work and miraculous rise of the Bangladeshi economy over the last decade, but it also marked the start of a dream that had been nurtured for years. As a result, the summit’s major influence was focused on many areas such as “cooperation,” “connection,” and “concentration.”

To begin, the summit’s key accomplishment in the cooperative domain was the signing of commercial agreements, memoranda of understanding, and commitment to continue collaboration between Bangladesh and other actors. A public-private partnership (PPP) deal has been inked with a Saudi corporation to build gas pipelines via India and Bangladesh.

Apart from the two Memorandums of Understanding inked with Saudi Arabia for the construction of the Rangpur Sugar Mills and the Patenga Container Port, another MoU was signed with China for infrastructure development. The Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI), on the other hand, inked a memorandum of understanding with the China Council for the Promotion of Foreign Trade (CCPET).

Moreover, the summits discuss the business relationship between Japan and Bangladesh, highlighting areas for investment, opportunities, and challenges. It introduces the international standard Bangladesh SEZ in Araihazar and discusses the next steps to upgrade business relations, including an expected Economic Partnership Agreement as a driving force.

Besides, the most significant result of the “deals and collaboration” was the establishment of a Bangladeshi point of view on cooperation rather than simply following the wind. In this regard, the bilateral agreements and Memorandums of Understanding effectively inaugurated a new era in Bangladesh’s approach to conducting business with global entities. Moreover, the main goal of the Bangladeshi strategy was to achieve a win-win situation for Bangladesh’s economic prospects.

Second, in the connection area, the summit places a strong emphasis on FDI-based concerns, with Bangladesh highlighting the great prospect of developing or connecting large economic connections via the establishment of a sophisticated ‘economic zone’ for diverse stakeholders. The summit highlighted the spatialization of Bangladeshi special economic zones, as the other economic zones had the opportunity of becoming an investment center for numerous foreign entities.

Bangladesh, on the other hand, offers a $350 billion infrastructure potential in the energy, water, logistics, and transportation sectors, with the logistics sector expected to grow to a $90 billion market by 2025. Moreover, the government intends to raise the private investment-to-GDP ratio to 31.43% by 2031. As a result, with the completion of the country’s 100 special economic zones, prospective investors are anticipated to spend heavily.

In this context, the summit emphasizes the significance of establishing links between Bangladesh and other economic players via the creation of “special economic zones.”

Finally, the summit effectively fulfilled the concentration component by emphasizing numerous business areas in Bangladesh that need further support and have the potential to be the next great economic engine in Bangladesh. Moreover, the summit highlights the concentration of business models and collaborations centered on Bangladesh’s objective of being a developed nation by 2041. Yet, the meeting centered on Bangladesh’s goal of becoming a trillion-dollar economy by 2040.

In spite of this, the summit places a significant emphasis on three key aspects of expanding a business. Since Bangladesh has a $350 billion infrastructure potential in the energy, water, logistics, and transport sectors, and because the logistics industry is predicted to reach a $90 billion market by 2025, symposia prepared a particular spot for the SMEs to begin the bilateral discussions and business exchange programs. Bangladesh has the potential to be a center for a regional market of 300 billion people owing to its strategic geographical position.

All of these advancements, however, are inextricably linked with the performance of the Bangladeshi SME sector, which likewise has the possibility of becoming digital in a short amount of time.

On the other hand, at the Dhaka Business Summit 2023, a particular emphasis will be placed on the pharmaceutical and agro-processing sectors of the Bangladeshi business world. The fact that 68.4% of the population is in the working age group gives Bangladesh a demographic dividend. This is due to the fact that Bangladesh is a nation of economic prospects. Both the pharmaceutical and agro-processing sectors in Bangladesh have the potential to become significant economic drivers in the country in the near future.

The summit emphasized that the agricultural-based economy is being replaced by export-oriented industrialisation and that the world is increasingly transitioning to a knowledge-based economy. Bangladesh already exports 700 basic and processed goods worth around $2 billion, while the local agro-processing business is worth more than $3 billion.

Currently, Bangladesh’s food market is predicted to reach 54 billion kg by 2027, resulting in a total market size of $47.54 billion for agricultural goods. Moreover, Bangladesh’s retail market penetration is now at 2%, with a total market value of more than $16 billion. Agri-products account for 30% of this. As a result, the summits’ focus portion primarily served as a platform for establishing business relationships as well as the generation of innovative ideas in different corporate fields.

To summarize, the business summit in Bangladesh is an event that brings together major stakeholders from a variety of fields, such as corporate executives, investors, policymakers, practitioners, analysts, academics, and innovators. The summit serves as a forum for highlighting the economic and commercial advantages that Bangladesh has, in addition to the particular business and investment possibilities that are available.

In addition, the summit shines a light on the triumphant tale that paved the path for Bangladesh’s sustainable and innovative growth. Since the new vision of ‘Smart Bangladesh’ is connected with the goals of the summit, it serves as the ideal beginning point for Bangladesh’s development into the commercial arena. The summit, in its whole, is an important event that serves to highlight the potential and possibilities that Bangladesh has to give to the rest of the world.

– S. M. Saifee Islam is a Research Associate at the KRF Center for Bangladesh and Global Affairs (CBGA).

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