DEFINING THE NEXT 300 MILLION SECONDS

DEFINING THE NEXT 300 MILLION SECONDS

February 18, 2018

Standing firm as a (lower) middle income country in 2017 and with a GDP Growth of around 7.4% (estimated), Bangladesh is situated in a position where we can and are prepared to take the advantages of our Demographic Dividend, Geographical Location, Density Dividend, and the Growth Momentum that we are enjoying a growing country.

With almost two decades of resilient economic growth, Bangladesh has come ahead in some of the major industries ruling the world today. Some fresh scenarios have also erupted making the country a prime location for various people to invest on. Bangladesh today has grabbed a position in the world where we cannot just predict its future 300 million seconds (10 years) ahead but, forecast the impact Bangladesh will have on the globe in next 3 billion seconds (100 years).

Nonetheless, it is extremely crucial to plan the next 10 years strategically to prevail for the later 100 years. Why the next 10 years?

Why should we forecast for a long time such as 100 years? For the latter question, it is just a hypothetical number that we are using to make it more notable. For the 10 years part, the time we are passing, as a country, is different than any time past. On one hand, the speed of change, around the world is faster than ever. On the other, Bangladesh is thriving towards development, along with several global competitors in terms of the economic player. Hence, if we do not act fast, other competitors will take the opportunities. For example, with growing population, we will need more solutions to problems that will emerge along with. If our country does not plan in advance for those problems, foreign players will take the advantage, sell those solutions to us, eventually winning the global game.

In this piece, we are trying to share a gist of our plan to be part of the growth journey. Here, we are sharing our perspective on how Bangladesh can focus on a more inclusive growth and how we plan to engage.

 

PREDICTING BANGLADESH

THE DEMOGRAPHIC DIVIDEND

With more than 65 percent of the population falling under the working-class category, Bangladesh is said to have an increase in the demographic dividend since 2007. Over the last 10 years, this increase has massively influenced our GDP helping us to rise as a middle-income country. Although we are yet to take full potential of this window that is predicted to be closing by 2040, jobs are not enough as statistics claim. With the sluggish job creation system, the educational system has also been questioned. However, with progressing time, we see that the youth of Bangladesh are also progressing in terms of their mindset to establish their career. More jobs may not be available, but the country is definitely observing more entrepreneurs coming up with innovative ideas for their own ventures.

THE DENSITY DIVIDEND

Although known as one of the most populated countries in the world, Bangladesh’ population density indeed has a dividend. It helped us innovate solutions and spread them fast.  Having 30% of the country urbanized, the number of people living in the urban areas increased 10 folds since independence. More than 130 million people are availing mobile technology. We have one of the largest labor force in Asia, at a relatively low wage. Bangladesh can leverage this low-wage labor force to increase the manufacturing growth. According to a WDI estimation, we have the highest GDP per square mile in Asia. Alongside, the larger percentage of the population is youth which makes the opportunities brighter and more viable.

GEOGRAPHICAL ADVANTAGE

Being located closest to two global players like India and China, Bangladesh has also been able to attract the growth and enjoy the development of its neighbors. The strategic location of Bangladesh, facing the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean, has created opportunities for it to serve the cause of sea-borne trade of the entire region to its north, north-east, and north-west, which includes seven north-eastern states of India, Kunming city in China, and Chin and Rakhine states of Myanmar. According to a report from a leading daily, in 2016, Chittagong Port handled 2.346 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) of containers having 51.38 million tons (MT) of cargo and in 2015, 2.024 million TEUs of containers having more than 50 million tons of cargo. It is apprehended that there will be a three-fold rise in container traffic in the next 15 years.

Although more than 90% of the export and import business is conducted through seaports, Bangladesh does not have any deep sea port. Two main seaports Chittagong and Mongla are too shallow for large ships to dock. For this reason, many exporters and importers of Bangladesh use Singapore. Cargoes are transferred between Chittagong and Singapore ports by lighter ships. If we can tap into the opportunities by developing deep seaport facilities, we can grasp a large portion of the trade business from all around the world flowing upwards to the Southern and Western regions of China, through Asian Highway. This geographical advantage makes Bangladesh an attraction for foreign investment.

TECHNOLOGY AND INNOVATION

As a country that may have received its first computer or mobile phone 10 years after the global move towards technology, Bangladesh today has moved much ahead in catching up with the world. Launching the latest technology today, simultaneously at the same pace as the world, Bangladesh has leapfrogged towards development not only in terms of economy and finance but also in terms of innovation. With the promises of reaching the title of Digital Bangladesh and becoming a hotbed for the startup community, our country called in and established examples of both innovative and technological growth. Today, our country can call in-home services from Sheba, transport services to beat traffic with Pathao, and also, let our 7- 14 years old participate learning robotics and mechanics at The Tech Academy.

However, the lack of proper policies and planning may result in Bangladesh to lose on taking advantages of the prospects discovered and discussed. Grasping to these prospects, Bangladesh Brand Forum (BBF), now intends to contribute to the development of Bangladesh by designing the next 10 years focusing on components which affect our growth as a nation.

 

FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF BBF

REACHING THE 8 REGIONS

With the pace that we are already following, Bangladesh Brand Forum realized that it is time to put the years of learning, discussion outcomes, and data into use, in ways that benefit the entire country. Bangladesh Brand Forum in regard to growing Bangladesh has been moving towards the peripheral zones of the country for progression.

To ensure that every youth and innovator, all around the country, is reached and guided to establish their idea into a complete and sustainable project, BBF plans to launch regional innovation centers in all the 8 divisions of Bangladesh, assisting and guiding the startups and ongoing enterprises to emerge as brands that will highlight Bangladesh. To ensure each of these zones are receiving the most updated form of support, these hubs will inspire the drive of tech not only in its operations but incubate tech-driven ideas and projects which, by the end, is expected be converted into nation’s leading tech firms.

THE ROLE OF YOUTH

Almost 60 percent of the working-class category itself is youth; we may say that the youth is already running the major components of the country. In order to nurture them accordingly, prepare to lead the industries – educating them with the right skill set and proper mindset is required. To assist them to grow these, BBF has already launched BBF Center of Knowledge & Innovation that exclusively operates to introduce professional skill development workshops, training and discussions. Real-time case studies will be practiced whose solution will also be implemented in order to prepare them to face the ongoing issues around their industry. 

INVOLVING THE NRBS

The Non-Resident Bangladeshis have been conducting exemplary initiatives all over the world and it is essential to engage them in the growth process. The NRBs are often in search of avenues to engage, assist and support in the transformation journey of Bangladesh. Realizing that need, Bangladesh Brand Forum recently initiated NRB Conclave, which created a knowledge platform to assist the NRBs so that they can get connected to Bangladesh.

Bangladesh Brand Forum intends to involve the NRBs in fields according to their expertise such as Brand Management, Retail, Finance, Economics, Technology and Innovation, Communication, or even Agriculture. To ensure that they have the full engagement with their stakeholders, they will also be involved in various mentorship, discussions, and skill developments in both Dhaka centric events and regional events.

 

HOW BBF INTENDS TO DO

UNDER BBF

Business. In order to recognize the contribution of each of the most impactful sectors of the economy, over the past decade, BBF has initiated seminars, discussions, and various sessions addressing trends, problems, solutions and influence of these industries over the development of Bangladesh. BBF has engaged over 20 thousand professionals through summits on Leadership, Retail, Digital Marketing, Communication, Finance, and Innovation.

In the coming years, BBF will bring together more intensive training, discussions on Professional Skill Development, Brands, Retail, Communication, Research, Digital Marketing, Finance, Sales and more.

Youth. In 2016 and 2017, Bangladesh Brand Forum has successfully reached over 30 thousand students across the country and engaged them in ideation and leadership skills through Bangladesh YouthFest. These students also competed among themselves on innovative case studies on a national level where the winners were awarded a tour to Spikes Asia, Singapore. Upgrading the system, from this year on, BBF will digitize this platform and connect the students all around Bangladesh to a larger community of leaders.

Alongside, a completely youth-centric virtual platform is soon going to be launched. Named as YouthHub, the platform will cater to the youth of the country across various subjects. The core purpose of this platform is to spread global and local expert insights digitally, to the farthest possible part of the country.

BBF has also partnered with concerns such as Youth Professional Academy to provide the students with skills that will nurture them professionally and inbuilt the mindset of an entrepreneur. This collaboration will focus more on professionals who have been working for a couple of years.

INNOVATION CONCLAVE

Innovation Center. For taking the country to the next level, an overall societal transformation is needed. Collectively, we will have to treat this transformation as an urgency. Till date, many of the multinational companies, have appointed CEOs coming from neighboring countries, although most of the employees of those companies are Bangladeshis. Besides, a large number of critical expertise sectors are dominated by foreign individuals. This is where we have to bring in a change. We will have to increase the pool of our local talent and reducing the gap. This will be possible only if we can train our youth from all the regions of the country.

To connect the youth from 8 regions with centrally based experts and the NRBs, BBF will launch 8 Innovation Centers in 8 divisions. The prime focus of the centers will be uplifting new and innovative entrepreneurship. Including the current enterprises and universities, Innovation Center, located in each of the 8 regions will act as an incubator which will be guided by Bangladesh Innovation Conclave. This center will precisely focus on the geographical product/service of each region and the specialties of the individual location.

 

WOMEN IN LEADERSHIP (WIL)

Needless to elaborate, Women are an integral part of the entire transformation journey. To inspire the women, mostly from professional arenas, Bangladesh Brand Forum initiated WIL in the year 2014, having Prolific Visual Artist Nazia Andaleeb Preema as the President. WIL strives in empowering women to believe in themselves to achieve their goals with confidence and zeal. WIL has been publishing a Magazine targeted exclusively toward women for the last couple of years. In the coming years, WIL is going to put together numbers of initiatives as a separate social enterprise.

Connecting to SDG Context: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

In many nations, gender discrimination is still woven through legal and social norms. Keeping this in mind, WIL strives to provide the platform to empower all women from various professions and spaces. In regards to that, WIL is initiating a three-day-long fest around the International Women’s Day 2018.

The festival that will celebrate womanhood through discussing and portraying women’s success stories, challenges and opportunities, under the core theme “Owning and Visibility”. Some of the components of the fest are – Women Leadership Summit 2018, Inspiring Women Award 2018, Exhibition and Showcasing, Workshop and Training, Film Screening, Performances, and Digital Campaign Competition.

Challenges are nothing new for Bangladesh. We, as a nation, have been fighting the odds for decades. We have fought for our language, independence – made our existence notable on the map of the globe. Often termed by international media as the Next Asian Tiger, Bangladesh is sailing over an ocean of opportunities. If we can reap out the best of this, if we can stay a bit more politically stable, socially connected and mentally inspired – the sky will be just another milestone for Bangladesh.

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