AFD willing to enhance support to Bangladesh
The Agence Française de Développement (AFD), which carries the French government's mandate to finance mainly on climate change and SDGs, is interested in enhancing its support to Bangladesh for achieving the long-term vision of becoming a developed country by 2041.
Achieving the vision will require huge development and long-term financing will be critical to do so, AFD Executive Director Phillipe Orliange said here recently, expressing the French Development Agency's willingness.
"The financial institutions like AFD can be reliable partners of Bangladesh," he told the Financial Express in an exclusive breakfast interview at a local hotel on March 01.
He observed that Bangladesh has a very strong ownership of its development policy, which is a core to the success of the policy and builds trust among the development partners.
The AFD, a financial institution of the French government, is currently operating in 110 countries with an annual commitment of around 12 billion Euros - half of it in Africa and the rest in Asia, Latin America and Middle East.
Mr Phillipe, who arrived here on February 28 and had a meeting with the finance and ERD secretaries of the Government of Bangladesh and Bangladesh Bank Governor on the same day, said the portfolio of Bangladesh is around 1.4 billion Euros, which was picked up in the last 3-4 years since the beginning in 2012.
"The meaning is that even though the history (of financing) is short in Bangladesh, its speed actually is quite remarkable. I myself was overlooking the AFD's activities in the entire country," he said. "… It's very striking to see the pace at which our operation in Bangladesh is growing."
He also shared the AFD's contributions to India, Indonesia and Vietnam where the agency has been working for a long time, and so far contributed only 2.0 billion Euros, 1.7 billion Euros and 1.2 billion Euros respectively.
The French Embassy in Dhaka and the AFD Dhaka office organised the Bangladesh visit of the AFD's executive director considering the population size of the country that is highly significant for a development partner to work with.
The AFD is interested in deepening the partnership with Bangladesh even though the country is relatively a newcomer in the
field of the AFD's development cooperation, the ED reiterated.
He pointed out that the AFD has understood the development agenda of the country that aims to achieve the status of developed one. "We have this ambitious agenda from the government which is really critical and essential that we perceive what the government wants to do and what other policies of the country aim to implement. We want to work on the basis of these targets."
He also highlighted the AFD's priority on Bangladesh being a vulnerable country to climate change, and to work on mitigation and adaptation issues.
Mr Phillipe also pointed out that the energy-mix of Bangladesh is very much dependent on high carbon-emitting fossil fuels and said that the GoB wants to change it, finding that the country has all the key four elements - vision, policy, investment and support from abroad to work on the development.
"Successful development policy needs strong ownership and Bangladesh has a very strong ownership to its development policy," he added.
Replying to a question about trade support which is critical for the country after its graduation to a middle-income country, he said the AFD does not deal with the trade issues, but will continue with the support to the country's long term vision.
"The fact is that we'll be investing in water, sanitation, urban transportation, and providing a line of credit to the financial sector, etc. All of that, I think, will be useful in the years to come with this strong focus on climate."
Citing various challenges the AFD is facing in financing the BRT project in Dhaka, water network, etc., Mr Phillipe said the AFD might work more with financial institutions in Bangladesh with the line of credit if it is relevant. In this regard, he cited the example of India where the AFD launched an initiative on green energy with the Indian private financial sector.
About the AFD's future plan amid the changed development scenario following the COVID-19 pandemic and Ukraine war, he said the AFD provided 200 million Euros of budget support to the government in response to the COVID crisis. "That means, even though we have a strong focus on climate, we also are prepared to provide strong support to the emergency needs."
The population displacement will be a bigger issue due to climate change and that is why the issues such as adaptation and mitigation are extremely important, he said, adding that to protect people from the CC risks, investment in adaptation and mitigation must be increased.
He also said that the AFD wants to continue work with Bangladesh in the context of renewed geopolitical tension.
Regarding the French government's focus on Indo-Pacific relations, he said the French strategy in the region is different from other countries - the French strategy in Indo-Pacific regions is a balanced one as the blue economy, sustainable fisheries, green port and connectivity all these issues belong to his country's Indo-Pacific agenda while in other countries, it is on security and defense.
Based on his meeting with the Bangladesh Ambassador to France and the high officials here, the AFD ED expressed the hope that Bangladesh would look to this agenda very positively and benefit equally.