State Minister for Information and Communication Zunaid Ahmed Palak has said micro, small and medium merchants will lead in building a digital economy in the implementation of the vision of 2041.
He was addressing a conference titled "Leaving No Micro Merchants Behind in the Digital Era in Bangladesh" at a city hotel, on Tuesday – to showcase the work and learning gained from the Merchants Development Driving Rural Markets (MDDRM) Initiative.
The ICT state minister said, "Small and medium merchants are not getting support from financial institutions. It will be easier for them to get loans if they have transactions on digital platforms for the last year."
Mentioning that modern technologies will be facilitated for small and medium merchants in future, the state minister said, "In the meantime, we are providing financial benefits to merchants through startups."
"The government is working so that they can get loan facilities from financial institutions without collateral," he added.
The state minister said Startup Bangladesh is training them with financial benefits. The ICT Division and the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) will work together to develop small and medium merchants in the future.
Facilitated by UNCDF, the daylong conference was arranged in collaboration with its consortium partners – DNet, BDMS and FBCCI – and GIFT as the knowledge and communications partners as well as Asiatic as the event partner.
Industries Secretary M A Azam was the specialist, while Maurizio Cian, Head of Cooperation of the Delegation of the European Union to Bangladesh and Sudipto Mukherjee, Residence Representative, UNDP Bangladesh, were the guests of honour.
The conference was moderated by Maria Perdomo Regional Manager, Digital Hub for Asia, Inclusive Digital Economies, UNCDF.
Underscoring the need for an inclusive economy for micro merchants, the speakers at the conference said the next steps for policymakers and private sector stakeholders is to build upon this trend of accelerated digitalisation to support this endeavor.
Supporting the initiative, UNCDF has been running the MDDRM since 2017 and has reached out to two million retail micro-merchants in Bangladesh, they added.
As per the latest Oxfam report, the top 1% of the population has more wealth than the bottom 6.9 billion people. The root causes of such inequality and exclusion are the lack of equal economic opportunity for people at the bottom of the pyramid of small merchants, farmers and entrepreneurs, the speakers said.
Fortunately, in the past few years, digital technologies have helped level the playing field by providing never-before empowerment to the micro-merchants and retailers at the bottom of the pyramid, they added.
The speakers also said there are major constraints that need to be addressed, such as: gender participation in retail businesses, digital use cases that address both the financial and non-financial needs of enterprises, supply chain integration with larger companies, policy initiatives towards formalisation, and how to help micro merchants to recover from the pandemic.