The Bangladesh government and entrepreneurs need to attract foreign direct investment (FDI) from Germany, capitalising on the European giant's possible economic rebound from pandemic shocks by 2022, experts said.
Global trade has bounced back but exports are still below pre-Covid-19 levels. Bangladesh is likely to be an outperformer in the Asian region. A good number of companies in China have shifted their manufacturing units to Bangladesh, they said at a webinar on Wednesday.
The Bangladesh-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry organised the virtual discussion titled "Prospect or Problem? Post Covid Economic Relations between Bangladesh & Germany" as part of celebrating "Mujib Borsho".
Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi as the chief guest said Bangladesh welcomes German business ventures to set up factories in the special economic zones.
At the event, a keynote titled "2021 Outlook: The Road to Redemption" was presented jointly by Christine Jordan, head of Structured Export Finance at Standard Chartered Bank AG, Anubhuti Sahay, head of South Asia Economics Research at Standard Chartered Singapore and Miroslaw Panek, head of Structured Finance at Oerlikon Textile GmbH & Co.
Jan Moritz, managing director of Julius Hüpeden, said, the Covid pandemic affected consumers' buying behaviour, resulting in a significant downtrend in the readymade garment (RMG) turnover.
About 85% of Bangladesh's GDP relies on the RMG sector, which makes this sector the backbone of the country.
Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan, Bangladesh ambassador in Germany, said Germany is the largest export destination of Bangladesh in Europe.
He mentioned a German garment manufacturing company, UBF's allotment of land at Adamjee EPZ to set up a factory by the facilitation of the Bangladesh Embassy in Germany.
There is immense opportunity to grow business between the two countries, he said.
Prof Mustafizur Rahman, distinguished fellow of the Centre for Policy Dialogue, said at the event, the German economy is set to rebound in 2021 and 2022. Bangladesh will see a rise in exports to Germany.
He also said there is a huge opportunity to increase the German investment in Bangladesh through ensuring proper use of preferential access that Bangladesh enjoys in the European Union market.
Setting up country-specific economic zones in Bangladesh will help increase the inflow of FDI, he added.
Dr Rubana Huq, president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), said Germany is the only country where Bangladesh's export post-June 2020 grew and the majority of the export was based on man-made fibre-based products.
She expects German companies to invest in the manmade fibres business as this sector is growing rapidly.
She also identified the polyester staple fibre and light engineering as promising sectors in Bangladesh and urged the German entrepreneurs to invest in these sectors.
Syed Nasim Manzur, managing director of Apex Group, said lower domestic demand of Germany affected people's buying behaviours in other countries of Europe.
Javed Ahmad, chief executive officer (CEO) of APROSOFT Boston, said digitalisation in Bangladesh is not fast enough and there is huge scope for German investors to invest in the Bangladesh IT sector as this sector is thriving.