The Ministry of Commerce with the support of the World Bank Group on Sunday launched a new funding window called Covid-19 Enterprise Response Fund (CERF) for entrepreneurs to get investment supports for meeting the demand and supply of Medical and Personal Protective Equipment (MPPE) products in local and international markets .
It is a program of US$7.5 million matching-grant where entrepreneurs will get investment supports under the Export Competitiveness for Jobs (EC4J) project being implemented by the Ministry of Commerce.
The CERF of the Export Readiness Fund (ERF) Program under the EC4J project was launched Sunday through virtual platform.
Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi was present at the virtual launching of the fund as the chief guest.
Prime Minister's Private Industry and Investment Adviser Salman F Rahman and World Bank Country Director for Bangladesh and Bhutan Mercy Miyang Tembon joined the virtual launching as special guests.
Senior Secretary of the Ministry of Commerce Dr Md Jafar Uddin chaired the launching ceremony of the fund.
Speaking at the function Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi said that the CERF is a very timely step by the Ministry of Commerce.
Mentioning that the Covid-19 pandemic has adversely affected the global economy including Bangladesh, he said, "We'll have to take pragmatic steps to face this deadly virus.”
He said the purpose of producing these health and medical safety products for Covid-19 is not only for tapping the domestic market, but also the international market.
He informed that the matching grants to be provided under CERF to the competitive firms ranging between $50,000 to $5,00,000 is a great milestone.
"We hope our producers will take advantage of the fund to successfully tap into a new product segment which is critical to face the COVID-19. I believe it (CERF) will work for the interest of the people and also for the world," the Minister said.
Private Industry and Investment Affairs Adviser to the Prime Minister Salman F Rahman said that the government of Bangladesh has taken various steps to face the pandemic while CERF is one of such pragmatic initiatives to build resilience of the domestic producers of such MPPE products in the ever-changing world.
"It will strengthen the government's plan to boost the export market.”
Noting that the CERF would strengthen the base of MPPE producers in the country, Senior Secretary of the Ministry of Commerce said that this would give safety to people from this deadly COVID-19 virus in one hand and also facilitate exports on the other hand.
Dr Jafar also urged the local entrepreneurs to come forward and thus apply for this grant on first come, first serve basis.
World Bank Country Director for Bangladesh Mercy Tembon said the Cov-19id has come before the world as a shock and the pandemic is hitting the poor severely.
Highlighting some salient features of the CERF supported by the World Bank, Mercy Tembon said the World Bank is committed to enhance the competitiveness of the country as well as would continue to help building a resilient economy and achieving a robust growth.
She mentioned that this CERF would boost production of MPPE products by the local entrepreneurs, increase domestic supply and thus increase exports.
With the rolling out of the COVID-19 vaccines in the country, the World Bank Country Director hoped that Bangladesh would bounce back better in the coming days.
She also hoped that the CERF would go a long way to the process of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Project Director of EC4J Project and Additional Secretary of the Ministry of Commerce Md Hafizur Rahman, team leader of ERF management unit Dave Runganaikaloo, World Bank representative and private sector specialist Hosna Ferdous Sumi and deputy team leader of ERF management unit Emdadul Haque also present at the virtual launching.
The purpose of CERF is to support Bangladeshi businesses to repurpose and pivot their operations and build resilience in an ever-changing economic environment.
The CERF will support private enterprises to procure plant, equipment, materials and know-how for rapid repurposing of capacity to produce MPPE products on a sustainable basis.
CERF grants will be made available to private Bangladeshi firms from any industry sector, providing they are in the production or have plans to manufacture qualifying MPPE products.
CERF grants will range from US$50,000 (minimum grant size) to US$500,000 (maximum grant size) for supported projects. The contribution of the grant recipients will be 40% for SMEs and 50% for large enterprises.
Key product or service features supported by the CERF will include-Manufacturing of MPPE products including personal protective equipment, diagnostic equipment and clinical care equipment and MPPE product design, including, for example, modifications to technical specifications and packaging, buyers’ designs, etc.
The others are- Services for MPPE such as research, development, certification and testing, and support to new techniques to establish, diversify or extend a firm’s range of saleable MPPE products/services, or their introduction and adaptation.
Out of the total applications, about 50 applications will be accepted on competitive basis for this CERF.
The ERF was initially a program of US$10 million matching-grant program of the EC4J Project that provides financial support to eligible Bangladeshi firms in four targeted sectors (Leather and Leather goods, Footwear (Both Leather and Non-leather), Plastics and Light Engineering) to identify gaps, catalyse investment and improve Environmental, Social and Quality (ESQ) standards in efforts to enhance their competitiveness in the export markets.
The purpose of ERF is to integrate Bangladesh in the value chain of global export market. The Export Readiness Fund provides grant-based incentives to firms to support exports from Bangladesh.
A door of immense potentials has already been opened before Bangladesh amid the growing challenges for meeting the demand and supply of Medical and Personal Protective Equipment (MPPE) products in local and international markets to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.
For this, the government has come forward to support the country's entrepreneurs to seize the opportunities.