The Rise and Rise of Bangladesh (Nikkei Asian Review)

Garment making has helped pull Bangladesh out of poverty, but now the country is aiming much higher as the prime minister sets her country’s sights on a digital revolution and unprecedented economic growth.

What do you think of when you think of Bangladesh? One of the “least developed” countries in the world? The temporary home of Rohingya Muslims who have fled persecution in Myanmar? A major exporter of garments? All of these descriptions are correct, but the country has also become one of the world’s greatest economic success stories.

The economy has grown at an average of more than 6% annually for nearly a decade. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who is running for a third consecutive term in the Dec. 30 general election, said in a recent exclusive interview: “If elected, I can assure you that the program we have undertaken will get us up to 10% by 2021.”

In this issue of the Nikkei Asian Review, they look into this booming economy and the challenges it faces, with excerpts from our interview with Hasina. Their reporters met with a wide range of sources, from politicians and business leaders in the garment industry and IT sector, to ordinary citizens.

The country’s progress has been impressive. Take the garment industry, for example. The 2013 Rana Plaza disaster, in which over 1,100 workers were killed when a multistory garment factory collapsed, has propelled the industry forward, changing it “generally for the better,” as one executive put it mildly. His company has since introduced a high level of automation at its factory and is continuing to add value to its products.

The emergence of a new generation of IT entrepreneurs is also painting a new picture of the nation. They are proactive, ambitious and talk about competing with — and even beating — their Indian counterparts. Bangladesh’s exports of software and IT services have been growing, while homegrown tech companies serving the domestic market, such as ride-sharing service Pathao, have also been successful. Of course, they face challenges, including how to secure financing. READ MORE

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