Speakers: African continent has huge investment opportunities

Speakers at a webinar on Saturday said that the African continent has huge investment opportunities, but the trade share of Bangladesh with that continent is remarkably very low due to lack of PTA/FTA, tariff, non-tariff barriers and infrastructures.

The speakers came up with the view at a webinar on "Trade & Investment Cooperation of Africa and Bangladesh: Towards a new Trajectory" held on the 5th day of Bangladesh Trade & Investment Summit 2021 organized by the Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI), said a press release.

Speaking on the occasion as the chief guest, Planning Minister MA Mannan said that opportunities for the Bangladeshis are also there as well since there is a win-win chance of trade. 

"The private sector needs to be aggressive to invest both at home and abroad. Food processing and agriculture have good prospects there. We have to grab the market," he added. 

Mentioning that the Bangladeshi entrepreneurs are now entering the African market, Mannan suggested investing more in that region.

Special guest of the webinar AHM Ahsan, Vice Chairman and CEO, Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) said African trade with the rest of the world in 2020 was $888 billion accounting for only three percent of total global trade. 

He said in the last year, the intra-African trade volume was $133 billion which is heavily influenced by the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA). 

"Our trade with Africa is significantly low compared to other regions. Bangladesh exports only to 5-6 countries of Africa. Their high import tariff is an obstacle to increasing export. But, the services sector is a potential sector for investment," he said.

DCCI President Rizwan Rahman in his presentation said that the bilateral trade is about $1.5 billion between Bangladesh and Africa having a positive trade balance for Bangladesh while the export trade of Bangladesh to Africa accounts for 1.02% of the country's total export. 

"The African investment in Bangladesh was recorded only $306 million. Bangladesh may invest in the manufacturing and agricultural sectors of some African countries. Bangladeshi investors can invest in African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and can expand export to the US market for strategic market sustenance." He added.

Md Tarikul Islam, DG Africa Wing, Ministry of Foreign Affairs said African investment to Bangladesh is not remarkable due to their restrictions over foreign investment. "But textiles, pharmaceuticals, footwear, RMG, leather, paper and pulp, ship breaking and agriculture are some of the sectors where they can invest. Visa process for African investors will be eased," he informed.

Abdus Samad Al Azad, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Commerce said that there is a huge opportunity for outward investment from Africa. "We need to work more to sign FTA or PTA with the African countries," he added.

Muhammad Zahangir Alam, Director, Square Pharmaceuticals Ltd and M Mosaddek Hossain, Managing Director, UniMed UniHealth Pharmaceuticals Ltd also spoke at the webinar.

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