Eighty percent of Bangladesh’s population is under the age of 40, and while Bangladesh has led the way in reducing poverty and improving health, its hopes of becoming the next "Asian Tiger" rest squarely on its ability to meet the aspirations of its young people, and its commitment to mentoring and promoting its rising generation of leaders and innovators.
On February 23, Deputy Assistant Secretary for South Asia Atul Keshap helped do just that when he and Ambassador Dan Mozena met with fifty of Bangladesh’s most promising young leaders at the Edward M. Kennedy Center for Public Service and the Arts (the EMK Center) in Dhaka.
DAS Keshap and Ambassador Mozena addressed participants in a three-day workshop focused on leadership, problem solving, teamwork, and preparation for the professional job market for university students from across Bangladesh led by the Bangladesh Youth Leadership Center (BYLC) through a public diplomacy grant. DAS Keshap and Ambassador Mozena fielded questions from an eager audience, shared humorous anecdotes illustrating their leadership lessons, and emphasized the importance of finding and excelling in a career that matters; a career that will impact lives and help build the Bangladesh to which they all aspire.
The visitors also met with participants in the first-ever EMK Entrepreneurship Initiative. With $100,000 from the State Department, the EMK Center has awarded four grants to local partners including the Bangladesh Brand Forum, The Preneurs, the Jaago Foundation, and Shetu (Bridge), to develop Bangladesh’s entrepreneurship ecosystem. The projects will provide capacity building, mentoring and networking opportunities for startups, create employment opportunities for women living in slum communities, nurture Bangladesh’s tech startup community, and connect entrepreneurs with mentors from the Bangladeshi-American diaspora via an online platform.
Since its opening in late 2012, the EMK Center, a hybrid American Space, has become a hub for innovation, creativity, and networking for young entrepreneurs and leaders. In its first 18 months, it has connected more than 60,000 people through 1,000 programs.
About the Author: Bilal Faruqi serves as the Cultural Affairs Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Dhaka, Bangladesh.