2021 is a momentous year for Bangladesh, the Republic of Korea and the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA). KOICA is celebrating its 30th anniversary to further deepen the existing bilateral ties between the Republic of Korea and Bangladesh for LDC Graduation, while the Republic of Korea is observing its historic membership with the United Nations. At the same time, Bangladesh is celebrating her golden jubilee of independence and also the birth centenary of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman - two milestones of the country.
KOICA was established on April 1, 1991, as a government-funded agency dedicated to grant aid programs. It endeavours to combat poverty and support sustainable socio-economic growth of partner countries. By doing so, it establishes and strengthens friendly ties with developing countries.
KOICA started its journey in Bangladesh in 1993 with a mission to catalyse socio-economic development for the people of Bangladesh. Moreover, KOICA Bangladesh implements development projects with the Government of Bangladesh (GoB), UN Agencies and NGOs, and arranges capacity building invitational training programs for government officials and dispatches World Friends Korea (WFK) volunteers for accelerating local development.
A glimpse at KOICA's Global Development Programs
KOICA is operating in nearly 50 countries and it accounts for 62% of the total national grant aid budget. This shows KOICA's irreplaceable position in Korea's development cooperation landscape. KOICA has gone from an agency with an annual budget that has been increased by 5,614% over 30 years. It started with just 17.4 billion KRW (US$15.3 million) grant aid in 1991 and has become Korea's premier grant aid agency that executes a total of 972 billion KRW (US$859 million) in 2021.
This substantial increase in budget reflects the Korean government's firm commitment to contributing to the international community with its accession to the formal membership of the OECD DAC in 2010 [Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)]. KOICA's budget is forecasted to register steady growth as Korea raises its ODA/GNI ratio to the level of the OECD DAC average [Official development assistance (ODA) is defined as government aid designed to promote the economic development and welfare of developing countries]. Korea has the highest annual growth rate of ODA among OECD member countries in recent years.
Main development programmes of KOICA Bangladesh
Since KOICA's establishment in Bangladesh, the organisation has contributed a total of US$164 million, of which the Health sector accounted for a maximum of 30% of the total budget, followed by Education (29%), Governance (17%) and Science, Technology and Innovation (11%). The organisation is currently implementing over 20 development projects in the following priority sectors under its Country Plan (CP) with approximately US$20 million grants per annum.
KOICA's successful projects are aligned with its Country Plan (CP) focusing on three specific programs, which are as follows:
Enhance the efficiency of public service by establishing the digital public system
In this programme, KOICA is supporting the ICT Division for developing an e-Government master plan in achieving Digital Bangladesh along with launching the digital municipality service system. The organisation has also strengthened the digital investigation capabilities of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of Bangladesh Police to effectively combat emerging cybercrime and conventional crimes all over Bangladesh.
Furthermore, KOICA is supporting the Department of Narcotics Control (DNC) and Bangladesh Fire Service and Civil Defence (FSCD) for developing IT-based management and reengineering their business process. It has established a Narcotics Information Management System (NIMS) for the DNC which covers narcotics court case management, narcotics licensing management, narcotics sample analysis management, operation management and drug-addicted patients' management. NIMS will address many challenges that the narcotics department is currently facing, which ultimately prevent narcotic-proliferation in Bangladesh by enhancing the national capacity for drug control.
For FSCD, KOICA is creating a state-of-the-art digital Emergency Response Control Center (ERCC) which is capable of extracting real-time location data and information of the disaster for immediate response and rescue. Moreover, the organisation has established a data centre & web portal system for BRTA - the first digital vehicle inspection centre - to manage all types of resources in an organised, effective and efficient way and provide one-stop, fast and accurate services to the people of Bangladesh.
In addition, the KOICA is supporting the Roads & Highways Department (RHD) to improve safety in its national highway corridors by introducing Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) that will reduce traffic congestion on the highway.
Enhance public health by providing quality health and medical services
Under this program, KOICA has undertaken bilateral, multilateral and NGO collaborated projects. The agency is working with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoH&FW) for establishing Eye Health Care Units and improving maternal and child health.
KOICA has established the National Institute of Advanced Nursing Education - the first MSc course in Nursing - for supporting the national initiative of the Government of Bangladesh to enhance the teaching capacity of nurse teachers.
Furthermore, it has established Korea-Bangladesh Friendship Hospital in Savar, which is providing health services to the pro-poor. In addition, KOICA supports UNICEF and Save the Children for delivering maternal/newborn health and family planning services. A total of over 3 million population received maternal and child health support.
KOICA has also assisted MoH&FW to combat the COVID-19 pandemic by contributing with PCR/RNA test kits, RNA machines, walk-through booths, emergency medical supplies, food packages to vulnerable communities, etc.
Develop skilful human resource for sustainable development
In this program, KOICA is working with the Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training (BMET) under the Ministry of Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment (MoEWOE) to support the national initiative of the government of Bangladesh to strengthen the capacity of Technical Training Centers (TTC) by increasing the quality of vocational education across the country.
KOICA has already modernised TTCs in Dhaka, Chattogram and Rajshahi to produce highly skilled manpower to meet the increasing demand of both local and overseas job markets. The organisation is also improving the capacity of TTC teachers by establishing the Teacher Training Centers to promote demand-driven and competency-based skill training, which ultimately enhances the opportunity of employment for the graduates.
KOICA has also established 100 IT labs in secondary schools in Dhaka district to strengthen ICT capacity for computer teachers and provide learning opportunities for students on basic computer literacy and ICT education. Finally, KOICA is collaborating with the University of Dhaka to promote creative youth entrepreneurship in Bangladesh.
Along with the programmatic support, over 2,300 government officials attended training and Master's programmes in Korea to share important technical skills and knowledge as well as to build capacities for sustainable socio-economic development. Again, more than 600 WFK volunteers are deployed in Bangladesh who contribute to nursing, social welfare, agriculture, etc.
KOICA is committed to assist the Government of Bangladesh to accomplish its 8th Five Year Plan (2021-2025), achieve Sustainable Development Goals and graduate smoothly from Least Developed Countries (LDC) by 2026.
Furthermore, KOICA is focused on three main themes: (a) Green New Deal: emphasising on the transition to a low carbon economy; (b) Digitalisation: emphasising to resolve the digital divide among regions having access to technology; and (c) Integrated Official Assistance: emphasising to solve fundamental problems together instead of standalone projects.
Ms Young-Ah Doh is the Country Director of KOICA Bangladesh Office