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Grab your slice first

Big opportunity for foreign investors in pharma, circular economy ventures
Kamrul Hasan with Arifur Rahaman Tuhin
14 Mar 2023 00:00:00 | Update: 14 Mar 2023 00:04:36
Grab your slice first

Bangladesh – backed by low cost of business, excellent infrastructure and government policy support – can become the next destination for pharmaceuticals and circular economy ventures, and the country is ready to receive foreign investments in this regard.

The businesses are also committed to reducing carbon emissions and ensuring sustainability by setting up more green manufacturing factories – for which Bangladesh is already a role model in the world, and global brands too are keeping their eyes on the country.

Industry leaders and experts made the remarks during panel discussions at the final day of Bangladesh Business Summit 2023, held at the Bangabandhu International Conference Center (BICC) on Monday.

Many foreign and local exporters, businesses, government officials, and rights activists expressed their opinions in the summit.

Commenting on the issue, former Inter-Parliamentary Union President Saber Hossain Chowdhury said, “There is a strong political and government support to invest in Bangladesh. We need foreign partners, investments and the latest technology.

“We are ready to receive investments. So, invest in Bangladesh before other investors come.”

According to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS), the country has a population of 170 million – the 8th largest population in the world, $465 billion economy – which is the 32nd largest globally, and a 6.6 per cent 10-year CAGR of Real GDP growth.

Bangladesh is a gateway to India and China, while connecting regionally important new markets such as Bhutan, Nepal and Myanmar. It can provide access to 2.9 billion consumers who are spending more than $8.53 trillion annually.

Besides, the country is setting up 100 specialised economic zones, where investors will enjoy special tax rates, as well as low duty for capital machinery imports.

Experts and business leaders said if foreigners invest in Bangladesh, they will be able to capture a big market with relatively cheaper business costs. These facilities are available only in Bangladesh.

Opportunities in pharma industry

Bangladesh had exported pharmaceutical products worth $188.78 million in FY22.

It should be noted that the world imported pharma products worth $350 billion in 2018, and the Bangladesh Association of Pharmaceutical Industries (BAPI) claimed that the figure reached nearly $400 billion in 2022.

The association added that in FY22, the global branded generic medicine market size was $311 billion, and pure generic was $154 billion. Besides, the global spending on medicines reached just under $1.3 trillion by 2019.

With a 4 per cent – 5 per cent annual growth, global spending on medicine is expected to exceed $1.5 trillion by 2023.

The apex body claimed that Bangladesh is currently consuming nearly all pharmaceutical products worth $3.82 billion annually, which will rise to $6.68 billion in 2027. The country also imports medical equipment worth nearly $450 million annually.

Beximco Pharmaceuticals Managing Director Nazmul Hassan Papon said “Bangladesh is one of the cheapest sources of quality medicine in the world. Unlike India, both the white and blue collar labour is still cheap in Bangladesh.

“And since our industry is gas-based, our power cost is one third compared to the companies in India.”

At the programme, industry insiders pointed out that Bangladesh is becoming a major global hub for high quality, low cost generic medicines. The country wants to capture 1 per cent of the global generic market, which will help earn $4 billion from the world market.

They added that products worth $150 billion are going to be off-patent by 2030, and whenever a patent expires, investors tend to outsource those for a cheaper production rate.

Global medicine company GSK, who started outsourcing from Singapore, recently mentioned that Bangladesh produces medicine at a 40 per cent – 50 per cent cheaper rate compared to Singapore.

Chairman and Managing Director of Incepta Pharmaceuticals Abdul Muktadir said, “Making high quality products at low costs is Bangladesh’s key advantage in the global market.

“The country has a well-established oral medicine production industry and the future of this sector lies on Biosimilar products, vaccines, active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) and global generic exports.”

Managing Director and Country President of Novartis (Bangladesh) Ltd Riad Mamun Prodhani said the trend in pharma industry development is changing fast and the future of this industry lies in partnership [with multinational companies].

Echoing the same, Vice President and General Manager of Novo Nordisk Bangladesh Rajarshi Dey Sarkar said, “The collaboration will bring newer technologies and manufacturing opportunities to the local industries.

“We must also focus on research and development for the future benefit of this rising industry.”

Bangladesh can have the biggest circular economy

According to the media reports, an estimated 92 million tonnes of textiles waste is created each year globally, which will rise to 134 million tonnes by 2030. The equivalent to a rubbish truck full of clothes ends up in landfill sites every second.

A recent European Parliament report mentions that textile production is estimated to be responsible for around 20 per cent of global clean water pollution from dyeing and finishing products. The sector is behind 10 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Moreover, washing synthetics releases an estimated 0.5 million tonnes of microfibres into the ocean a year, and laundering synthetic clothes accounts for 35 per cent of primary microplastics released into the environment.

Amid the situation, the European Commission has launched a dedicated study, proposing mandatory targets for preparing for re-use and recycling of textile waste as part of the review of the EU waste legislation foreseen for 2024.

Business leaders and government officials said Bangladesh is committed to ensuring sustainable and zero carbon apparel manufacturing, and this is why the country is ready to recycle waste clothes.

Beximco Textile CEO and Group Director Syed Naved Hussain said, “We are using high-tech machinery to recycle cloth scraps, because we are aware of the environmental impacts. We are ready to manufacture recycled goods.

“At the end of the year, Bangladesh will have the biggest recycling industry.”

Panelists have pointed out that Bangladesh is ahead compared to other countries in terms of circular economy and this is why it is the best place for investment in this particular sector.

They added that as Bangladesh is becoming the next major apparel sourcing hub, and investments made in the textile recycling industry will be more secured here.

Principal Coordinator of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the Prime Minister’s Office Zuena Aziz said, “We will set up more circular textile factories in Bangladesh, and we are focusing on green apparel manufacturing as well.

“The government is determined to meet the SDGs regarding environmental issues.”

Faisal Rabbi, Stakeholder Engagement and Public Affairs Manager H&M Group said, “Recycled materials and decarbonisation will be crucial for the RMG sector, as it is likely that it will soon become requirements for market access in the European Union.

“The RMG sector needs access to renewable energy and conducive policy for textile waste recycling, including incentives, to sustain its