Country’s entrepreneurs will get grants for manufacturing COVID-19 protective equipment to tap the huge potentials of local and international markets under the COVID-19 Enterprise Response Fund (CERF) which was formally launched today by the government.
A door of immense potential has already been opened before Bangladesh amid the growing challenge for meeting the demand and supply of Medical and Personal Protective Equipment (MPPE) products at both local and international markets to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.For this, the government has come forward to support the country’s entrepreneurs to face this challenge.
The entrepreneurs will be provided support in this regard under the Export Competitiveness for Jobs (EC4J) project being implemented by the Ministry of Commerce.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ministry of Commerce with the support of the World Bank Group has added a fourth funding window called the CERF under the EC4J project. It is a programme of US$7.5 million matching-grant.
The CERF of the Export Readiness Fund (ERF) Programme under the EC4J project was launched today (Sunday) through a virtual platform.
Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi remained present at the virtual launching of the fund as the chief guest. Prime Minister’s Private Industry and Investment Adviser Salman F Rahman and World Bank Country Director for Bangladesh Mercy Miyang Tembon joined the virtual launching as special guests.
Senior Secretary of the Ministry of Commerce Dr Md Jafar Uddin presided over the launching ceremony of the fund.Speaking at the function, Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi said that the CERF is a very timely step by the Ministry of Commerce.
Mentioning that the COVID-19 pandemic has adversely affected the global economy including Bangladesh, he said, “We’ll have to take pragmatic steps to face this deadly virus.”
Tipu said the purpose of producing these medical safety products for COVID-19 is not only for tapping the domestic market, but also the international market.
He informed that the matching grants to be provided under CERF to the selective firms ranging between $50,000 to $5,00,000 is a great milestone.
“We hope our producers will take advantage of the fund to successfully face the COVID-19. I believe it (CERF) will work for the interest of the people and also for the world,” the minister added.
Private Industry and Investment Affairs Adviser to the Prime Minister Salman F Rahman said that the government of Bangladesh has taken various steps to face the pandemic while CERF is one of such pragmatic initiatives to build resilience of the domestic producers of such medical equipment in the ever-changing world. “It will strengthen the government’s plan to boost the export market.”
Citing that the RMGs still represent around 80 percent of the country’s total exports, Salman said, “We’re now in a position to penetrate our other products in the global value chain……our entrepreneurs are indomitable.”
The Prime Minister’s Adviser also hoped that this matching grants facility under window four of ERF would help the local entrepreneurs to expand their export market.
Noting that the CERF would strengthen the base of medical equipment producers in the country, the Senior Secretary of the Ministry of Commerce said that this would give safety to people from this deadly COVID-19 virus in one hand and also facilitate exports on the other hand.
Dr Jafar also urged the local entrepreneurs to come forward and thus apply for this grant on first come, first serve basis adding “Let us fight against COVID-19 and overcome it.”
He went on saying, “CERF will give push to integrate Bangladesh strongly in the global value chain.”
World Bank Country Director for Bangladesh Mercy Tembon said the COVID-19 has come before the world as a shock and the pandemic is hitting the poor severely.
Highlighting some salient features of the CERF supported by the World Bank, Mercy Tembon said the World Bank is committed to enhance the competitiveness of the country as well as would continue to help building a resilient economy and achieving robust growth.
She mentioned that this CERF would boost production of medical products by the local entrepreneurs, increase domestic supply and thus increase exports.
With the rolling out of the COVID-19 vaccines in the country, the World Bank Country Director hoped that Bangladesh would bounce back better in the coming days.
She also hoped that the CERF would go a long way to the process of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Project Director of EC4J Project and Additional Secretary of the Ministry of Commerce Md Hafizur Rahman, team leader of ERF management unit Dave Runganaikaloo, World Bank representative and private sector specialist Hosna Ferdous Sumi and deputy team leader of ERF management unit Emdadul Haque also spoke at the virtual launching.
The purpose of Window 4 is to support Bangladeshi businesses to repurpose and pivot their operations and build resilience in an ever-changing economic environment. Under the CERF, the ERF will support private enterprises to procure plant, equipment, materials and know-how for rapid repurposing of capacity to produce MPPE products on a sustainable basis.
CERF grants will be made available to private Bangladeshi firms from any industry sector, providing they have or have evidenced plans to manufacture qualifying MPPE products.
CERF grants will range from US$50,000 (minimum grant size) to US$500,000 (maximum grant size) for supported projects. The contribution of the grant recipients will be 40% for SMEs and 50% for large enterprises.
Key product or service features supported by the CERF will include:
• Manufacturing of MPPE products including personal protective equipment, diagnostic equipment and clinical care equipment.
• MPPE product design, including, for example, modifications to technical specifications and packaging, buyers’ designs, etc.
• Services for MPPE such as research, development, certification and testing, and support to new techniques to establish, diversify or extend a firm’s range of saleable MPPE products/services, or their introduction and adaptation.
Out of the total applications, about 50 applications will be accepted on competitive basis for this CERF.
Export diversification is a key priority for the Government of Bangladesh in order to continue to deliver accelerated growth, sustainable development and increased job creation for the country. In line with this objective, the Ministry of Commerce, Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, is implementing the EC4J Project, supported by the World Bank.
The ERF was initially a programme of US$10 million matching-grant programme of the EC4J Project that provides financial support under three funding windows to eligible Bangladeshi firms in four targeted sectors (Leather and Leathergoods, Footwear (Both Leather and Non-leather), Plastics and Light Engineering) to identify gaps, catalyse investment and improve Environmental, Social and Quality (ESQ) standards in efforts to enhance their competitiveness in the export markets.
The purpose of ERF is to integrate Bangladesh in the value chain of the global export market. The Export Readiness Fund provides grant-based incentives to firms to support exports from Bangladesh.