Economic relations between Switzerland and Bangladesh are stronger than ever. After many years of steady growth, annual bilateral trade between the two countries reached US $680 million in 2017. This amount is almost three times that which Bangladesh and Switzerland traded in 2010. Behind the numbers, there is a growing mutual interest from both Swiss and Bangladeshi companies in looking for business partners in the other country. Many Swiss companies have been making successful direct investments in Bangladesh through local subsidiaries. Small and medium-sized Swiss businesses, which are the backbone of the Swiss economy, are gradually becoming more interested in doing business in Bangladesh.
Some of these Swiss ventures started in Bangladesh decades ago. Besides the inflow of financial capital to Bangladesh, a long history of innovation and best practices has accompanied these investments. The story of the economic success of Bangladesh is also a story of partnership with Swiss businesses.
Partnership and Knowledge Sharing
Bangladesh has attained impressive socio-economic achievements over the last decades in various sectors. The Bangladeshi private sector, besides other actors, has played a pivotal role to this end. Swiss companies have contributed to this tremendous success story. For instance, Swiss pharma investments arrived in 1973, and since then have been promoting the latest treatment solutions, collaborating with local partners and producing high quality health care products in Bangladesh. The pharma industry of Bangladesh currently meets 98 percent of local demand and continues to grow its exports each year. Produced in Bangladesh, medicines from a Swiss company are being exported to 55 countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas, creating hundreds of direct jobs.
Along the value chain from agricultural fields to the consumer table, Swiss companies enhance the competitive edge of the Bangladeshi food industry. In the city of Bogra, 200 kilometers northwest of Dhaka, the local branch of a Swiss agribusiness company keeps a state-of-the-art training facility and a dedicated Research and Development (R&D) centre to serve the market. In rural areas of Bangladesh, they are offering fertiliser solutions, essential inputs and high-tech machinery for grain storage and processing. The production of Swiss branded food and beverages in Bangladesh replaces importation and creates more than 4,300 direct and indirect jobs in the country.
Switzerland is also a world-renowned centre for engineering, chemical products, and precision machinery. This makes Swiss products essential for increasing the productivity of industries like construction, garments, oil and gas. Swiss machinery and engineering companies have invested in Bangladesh to provide services to local costumers, employing qualified professionals like engineers and proficient technicians. This creates opportunities for professionals to advance their skills by working together. The information technology sector is another example of a Swiss economic engagement with Bangladesh, which fosters innovation and ideas.
Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainable Development
By addressing the long-term sustainability of global and local economies, corporate social responsibility (CSR) is key to creating value, not only for shareholders, but also for society. Swiss companies are among the organisations championing CSR in Bangladesh. The biggest Swiss investors are taking the opportunity to link core business activities with social action. One example is a Swiss food company that joined efforts with local NGOs to offer training on farming techniques, thus developing local suppliers for high quality rice, honey, and spices. Social projects backed by Swiss ventures in Bangladesh also support children's education and nutrition, and facilitate the access of health workers to rural areas and raise awareness of environmental issues, among many other initiatives.
Different Swiss companies are venturing into various sectors of the Bangladeshi economy. The impact of these investments runs deep and generates long-term gains, such as an increasing diversity in the business environment and higher local quality standards. Successful cooperation has already brought great benefits.