Thought Leadership Article

Thought Leadership Articles (TLAs) are strategic research pieces that cover trends and topics that influence the Bangladesh business ecosystem, macro economy, entrepreneurship, technology and society. The goal of any research-based university is to identify the questions people are asking, and answer those questions through innovative, timely and accessible research. It is with this goal that we bring you the TLA Series of the Center for Enterprise and Society (CES).

    • A Closer Look at Financial Inclusion in Bangladesh – The story of financial inclusion in Bangladesh began with microfinance institutions, the success of which led to large-scale emulation of home-grown models, in parts of Asia, Africa and Latin America. Subsequently, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation began to make the case that financial inclusion would be better fostered through technological innovation, leading to the formation of the Alliance for Financial Inclusion (AFI) in 2008, recognized by the G20 as an implementing partner. In Bangladesh, policy-makers have recognized the social, economic and commercial importance of financial inclusion. The Bangladesh Bank has set up a Financial Inclusion Department and a National Financial Inclusion Strategy (NFIS) is currently being formulated. Given the country’s low banking sector and high telecommunication penetration, digital financial services (DFS) is expected to drive financial inclusion. In this thought leadership article (TLA), we consider the latest avatars of DFS, agent banking and mobile financial services (MFS), with a view towards their progress and challenges that remain; and offer insights for their development.


    • March 2017: “Global Headwinds, Local Resilience and Rising Markets: Update on the Macro Economy and Capital Markets” In a recently-released report by Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC), a Big 4 audit, tax and advisory firm, Bangladesh is poised to become the 23rd largest global economy by FY 2050. Bangladesh is also well-positioned to reach World Bank’s middle-income income grouping criteria by FY 2030-31. The Government of Bangladesh also aims to eradicate poverty by 2030. Given the impressive economic growth over the past several years, and the promise of continued and higher growth, the Center for Enterprise and Society at the University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh (ULAB) releases this thought leadership article (TLA) to assess Bangladesh’s macroeconomic and capital markets performance YTD, and inform Bangladesh’s growth aspirations.


    • August 2016: “Understanding Social Enterprises”  Throughout the world, the distinctive organizational forms adopted by social enterprises depend on the existing legal frameworks, on the political economy of welfare provision and on the cultural and historical traditions of non-profit development in each country. Consequently, the social enterprise sector globally encompasses both new typologies of organizations and traditional third sector organizations, re-imagined through the lens of sustainable income-generation.In this thought leadership article (TLA), we consider the landscape of the existing research on social enterprises, early forms of social enterprises in Bangladesh, evolution of the sector in the 1980s and 1990s, and intersections between businesses and social entrepreneurship. We identify key sectoral trends, assess the policy environment and envision a roadmap for future development of the social enterprise space.


    • October 2015: “Social Innovation, Social Entrepreneurship and Survival of The Third Sector”  With increasing worldwide attention on corporate social responsibility (CSR) of the corporate sector and market-orientation of development sector programs, a new field has generated considerable interest among government, business and academic circles. The burgeoning field of “social enterprise” includes a variety of organizations that align their business interests with a social orientation or philanthropic interests with a business orientation, essentially combining social and financial goals. In the case of for-profit private sector organizations, a social orientation enables a closer relationship with the communities they engage with commercially, facilitate improved relations with communities, enabling visibility, and overall, ensuring business sustainability.
      In the case of not-for-profit organizations, a business orientation ensures their non-reliance on grants and donations, thus ensuring sustainability, and in many cases, efficiency. However, despite the increasing attention on CSR by for-profit organizations, social enterprises have in fact developed from and within the social economy sector, which lies between the market and the government and is often associated with concepts such as “nonprofit sector” and “third sector”.
      It is however more difficult to define “social innovation”. Many organizations undertaking various CSR and even marketing-related initiatives, have been quick to claim that they are contributing to social innovation. It is first important to understand what is implied by social innovation and whether social innovation has been the prerogative and preserve of third sector organizations only.


    • May 2015: “Banking on Mobile Money ”  Starting its journey in 2011, mobile banking, commonly referred to as mobile financial services (MFS), has demonstrated phenomenal growth in Bangladesh. The MFS sector now has about 15 million registered users transacting over BDT 80 billion (US$ 1.0 billion) per month through over 500,000 agents. In 2013, the number of registered MFS users grew at about 12 per cent each month, with a CAGR of 266%. Meanwhile, cash transactions grew at a CAGR of 186%. In the month of March, the average daily money transaction amount through mobile banking reached unprecedented levels – registering over BDT 4.0 billion (US$ 51 million). According to Bangladesh Bank data, the total transactions for the month rose to BDT 123 billion.The remarkable development of MFS is better appreciated in the context of the country’s demographic/socioeconomic statistics: a potential market of 160 million people, median age of only 23 years, and per capita income of US$ 840 per annum. The key statistics, however, are a banked population of 20% (i.e., those that have access to formal banking services) and secondly, a mobile penetration of 75%. Thus, the availability of MFS has allowed the unbanked in Bangladesh to skip several stages of development of the banking sector, e.g., setting up of physical branches, and gradually enter the global community of the banked.


    • March 2015: “Analysis of a “Hartal Economy” ”  While there is no dispute that political instability is a deterrent to economic performance, it is perhaps an even more moot point in the context of frontier economies such as Bangladesh. As of March 2015, hartals have sustained for two months since January 6, and the damage to lives of citizens, property, productivity, business revenue, trade-competitiveness, has been staggering and unprecedented. The Bangladesh economy has grown at over 6% for ten straight years until this year, and this the year when many analysts and economists expected Bangladesh to near the 7% annual GDP growth rate. Such economic targets have taken a backseat however, in the context of the malaise that has gripped the country. Policy-makers, trade bodies, industry associations, regulators, conglomerates and average citizens are now forced to realign their respective priorities in the context of a “Hartal Economy.” This report aims to dissect the vagaries of a hartal economy by analyzing the impact of hartals through various sectoral and thematic prisms of Bangladeshi economic life.



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The Universityof Liberal Arts Bangladesh and its curricula are accredited by the University Grants Commission (UGC) of Bangladesh, and approved by the Ministry of Education, Government of People's Republic of Bangladesh.