The Embassy of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh in the Netherlands, in cooperation with the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Bangladesh and the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO), organized three sector specific webinars as part of ‘Bangladesh-Netherlands Investment Summit 2020’ on Dec 8, 9 & 10. LightCastle Partners and Larive International were strategic partners of the investment summit, which included webinars on the Agriculture and Agro-Business, Light Engineering, and Water and Maritime Sectors of Bangladesh.
A detailed report, mapping fifty years of economic engagements between Bangladesh and the Netherlands, was unveiled during the closing ceremony on December 10. The sector-specific webinars, and the closing ceremony, discussed the potential for stronger business relationships between the Bangladesh and the Netherlands and action steps needed to establish stronger relations.
The first webinar of the series on the Agriculture and Agro-Processing Industry, discussed abundance of the potential of Bangladesh, the robust areas of investment, and how the Dutch-Bangla collaboration can help Bangladesh to overcome agricultural obstacles. Bangladesh is an open field for technological advancement, and investment and one of these arenas is the Agriculture and agro-processing industry. This session hosted a group of esteemed panelists, which included Ihtesham B. Shahjahan, Managing Director, Quality Feeds Ltd and President of Feeds Industries Association Bangladesh (FICB); Dr. F. H. Ansarey, Managing Director and CEO of ACI Agribusiness Ltd; Bouke Hamminga, Director, International Sales & Business Development, Pas Reform; Maaike Groot, Manager Public Affairs, East-West Seed; and Rosalind Boschloo, Manager Private Sector Development, Netherlands Enterprise Agency were also present. M. Riaz Hamidullah, Ambassador of Bangladesh to the Netherlands, was the moderator.
The discussion was initiated with a welcome from M. Riaz Hamidullah, and Zahedul Amin, Director, Strategy, Finance and Consulting Services, LightCastle Partners, then followed with a high-level overview of the macroeconomic scenario of Bangladesh and highlighted the reasons why Bangladesh is the ideal economic engagement partner for the Netherlands. The webinar then highlighted the limitations faced by the agricultural sector and how it can overcome them with the help of Dutch expertise. Bangladesh not only faces water management issues and controlling the upsurge of flooding, but also has limited productivity in the agriculture sector. This session also included how Bangladesh can mitigate the horticulture challenges it faces. This mainly included problems such as lower productivity as compared to South Asian economies, low access to technology, supply chain management complications.
Bangladesh had a burgeoning rate of economic growth even in the dire times of Covid-19. While many of the neighboring countries were distressed over the loss of growth, income, and prosperity, Bangladesh surpassed the Gross Domestic Product (GDP)/Capita of that of India and carved a new milestone. This has led to the development of the Middle and Affluent Class (MAC), which is creating more demand and a preponderant market for poultry and protein consumption. Even though the country and its people have worked on its productivity and challenges, it has still a long way to go to make this development and growth sustainable. As discussed by Bouke Hamminga from, Director, Pas Reform has mentioned that Bangladesh needs sustainable investment, an investment that will be prolonged and these benefits would not be one-sided. He also discussed how sustainable, long-term investment will allow Bangladesh to prosper but at the same time be greatly beneficial to the investors as well. Given the population demographics and the density demographics of Bangladesh, it is a nation of prosperous opportunities.
Some key challenges highlighted by this group of esteemed panelists were mainly regarding the level and state of technology of Bangladesh, asymmetric information, and inefficient supply chain management. According to Rosalind Boschloo, Manager Private Sector Development, Netherlands Enterprise Agency, for Bangladesh to attain its goals, the ease of flow of information needs to be worked upon. She also added that this must be done as organically as possible, holding the traditional integrity but enhancing with technology. Maaike Groot, Manager Public Affairs, East-West Seed, suggested that training people in the sector was key to sustainable growth. ACI Agribusiness, for example, holds such training sessions for farmers that have made integrating technology into production easier.
The webinar concluded by answering questions from audience members. According to panelists, Bangladesh can attain its ‘rising power of Asia’ status by simply improving its technological prowess, access to information, and better management of agriculture supply chains.
The webinar on the Light Engineering sector, followed the webinar on the Agriculture Sector on December 8. The current opportunities and situation of Light Engineering Bangladesh were discussed, and the webinar had a group of industry leaders from different organizations as panelist members. Dr. Rubana Huq, President, BGMEA; Mr. Marcel Schouten, Director, Flexible Bulk LC Packaging; Ms. Uzma Choudhury, Director, PRAN-RFL group; Mr. Andre Hendriks, Business Partner, BM Energy (BD) Ltd.; and Ms. Cathalijn Naafs, Senior Investment Officer, FMO were present as panelists.
The event was initiated with LightCastle’s presentation, focusing on how much the economy of Bangladesh has progressed over the last 15 years with an average GDP growth rate of 6%. With a staggering GDP per capita surpassing that of India, Bangladesh will develop to a middle-income country by the year 2024. The study also explained the growing investment by Netherlands on our industries. Furthermore, the presentation also investigated the increasing demand of home appliances of which many are being produced locally. It was also stressed on how inexpensive labor rates are in comparison to neighboring countries.
Mr. Marcel Schouten of LC packaging shared how the company had established a strong foothold in the country in bulk jute and plastic packaging. He discussed how lucrative the export infrastructure of the country is and the opportunities that it provided along with incentives like grants and subsidies. He emphasized on how the staff and workers are motivated to learn which makes it one of the prime places to invest in.
Mr. Andre Hendriks of BM Energy talked on how the growing population of middle-income people are helping the growth of LPG consumption in the country. He further explains that the LPG industry is more capital intensive and, thus, investors should be wary about it.
The recommendation of Bangladesh needing a more sector diversification was given by Dr. Rubana Huq of BGMEA. She explained that RMG consisted of 84% of total exports and that the sector requires machinery and spare part worth USD 1.6 Billion a fiscal year. She added that Bangladesh’s apparel sector focuses on cotton-based apparel, whereas the demand for man-made fiber products is one of the largest in the world. Therefore, if appropriate investments through partnerships can take place between the two nations, then it would benefit both the countries.
According to Ms. Uzma Choudhury of PRAN-RFL group, Bangladesh is the kind of country that has a growing demand in myriad sectors. PRAN RFL has taken advantage of the growing market by expanding in a number of sectors, including Light Engineering. She emphasized how the automobile industry will boom in the future, with the right availability of resources, a sector in which investors from Netherlands can eye into.
Dr. Rubana Huq and Ms. Uzma Choudhury stressed on the need for international investments in sector related to the circular economy.
The third webinar of ‘Bangladesh-Netherlands Investment Summit 2020’ on Dec 9 focused on investment opportunities in the Water and Maritime Sector of Bangladesh. Experts from the Water and Maritime Sector present included Saiful Islam, Chairman, Western Marine Shipyard; Rear Admiral (Retd.) Md. Khurshed Alam, BN, Secretary (Maritime Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs); Erwin Rietman, Area Sales Manager, Nijhuis Industries; and Albert Hoek, Exclusive Senior Consultant, Broekman Logistics.
Akin to the first two webinars of the ‘Bangladesh-Netherlands’ Investment Summit 2020’, the discussion was initiated with a welcome speech from M. Riaz Hamidullah, Ambassador of Bangladesh to the Netherlands and a video-recorded welcome from Harry Verweij, Dutch Ambassador to Bangladesh. Matthias Brienen, Director, Larive International, highlighted the commonalities between Bangladesh and Netherlands as deltaic nations. The application of Dutch expertise in the Water and Maritime Sector in Bangladesh, as emphasized in the beginning of the webinar, would be a win-win situation for both countries.
Experts in the sector, from both Bangladesh and Netherlands, shared their experience in Dutch-Bangladesh collaboration, the challenges of collaboration, as well as the plethora of opportunities for the future. According to Rear Admiral (Retd.) Khurshed Alam, one of the key challenges is the lack of knowledge regarding port management, maritime education, deep-sea fishing, shipbuilding, and establishing windmills at the Bay of Bengal. However, given the experience of the Dutch in flood-management and blue economy, greater collaboration between both countries would unearth sustainable economic opportunities. Erwin Rietman, Area Sales Manager, Nijhuis Industries, mentioned that Bangladesh needs sustainable investment opportunities. He also discussed how sustainable, long-term investment will allow Bangladesh to prosper, but at the same time be greatly beneficial to the investors as well.
The webinar also highlighted the need to resolve challenges in the Water and Maritime Sector, such as the state of technology of Bangladesh, asymmetric information, and inefficient supply chain management. According to Saiful Islam, Chairman, Western Marine Shipyard, for Bangladesh to attain its goals, the ease of flow of information needs to be worked upon. Bangladesh can attain its “rising power of Asia” status by simply improving its technological prowess, access to information, and better management of supply chain cycles. Dutch cooperation, especially in the Water and Maritime Sector, would be critical in these processes.
Panelists and experts answered questions from the audience, including the potential for mitigating the climate change challenges through greater Dutch cooperation in the Water Sector.
On 10th December, the virtual launch of the report ‘Netherlands-Bangladesh: Mapping the ground @50 stitching partnerships’ took place with prolific panelists from both the countries. Shahriar Alam, Honorable State Minister, Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh; Md. Sirajul Islam, Executive Chairman, BIDA; H E Steven Collet, Ambassador of Business and Development, Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands; H.E Harry Verweij, Ambassador of Netherlands to Bangladesh; Nihad Kabir, President, MCCI; Naser Ezaz, CEO, Standard Chartered Bank; were accompanied by M. Riaz Hamidullah, Ambassador, The Embassy of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh in the Netherlands; Matthias Brienen, Director, Larive International, and Zahedul Amin, Director, LightCastle Partners.
The event inaugurated with Riaz Hamidullah discussing about the previous three webinars that took place and how the panelists shared their proactive thoughts about Netherlands doing business in Bangladesh, also, how Netherlands can bring in vertical advantages to sectors that Bangladesh lack in. Later, a presentation by Zahedul Amin from LightCastle took place where the current economic standpoint of Bangladesh was discussed. Topics like the country’s flourishing GDP and ease of doing business were stressed. Zahedul Amin explained how the apparel industry was the pillar of exports and that Bangladesh needs diversification.
Naser Ezaz of Standard Chartered Bank focused on the aspect that Bangladesh has factors of production, on the other hand, the Dutch has access to knowledge and a substantial market. Netherlands can bring in technical knowledge in the country and invest in Bangladesh, the best kept secret in Asia. He further said that there is a chance to maintain profits for international companies even after complying with all the rules and regulations.
Steven Collet of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands talked about the ample of opportunities that Bangladesh can provide in the years ahead. The graduation of Bangladesh will reform and strengthen the relationship with the Netherlands. The Netherlands can help improve sharing knowledge, focusing on youth, diversification of the economy and fostering job creation. Therefore, it is important to let companies in the Netherlands know about the opportunities in Bangladesh.
Nihad Kadir of MCCI stressed on how foreign investors do not tend to avail themselves of legal and accounting expertise in Bangladesh, which they would have done if it was in any other country. It is important to find the right local counterpart in order to have a good experience and many institutions can be the bridge to it.
Sirazul Islam of BIDA emphasized on the new investment opportunities and permits implemented this year which will ease doing business in Bangladesh, and how BIDA will support the entry of Dutch companies in Bangladesh.
Ambassador Harry Verweij talked about how Bangladesh needs proper branding and progress towards diversification, both vertically and horizontally. He focused on how tech-based agriculture, Light Engineering, as well as deep sea fishing should be of interest.
Lastly, Honorable Minister Shahriar Alam launched the report and explained the progress of bilateral ties and how the Dutch can invest in our Delta plan which is to attain sustainability. He further emphasized on the fact that the growing number of middle and affluent class people will meet the demand for new diverse Dutch investments.
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