How Business Can Invest in the Future of the Rohingya and Host Community in Bangladesh

Irene Yuan Sun, John Speakman, and Cindy Huang

Center for Global Development (CGD) and the Tent Partnership for Refugees, December 2019


This brief presents the background to the Rohingya crisis and how it is affecting Bangladesh, why business should get involved, what investment and sourcing opportunities exist, and what next steps for interested businesses could be. The authors argue that businesses have an important role to play because their involvement has the potential to shape how the Government of Bangladesh treats refugees; by investing in the local area, businesses can create new jobs for both refugees and Bangladeshis, improving the welfare of both groups.

The authors identify four viable areas for business investment/procurement in Cox’s Bazar, based on interviews with businesses and business groups, technical experts, and government officials. These include:

  • Clean energy. The Government of Bangladesh has an ambitious target of sourcing 30 percent of Bangladesh’s energy mix from renewable means by 2041. Cox’s Bazar has strong natural potential for solar and wind power production. The Government of Bangladesh is already conducting tenders for renewable energy production in Cox’s Bazar. There could be useful linkages to ongoing efforts by humanitarian actors to train refugees and host communities in solar panel installation and repair.
  • Fish, shrimp, and seafood. With its long coastline and natural water resources, Cox’s Bazar is an area naturally endowed for fish and other seafood production. There is opportunity to invest across the value chains in both aquaculture and shrimp production.
  • Fruits such as mango and pineapple. Cox’s Bazar is ecologically suitable for the production of high-quality mangoes, pineapples, coconuts, honey, and other high value agri-products. Boosting agri-business, particularly processing, would be a promising way forward.
  • Handicrafts, specialized clothing, and home goods. The Rohingya community has a long history of producing high quality and intricate handicrafts, including carved wooden objects, embroidery, and other labor-intensive crafts. BRAC’s Aarong social enterprise is well established and runs a supply chain spanning 65,000 rural artisans to well-performing retail outlets in large cities in the country.

In addition to exploring the investment and sourcing opportunities outlined above, businesses can support vocational training opportunities, work with policymakers, and support efforts of humanitarian agencies.