A Developing Country: Bangladesh
As a new academic year draws near in the fall, we reminisce spring graduation celebrations for secondary and post-secondary students in the United States, but also the heralding of a special graduation for one South Asian nation. During the March 2018 review, the United Nations’ Committee for Development Policy (CDP) predicted Bangladesh to satisfy the criteria to become a developing country.

Bangladesh Growth

With just 47 years of independence, Bangladesh is expected to earn a status of a developing country from the least developed country in the next six years. The CDP will most likely recommend Bangladesh at its triennial review of least developed countries in 2021, and full endorsement is expected to follow at its 2024 meeting.

Consideration for becoming a developing country means demonstrating years of satisfactory human and economic advancements, and Bangladesh has been gaining on the developing community with precocious stride.

Foreign aid, non-government organizations and state-operated agencies have been key in Bangladesh’s development. Since 1973, the Asian Development Bank has assisted Bangladesh with $20.75 billion in aid. Close to 70 cents per dollar has been allocated to four sectors—energy, transportation, education and agriculture, as well as to natural resources and rural development.

Criteria for a Developing Country

Eligibility for becoming a developing country is based on three standards: an economic vulnerability index, a human assets index and per capita income. The United Nations’ most recent standards to graduate from least developed to a developing country are scores of 32 and below for its economic vulnerability index, scores of 66 and above for its human assets index, and a gross national income per capita of at least $1,230.

These thresholds must be met on two of the three categories for six years or the course of two successive, triennial Committee reviews. Bangladesh is on pace to fulfill all three requirements since its economic vulnerability, human assets and per capita income graduation thresholds were respectively met in 2003, 2015, and 2017.

Economic Vulnerability

Economic vulnerability is calculated considering eight factors: population size, the population living in low coastal zones, remoteness, the share of agriculture, forestry and fisheries, export instability, export concentration, and victims of natural disasters.

In a show of economic ascendancy and national pride, Bangladesh launched its first communications and broadcasting satellite, the Bangabandhu-1, transported by an American manufactured SpaceX rocket in May 2018. In addition to accelerating telecommunication development, the Bangladesh Space Research and Remote Sensing Organization has developed remote-sensing technology that can be used in agriculture, forestry, fisheries, water resources and oceanography. Remote sensors collect data on energy emitted from the Earth and can be used for shoreline erosion prevention, natural disaster preparation and natural resource management. This type of growth is vital to becoming a developing country.

Bangladesh’s strong textile and fabric industry drives 80 percent of the country’s export economy, the 57th largest in the world. Only China and the European Union topped Bangladesh’s clothing exports in 2015. Clothing exports made up almost 14 percent share ($26 billion) of Bangladesh’s 2015 gross domestic product (GDP).

Bangladesh has experienced GDP growth of 6 percent or more since 2011 and 7.3 percent in 2017, the second-most of all South Asian countries behind Bhutan.

Human Assets Index

Becoming a developing country also requires notable progress in education and health. The CDP’s human assets index is calculated by maternal and under-five infant mortality, malnourishment, gross literacy, and gross secondary school enrollment.

From 2011 to 2016, Bangladesh boosted its literacy rate from 47 to 73 percent. Room to Read, a non-profit organization, dedicated to girl’s education and child literacy in Asia and Africa, has opened 6,000 classroom libraries for over 300,000 Bangladesh children in 1,000 primary schools. The organization has concentrated its outreach in rural areas such as the Brahamanbaria District, a flood-prone area just 14 meters above sea level, and the Natore District, an agriculturally dependent rural area. Bangladesh has also reached all-time highs of secondary school enrollment rates: 72.5 percent for girls and 69 percent for both sexes.

The Strengthening Household Ability to Respond to Development Opportunities II (SHOUHARDO II)–Bangladesh project has reduced physical growth failure due to chronic malnutrition, known as stunting, by 13 percent in children under the age of five. Bangladesh villages affected by the SHOUHARDO II project are Cox’s Bazar, Mymensingh, Rangpur and Sirajganj regions. As part of the SHOUHARDO II project, women learned optimal breastfeeding, life-skills, and investment and finance strategies. This project also implemented a monthly food ration program consisting of wheat, vegetable oil and yellow split peas. There is also an indication of improving health conditions for women in Bangladesh as maternal mortality ratios dropped by 32 percent from 2012 to 2015.

Per Capita Income

With a current economy worth $686.5 billion and a gross national income per capita of $1,433, Bangladesh has exceeded the average least developed country for over 20 years. On its road to becoming a developing country, about 50 million people in Bangladesh have escaped extreme poverty (living on $1.90 a day) since 1991. This rate has declined from 40 percent to 14 percent today.

While Bangladesh still faces challenges, such as Rohingya refugees, overpopulation, flooding and insufficient sanitation, it is well on its way to becoming a developing country within the years to come.

Thomas Benjamin
Photo: Flickr

French Foreign Aid in Africa
France’s intimate relationship with Africa began in the 17th Century and, like other major European nations, ended after two consecutive World Wars. However, France stubbornly held on to territory in Morocco for years after the end of the wars; it was not until 1964, after a war nearly a decade long, that France relinquished its claim to the North African territory.

France’s Goals in Africa

Now, like other formal colonial powers, France has changed its goals in Africa. French foreign aid in Africa is now meant to help develop the world it left behind. In 2015, a representative from Oxfam France defended France’s bias to helping its former colonies “because the former French colonies in Africa are de facto the poorest countries in the world. There is a consistency in that decision.”

In 2009, France was the second largest donor of foreign aid in the world, only behind the United States. French foreign aid during these years was focused to two main areas — the Mediterranean Basin and Sub-Saharan Africa. French foreign aid in Africa was focused in five sectors: health, education, sustainable development, food security, and economic growth. In 2010, France was the third largest foreign aid donor.

It is also important to note that unlike other nations, France does not have one departement or governmental agency dedicated to the distribution of foreign aid; it instead relies on a multi-agency board to oversee its distribution.

Online Foreign Aid Resources

Due to the lack of a central agency to track French foreign aid in Africa, France launched a website to help citizens track projects. The website separates aid into eight different areas: environment and natural resources, agriculture and food security, outside sectors CICID, water and sanitation, education, productive sector, health and the fight against AIDS, infrastructure and urban development.

There is also an interactive map that allows anybody curious enough to look at projects in each of the 16 priority nations: Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros Islands, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Ghana, Guinea, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal and Togo.

French Agency for Development and Africa

An example of French foreign aid in Africa at work is the aid project currently underway in Madagascar. The French Agency for Development (AFD) has worked since 2013 in Madagascar to help locals live in harmony with the environment.

Slash-and-burn agriculture is still the most prominent technique for clearing forest, and the goal of this project is to help people learn other farming techniques to preserve the rainforest since using slash-and-burn agriculture in a society with a large population is not sustainable. Since December 2017, over 1.9 million euros have been spent on this particular project.

By simply clicking the water and sanitation tab, a user can find information about all French aid projects under this category. Of the 148 water and sanitation projects underway or completed, just over 120 of these projects are located in sub-saharan Africa. Projects range from improving water- and sanitation-provision infrastructure, to building entirely new systems. Maintaining old infrastructure is important as well, since poorly-kept human waste management systems can taint clean drinking water.

The Website

French foreign aid in Africa and around the world can be traced on the website. The map differentiates between three French foreign aid agencies, or societies, as they are referred to on the website. The largest is the aforementioned French Agency for Development, who leads the majority of these projects around the world.

According to the website, this organization is involved in over 2,500 projects in 108 different countries around the world. In 2016, the AFD hit the milestone of effectively using $9 million euros on over 600 different aid projects.

Due to political and public pressure, though, France slowly began fall behind on the list of the world’s top donors. In an act of compromise, France’s new President, Emmanuel Macron, has decided to once again increase France’s soft power footprint. In July of 2017, he announced that by 2022, .55 percent of the French GDP will be spent on foreign aid. This announcement was a U-turn on previous promises made by the President as a candidate.

GDP to Foreign Aid

OECD set a 0.7 percent of GDP goal for well-developed nations, and these countries are expected to reach this benchmark by 2030. According the the President, France is on the way to reach this goal. As more and more countries regain independent influence in the world, it will be important for France to show that it can compete if the nation wants to remain relevant on the international stage.

– Nick DeMarco

Photo: Flickr