Building Bridges Between Bangladeshi Americans and Dhaka's Dynamic Business and Civil Society Sector

Posted by Mitul Desai
April 28, 2011
Bangladeshi People Celebrate Bangla New Year in Dhaka

I went to Dhaka recently to view first-hand the exciting changes underway in Bangladesh's private sector and civil society. Also, as someone with a portfolio uniquely focused on leveraging private sector and diaspora resources to promote bilateral relations and development in South and Central Asia, I went to see whether there were opportunities to further catalyze linkages between Bangladesh and its diaspora community in the United States. The answer during my four-day visit was a resounding yes. In meetings with everyone from development giant BRAC and microcredit pioneer Grameen to entrepreneurs and thought leaders, I heard great enthusiasm for leveraging stronger relations with the diaspora, particularly to promote entrepreneurship and development in Bangladesh. Bangladeshi-Americans have the skills and expertise that can help boost the Bangladeshi economy, including in areas like information technology and pharmaceuticals. Not only can the Bangladeshi diaspora help through mentoring, teaching, and investment in Bangladesh, it can also serve as country ambassadors abroad, thus catalyzing even greater interest in Bangladesh.

In addition to world-class organizations like BRAC, one mechanism through which to build stronger diaspora and private sector linkages is the Bangladesh Brand Forum, which is a collection of experienced local business leaders and academics that runs a knowledge center and organizes conferences around the world focused on increasing the awareness of Bangladesh as an attractive destination for trade, investment, and culture.

A variety of other Bangladeshi organizations also offer strong opportunities for partnering with the diaspora. BRAC University's new Centre for Entrepreneurship Development will train students and BRAC lenders on basic business management, strategy, and finance to promote a more robust entrepreneurial ecosystem. And the Bangladesh Enterprise Institute is working to improve the business environment and move Bangladesh toward the global marketplace. Through an innovative floating hospital, Friendship is devoted to providing healthcare to the most inaccessible and hard to reach areas of Bangladesh. These and other efforts made it clear that Bangladeshi civil society and business leaders are working hard to elevate their country's place on the world stage.

My conversations in Bangladesh made it clear that the opportunities there are greater than ever, and that now is the time to turn those opportunities into action. With a strong civil society, an emerging middle class, solid telecommunications resources, and an increase in members of the Bangladeshi diaspora returning from abroad, Bangladesh possesses many key elements for a continued positive growth trajectory. Bangladesh's businesses, entrepreneurs, and NGOs are ready to have a stronger voice in the global arena, and with a little help from their friends in the diaspora, we can expect to hear more from this dynamic country in the years to come. A lot more.

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