Prime minister Sheikh Hasina on Wednesday invited South African entrepreneurs to make robust investments in Bangladesh that aspires to become a trillion-dollar economy and a fully developed smart nation by 2041.
“Do invest in Bangladesh; we are confident that your investment will be primed for success, and we are fully prepared for a sustainable partnership”, said the premier while speaking at the Bangladesh Trade and Business Summit in South Africa jointly organised by Bangladesh Securities and Exchange Commission (BSEC) and Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA) at the Radisson Blu Hotel and Convention Center.
The prime minister recalled her memories with President Nelson Mandela, who joined the 25th anniversary of Bangladesh’s independence in 1997, during her first tenure as prime minister.
The premier stressed that as Africa, with a population exceeding 1.5 billion, is currently experiencing rapid urbanization and economic growth; it provides favorable opportunities for Bangladesh to expand its exports, particularly in sectors like textiles, ready-made garments (RMG), pharmaceuticals, and agricultural products.
“In the past decade, Bangladesh has shifted its focus towards untapped markets in Africa. Both government officials and business leaders in Bangladesh recognise the potential of African economies and the benefits of stronger trade relationship. With a growing middle class, an increasing population, and rising consumer demands, Africa becomes an attractive market for Bangladeshi exports”, said the PM.
PM also stated that Bangladesh is actively exploring avenues to procure essential natural resources and raw materials from African nations. This category includes the requisite raw materials for Bangladesh's growing industries, spanning minerals, petroleum products, cotton, agricultural products, and more.
“To fortify its diplomatic connections and pave the way for future economic openings, Bangladesh has formally adopted the 'Look Africa' policy”, PM added.
The prime minister further stated that Bangladesh has the most open Foreign Direct Investment policies in South Asia which include a liberalized industrial policy, one-stop service, an allowance for 100 per cent foreign ownership, an easy exit policy, a 15-year tax exemption, a VAT exemption for imported machinery, streamlined services, and more.
The prime minister said that over the last five decades, Bangladesh and South Africa have built a strong and friendly relationship based on mutual respect, shared values, cultural ties, and common beliefs. She said this bond has been strengthened by growing trade connections. Both countries have similar paths of development, making collaboration and growth feasible.
However, she also mentioned that despite the significant potentials, the bilateral trade between Bangladesh and South Africa was only USD 316.83 million last year, falling short of its full potentials.
“This presents a promising opportunity for collaboration, given the export and import potential of both nations,” she said.
PM Sheikh Hasina said she is confident that ample collaboration opportunities exist for both the nations, involving business communities and trade organisations.
“Beyond existing bilateral mechanisms, we're enthusiastic about establishing a 'Joint Committee on Trade and Investment' and negotiating a 'Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement with South Africa'.”
She said that Bangladesh offers opportunities across sectors like ICT, electronics, infrastructure, textiles, tourism, heavy industry, and small industries.
“Our government is committed to facilitating smooth business operations. Bangladesh is ready to welcome prospective South African investors," she told the conference.
She said that organizations like the Bangladesh Investment Development Authority, Bangladesh Economic Zone Authority, Bangladesh Export Processing Zone Authority, Bangladesh High Tech Park Authority, and Bangladesh Securities and Exchange Commission, all support foreign investors for optimal returns.
She said that as the growing economy, Bangladesh is poised for substantial long-term financing. Amid the 4th Industrial Revolution, AI, and Venture Capital, Bangladesh is pursuing "Financial Connectivity" globally, prioritizing "Investment Banking" over traditional Consumer Banking.
In this connection, she said that the Bangladesh Securities and Exchange Commission (BSEC) is elevating the capital market for essential long-term financing. In 2020, the stock markets outperformed regional peers, with USD 61 billion in market capitalisation, or 16.8 per cent of GDP.
For financial progress, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said, we have expanded our bond market, introducing Sukuk, Green Bonds, ETFs, Venture Capital, Private Equity, and Impact Funds, diversifying investment opportunities. Soon, we are going to include derivative products in our capital markets, which will help minimize investment risks through hedging.
Portfolio investments have also been made flawless through enhanced facilities for repatriation of the principal and returns without any kind of approval, she added.
She said that the significant Bangladeshi population in South Africa forms a strong base.
“Thanks to expatriates for contributing to our economy. We urge you to invest more in our growth," she said.
She also said that a joint business forum between the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) and the South African Chamber is also planned.
The prime minister said that the robust private sector of Bangladesh will keep providing a great range of opportunities for those who invest in country’s economy.
“We are confident that we are heading full speed forward on the path of the 4th industrial revolution.”
Terming people of the country as the heart of strength, she said that about 55 million youth with the requisite skills are committed to accomplishing the task ahead.
“Our fortunate position is enhanced by connections on both regional and global levels. Additionally, a growing domestic market and an expanding consumer class further strengthen this demographic benefit," she said.
“With a growing middle class, an increasing population, and rising consumer demands, Africa becomes an attractive market for Bangladeshi exports," she stated.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said that to fortify its diplomatic connections and pave the way for future economic openings, Bangladesh has formally adopted the 'Look Africa' policy.
“Simultaneously, Bangladesh is actively exploring avenues to procure essential natural resources and raw materials from African nations," she said.
This category includes the requisite raw materials for Bangladesh's growing industries, spanning minerals, petroleum products, cotton, agricultural products, and more, she said.