Bangladesh's exports crossed $50 billion for the first time ever in July-June 2021-2022, confirmed the export data of the country's Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) of the outgoing fiscal released Monday.
With this $50 billion export milestone, Bangladesh becomes one of the world's top 20 exporting countries (keeping the countries which export oil out of this consideration).
The industry which contributed the largest chunk to this milestone is none other than the readymade garment (RMG) industry. Among the $52 billion export Bangladesh fetched in the last fiscal, RMG accounts for $42 billion.
Indeed this is a time for celebration for all the apparel entrepreneurs of Bangladesh.
The RMG industry which emerged as a small non-traditional sector of export in the late 80s gradually became crucial to our economy as the main source of export earnings and employment generation. Now, over 81% of the country's total export comes from this single sector.
Braving all limitations and obstacles, the RMG sector has become the second largest exporter of garment products in the world within three decades. The contribution of industry to the GDP of the country is around 14 percent.
The sector has created employment for around 4 million people and lifted them from the abyss of poverty. The sector has played an outstanding role in poverty alleviation by creating employment opportunities for the poor.
Another significant contribution of the RMG industry to socio-economic change in the country has been towards women's empowerment. About 65 percent of workers in our industry are female.
Most of these women have mainly come from rural areas and have little to no education. Their employment chances in any formal sector would have been impossible, had it not been for the readymade garment industry in Bangladesh.
Our women RMG workers, who were once treated like burdens on their families, have become assets through their financial contribution. This financial capacity has made them self-reliant and has given them a dignified life.
We believe that the RMG sector will continue to contribute in transforming Bangladesh into a developed country. To this end, Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) has set the target of reaching $100 billion apparel export by 2030.
This means it will have an all pervasive impact on the overall socio-economic development of the country. The sector will create employment for 6 million people in its pursuit to produce apparel worth $100 billion in the year 2030.
This also means that the sector's stake in the country's GDP will also be higher.
Most importantly, BGMEA envisions achieving the $100 billion export target in a sustainable manner. The apex trade body of the country's apparel manufacturers has planned to significantly contribute to each of the 17 SDGs while achieving the century mark in export.
The BGMEA has set the target to ensure reduction of energy consumption of the industry by 30 percent, reduction of GHG emissions by 30 percent and reduction of blue water footprint by 50 percent within 2030.
The trade body also aims to ensure that 20 percent of energy in the industry comes from renewable sources.
By 2030, BGMEA hopes to achieve 100 percent gender equality, inclusive and dignified employment for all, and also ensure proper well being of workers. The trade group also wants 80 percent of all clothing factories in the nation that produce for export to be green.
The targets seem over ambitious, but not impossible to achieve. Riding on 40 years of experience and the confidence gained from our $50 billion export milestone, the industry is ready to embark on the $100 billion journey.
To achieve this milestone it is crucial to harness the spirit of working together. If there is a synergy of work between all the stakeholders of Bangladesh apparel industry, the journey will be indubitably successful.
Abdullah Hil Rakib is the Managing Director of Team Group. He is also a Director of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA).
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of The Business Standard.