The story of RMG industry in Bangladesh is unique in that it tells how a resilient nation can break free from the poverty cycle with the help of an industry. Despite all the hurdles and obstacles in the national and international arena, the RMG industry has witnessed tremendous growth over the past few decades, playing a major role in industrialisation, employment, poverty alleviation and empowerment of women in the country. Today the industry is serving as the base of the country’s development pyramid. The apparel industry emerged at a time when Bangladesh began its new struggle for achieving economic emancipation and leading the country to prosperity with its limited resources.
We started our journey in 1978 with 12,000 US Dollar exports. Last year we reached 26.6 Billion US Dollar exports, making Bangladesh the second largest apparel exporting country in the world. The industry employs 4.4 million people, of whom 70% are women, contributes more than 13% to the GDP, helps women empowerment and poverty reduction. We have set a target to achieve 50 Billion US Dollars in exports by 2021 when Bangladesh will be celebrating her 50th anniversary of independence.
There have been some struggles and challenges around the apparel industry in Bangladesh in recent years. Following the tragic factory accidents, Bangladesh took massive steps to transform the industry ‘factory by factory’ with the support of the Government, ILO, brands’ platforms ACCORD and Alliance, development partners and foreign governments. The combined safety inspections – covering structural, electrical and fire safety issues in all factories is already completed. The remediation process is fully underway, and given the progress already made, it is expected that 100% remediation will be carried out well within 2018. Furthermore, awareness about safety measures has grown remarkably among workers and employees of the factories. These improvements in factory safety compliance will help reshape the future of the apparel industry and give it a sustainable footing in the global apparel market.
Alongside meeting safety compliance, the industry now initiates Green Movement. Garment factories are adopting green practices and eco-friendly technologies to meet a growing global demand for green products. To date a total of 67 garment factories in Bangladesh have achieved LEED certifications from the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) of which 13 are Platinum rated and 20 are Gold rated. Moreover, as many as around 280 more garment factories have already been registered with the USGBC.
Having established a strong foothold in the global apparel market (Bangladesh exports 85% of its apparel production to the European Union and the USA) Bangladesh is adopting strategies to accelerate the growth of the industry by penetrating higher market segments. Modernisation of factories through technological up-grades and improvements in productivity are taking place in the RMG industry of Bangladesh, with market diversification being another major source of opportunities.
Bangladesh is a tried and trusted name in the global apparel market. Now we need clear plans to achieve the goal. The second edition of the Dhaka Apparel Summit will show our industry the path to success.