Over the last few years, there has been an ongoing discussion in Bangladesh on how to diversify the economy from simply relying on the RMG-sector, and how to increase the economic growth as a country expected to graduate from least developed countries (LDC) category in 2024.
The Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in Bangladesh have a great potential for success, but they lack support and possibilities to fully be able to take advantage of their possibilities.
Thus, in July 2019 a group of 14 experts, with representatives from the SME Foundation, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, trade unions, businesses, business associations, IT, media and civil society organization went to Stuttgart, Germany, for an exchange visit to look at the German system for supporting SMEs. They were rewarded with many insightful exchanges, and the most interesting conversations revolved around lessons that could be learned in Bangladesh from the German dual vocational training system.
During the exchange visit, some study trips were organised to meet with SME entrepreneurs, workers council, business associations, local government, CSO as well as to observe working line and safety measures in the SME factories. These key stakeholders shared their views on how they work to promote and expand SMEs. Further, a workshop titled “Small and medium enterprises as motor for economic development and decent work” was organised in close cooperation of the Stuttgart Office of FES (Fritz-Erler-Forum, Baden- Württemberg, Stuttgart).
From the experiences gained, several important factors that can be of use in Bangladesh caught the attention of the Bangladeshi participants and were discussed vividly within the group. These factors included the German’s not-for-profit oriented local banking system, the dual vocational training system (a combination of practical and theoretical education), the high social capital of strong employers’ associations and of trade unions (bargaining effectively within a highly institutionalised framework), government support to SME clusters and a large government-owned development bank.
The Bangladeshi delegation members were participatory, open-minded and enthusiastic to gain new knowledge. They will use the experiences gained to further continue their work to promote SMEs in Bangladesh.
Mr. Dr. Joachim Hauser, Head of department, from the Ministry for Economics, Baden-Württemberg, during the Small and Medium Enterprises (“Mittelstand”) seminar. He made a presentation on the success stories (e.g. vibrant and highly contributing to the economy) and challenges (e.g. lack of IT skilled people) of SMEs in the state and their regular communication with SME actors for the betterment of industries.
A Public Dialogue on small and medium enterprises as a motor of economic and social development was organized. In the photo (from left to right): Mr. Andreas Stoch, ( SPD in Baden-Württemberg and former regional minister for education, Mr. Martin Sambeth, Secretary of Collective Bargaining, IG Metall Bezirk Baden-Württemberg, Mrs. Christina Alff, consultant Oiko-credit, trainer (Moderator), Mr. Salahuddin Mahmud, Additional Secretary, GOB & Member, Board of Directors, SME Foundation, Bangladesh, Ms. Kalpona Akter, Trade Union Activist and Executive Director of an NGO supporting labour rights.
Visit at Wizemann Space. Wizemann Space offers Co-Working Space, and functions as an Idea and Innovation Lab as well as a Social Impact Community. They also support development process of the state and realize visions for a responsible economy. This is their platform in Stuttgart for creative and entrepreneurial action towards a better world. Wizemann space offer co-working-space for entrepreneurs, innovators, companies which do not have the possibility to rent a bigger office space.
Visit at the Employers Association in Baden-Württemberg to gain an employer’s perspective on the potentials and challenges of small and medium enterprises.
Visit at Digel AG, a local enterprise with a global network for the men’s wear concept. The company’s work council made a presentation.
Visit at “WALA Heilmittel GmbH” (WALA Medicine), a producer of organic medicines and cosmetics. Mr. Dr. Johannes Stellmann, Executive Director, made a presentation on the profile and products of the enterprise. After discussion, we had a quick look into the laboratories of Wala Medicine.
And an informal roundtable was organized with a German Delegation ahead of their visit to Bangladesh in September 2019 on “Fair Clothing – fair work.” The delegation members were enthusiastic to know more about FES Bangladesh, our visit in Germany, and the Bangladeshi RMG sector.
Mr. Shahidul Islam Chowdhury, Special Correspondent of New Age, held a presentation called “Bangladesh Now: Get the Narrative Now”, highlighting the potential for investment in other sectors than the RMG. Ms. Tina Blohm, Resident Representative of FES Bangladesh and Ms Anja Dargatz, Resident Representative of FES Stuttgart were on the panel.
The Bangladeshi Delegation met with Mrs. Gabriele Katzmarek in an informal setting. She is a Member of the Federal Parliament of Germany, a Member of the Economic Commission, and a Deputy Head of the Parliamentary Group of the states of South Asia.
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