In a conversation, Md Omar Mostafiz, Programme Manager, Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF Bangladesh), explicates the importance of e-Commerce in ensuring adequate employment and individual freedom and how FNF Bangladesh is helping the sector in achieving sustainable growth.
In what ways will a strong e-commerce sector help in Bangladesh’s socio-economic development?
We are a country of more than one hundred and sixty million people with a very high youth unemployment rate. The e-Commerce sector can help foster the growth of MSME (Micro Small and Medium Enterprises) and develop new entrepreneurs and start-ups. It will create a lot of employment opportunities and alternative revenue streams for the youth. When traditional business was struggling during the pandemic, e-Commerce became a lifeline for people living in cities across the country. The easy transition process of doing business online helped many and kept the Bangladesh economy running during the lockdown period. It can be emulated at a larger scale with investment and infrastructural development.
Despite the considerable growth of the ICT sector over the last decade, what factors have held back the e-commerce sector? How does FNF Bangladesh plan to help the sector in addressing these challenges?
The local e-Commerce sector has been riddled with numerous problems such as unregulated growth, lack of adequate policies, cross-border issues, and inadequate distribution channels.
We are working with the e-Commerce Association of Bangladesh (e-CAB) on a policy level. The first e-Commerce Policy, also known as “Digital Commerce Policy,’ was developed at the end of 2018, and it requires regular updates and improvements to cater to challenges. FNF South Asia regional office is also working with the SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI) to improve cross border issues in South Asia. FNF Bangladesh has also conducted several dialogues and conferences on the regulatory framework and distribution channels for the e-Commerce sector.
FNF Bangladesh has previously arranged multiple workshops aiming to assist the e-commerce sector. Can you please share some details on them?
We have been working on the e-Commerce sector with quite a few local partners, including the Federation of Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI), Daffodil International University (DIU), and most recently, the e-Commerce Association of Bangladesh (e-CAB).
With FBCCI, we conducted quite a few training sessions on e-Commerce and Online Business for their directors and members. We also published a research report on e-Commerce in Bangladesh at the end of 2017.
Our regional office, FNF South Asia, in partnership with SCCI, published a regional paper on Cross Border issues of e-Commerce in South Asia at the beginning of 2019.
With DIU, we conducted several workshops on various topics and themes of e-Commerce for their students. We are currently working on developing a 3-credit university course on e-Commerce, which will be offered to students from mid-2021 and later to other universities.
With e-CAB, we first worked on an e-Commerce Policy called “Digital Commerce Policy” in 2018. We organized country-wide seminars at eight divisions of Bangladesh to promote e-Commerce in rural areas. We have also conducted week-long e-Commerce Training called “Business to e-Business” in Dhaka, Chottogram, and online. We are currently working on an e-Commerce book (training module), which will be available both in print version and downloadable PDF version.
Can the e-commerce sector be used to empower and mobilize the MSME(s) across Bangladesh? How can FNF Bangladesh make the sector (e-commerce) more inclusive towards the MSME(s)?
Of course! We have already seen e-Commerce becoming an essential part of our lives during the countrywide lockdown. It also paved the way for small businesses across the country to reach customers and, in turn, generate considerable revenue.
Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF), as a liberal foundation, values individual freedom above all. We are supporting our partner organizations working in the e-Commerce sector to help the MSMEs learn and achieve sustainable growth.
The ideal atmosphere for MSMEs will be a free-market economy. We are working for a better regulatory environment to achieve sustainable growth in the e-Commerce sector by including MSMEs.