9 March 2017

Africa: Bangladesh - an African Path to Prosperity?


Commuters huddle on the top of the trains running through Dhaka. "That way," says a local businessman, "they avoid the fare." Inside, the carriages are jampacked, bodies spilling out of the open doors. Like all other modes of local transport, from the ubiquitous canopied rickshaws and green tuk-tuks to the lurching, blaring buses notable for their scraped bodywork and their unwillingness to slow down, it's patently unsafe and user unfriendly. By GREG MILLS.

Born as a country out of war in 1971 between Pakistan and India, Bangladesh remains beset by political volatility, endemic corruption, a weak infrastructure including power and transport, an obtuse and unhelpful bureaucracy, and sometimes unenthusiastic implementation of economic reforms. This environment is punctuated by occasional acts of violence, as was perpetrated by five gunmen from Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen in July 2016 in Dhaka, which resulted in the deaths of 20 mainly Italian and Japanese hostages.

At times it seems the challenges are less technical and political than biblical, however. More than 65% of today's 160-million Bangladeshis are rural-based, accounting for half of all employment, rice their principal product, living at risk of floods, famine and much else.

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