France has big investment plans for Bangladesh
France has big plans for investments in strategic projects in Bangladesh, including nuclear power, hydropower, and aeronautics, according to the residence of the French president.
French President Emmanual Macron is in Dhaka to discuss investment and to explore ways to bolster partnership with Bangladesh as the country has been able to demonstrate its capability over the last decades, according to Élysée Palace, the president's official residence.
An official of the palace gave a briefing on September 8 explaining how differently France sees Bangladesh now.
The official told this correspondent that Bangladesh faces a number of challenges, including a high-density population, climate change, and the Rohingya crisis. Yet Bangladesh has been able to register significant socio-economic growth over the last 10-15 years.
"These challenges don't prevent the country from looking to the future. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has developed a broad development programme called 'Smart Bangladesh', stepped up contacts with its strategic ally India, and is attracting new investments and wants to be part of the global supply chain," the source said about the briefing.
The Élysée Palace termed Bangladesh "a model country" in terms of financial management, with a debt level of around 40 percent. It is not squeezed by creditors, as is the case in some developing countries instead, the country has solid economic fundamentals, high potential, and positive economic trends.
"Bangladesh has the capacity to become one of the 30 largest economies in the world by 2030 and is looking to the rest of the world," the source said.
It is against this backdrop that France wants to be part of the development and have a partnership with Bangladesh in sectors where France is strong.
French company Thales is already working on setting up a radar system at the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport. The same company manufactured Bangladesh's first satellite – Bangabandhu-1 – that was launched in 2018.
Today, Airbus and Bangladesh Satellite Company Ltd are scheduled to sign a letter of intent to buy another satellite. An MoU on buying 10 aircraft from Airbus may also be signed.
During Hasina's visit to France in 2021, the two countries signed a letter of intent on defence cooperation.
Apart from aeronautics, France is also eager to expand its cooperation in the energy sector in Bangladesh, which is still very carbon-intensive, and help in the green transition.
"We want this visit to accelerate discussions on Bangladesh's energy needs. Then there will be meetings at various levels to identify the needs," the diplomatic source in Paris said.
Among the options are nuclear power, solar power, and hydroelectricity. Hydroelectricity has high potential. There are also prospects for solar energy, the source said, referring to the Élysée Palace briefing.
As part of the French initiative to support climate change adaptation and mitigation, the source said, Agence Française de Développement (AFD)'s commitment multiplied in recent years to €2 billion. An additional €1 billion is now in the pipeline for AFD projects over the next three years.
France also wants to increase humanitarian support for the Rohingyas as well as work with Bangladesh at the global stage on the Rohingya and other issues, the source added.
The diplomat in Paris claimed that France is now focusing on South Asia as part of its greater Indo-Pacific vision. At the same time, the countries in South Asia are also looking towards France amid pressures from the US, China, and even Russia.
"There really is a strong political will to commit to an area with very high potential in the region."