The government will set up three technology centres as part of a project on facilitating export diversification.
Two of those will be set up in Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Shilpa Nagar in Chattogram's Mirsarai area, and the third will be a hi-tech park in the Kaliakair area of Gazipur.
To this end, the commerce ministry on Tuesday inked a deal with the Bangladesh Economic Zones Authority (Beza) and the Bangladesh Hi-Tech Park Authority. Commerce Secretary Md Jafar Uddin presided over the programme.
As part of the Export Competitiveness for Jobs (EC4J) project, a design and technology centre will also be set up. The project involves export diversification of leather and leather goods, light engineering products, footwear, and plastic products.
Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi told the programme that export diversification should be emphasised to reduce dependency on apparel exports.
He said the project will ensure quality and diversification of products in line with customers' demands.
"This will increase export earnings and create jobs."
There have been discussions on export diversification for more than a decade, but the ultimate goal could not be realised. Readymade garment still accounts for 85 percent of the country's total export earnings.
In recent years, the number of export products has increased but none of those could hit the $1 billion milestone in earnings.
Officials said the six-year, $119 million EC4J project began in 2017.
The technology centres in Kaliakair and Mirsarai will be set up on 4.04 acres and 10 acres of land respectively. Diversification of plastic and light engineering products will be carried out there.
Meanwhile, officials are looking for land in Gazipur's Kashimpur and Munshiganj areas to set up the third technology centre, and the design and technology centre. Those are for diversification of leather goods and footwear.
Private Industry and Investment Adviser to the prime minister Salman F Rahman said Bangladesh could not succeed in export diversification because it is not emphasising required training and development.
"Bangladesh's export basket has seen an increase in the number of products, but their export volumes have not risen. This is why product diversification should be stressed by implementing the project as soon as possible," he said.
Minister of State for Information and Communication Technology Zunaid Ahmed Palak said five high-tech parks in the country are ready to receive investment, and five more are under construction.
He said more than 20 lakh refrigerators are sold in the country every year, and there is scope for investment in the electronics industry, including hardware.
ICT Division Senior Secretary NM Zeaul Alam, Beza Executive Chairman Paban Chowdhury, Bangladesh Hi-Tech Park Authority Managing Director (Secretary) Hosne Ara Begum, and EC4J Project Director Md Obaidul Azam were present at the programme.