Bangladesh eyes Africa as Middle-East job markets shrink

11 Aug 2020 12:10 PM
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Bangladesh has now map resume efforts to explore job markets in Africa against the background of mass deportation of foreign personnel from the Middle-East (ME) countries.

Earlier, a written proposal was submitted to the federal government two years back to get started on negotiation with the African countries that have serious labour shortage, especially in farming sector. But no significant step was taken in this regard throughout that time.

The basic idea of the proposal was to take lease of vast tracts of African farmlands, which has been unused due to labour shortage, and employ Bangladeshi farmers there.

"The African governments concerned had proven interest in providing lands to the Bangladeshis through contract farming," Golam Masih, Bangladesh's Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, who had forwarded the proposal, told the FE over phone on Tuesday.

"They had also agreed to provide 10-year visa to the Bangladeshi employees and their family, who would be used in those countries," he noted.

Presently about 4.5 million Bangladeshi staff are engaged in different sectors in the Middle-East.

But a significant part of them will have to return home, as the main element employers, like - Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Oman, are likely to decrease the number of their foreign employees by 70 % by 2025, professionals said.

Mr Masih further said he forwarded a proposal on the prospect of employing about 4.0 million employees in Africa, after talking with the representatives of Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Tunisia and some other African countries in Riyadh.

Several meetings were held in the Prime Minister's Office and the Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA) about the matter, but finally the proposal got placed on the back burner.

It is becoming clear that a large number of Bangladeshis will eventually lose their jobs in the Middle-East countries because of the change within their employment policies.

So, the federal government should start negotiating with the African countries, like - Sudan and Tunisia, without wasting any more time, he noted.

"When I was the Ambassador to Sudan, the then President of this country Mr Bashir had explained that Bangladesh should enter Sudan prior to the Pakistanis or Indians - the key competitors of the country in global job markets--do," he commented.

When contacted, Foreign Minister Dr A K Momen said Bangladesh is seriously exploring the possibilities of African job markets, especially in farming sector.

"We have asked our ambassadors in the countries concerned to start discussion over the problem."

In the wake of shrinking job markets abroad, the African countries can be a good option for Bangladeshis, he opined.

Bangladesh is fearing a 20 per cent fall in its remittance income, an integral economic lifeline for the united states.

Pointing to the dismal picture of the Saudi job market, Mr Masih said right currently about 80,000 Bangladeshis are waiting to come back home, as they have no jobs.

Saudi Arabia alone has been employing about 2.2 million Bangladeshi workers who sent US$ 4.0 billion last year, and the country's total remittance earning reached $ 18.2 billion. Remittance earnings from the UAE and Kuwait was $ 2.4 billion and $ 1.3 billion respectively.