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When Mosammot Janata Khatun was promoted from working on the sewing line to supervising others at Dhaka’s Jinnat Knitwears, she was nervous. After all, 19 of every 20 line supervisors in Bangladesh’s ready-made garment factories are men, even though women comprise 80 percent of line workers. IFC’s Gender Equality and Returns (GEAR) program helped prepare her for the new role. By combining technical and soft-skills training, the program equips women like Khatun with the skills to advance their careers.

GEAR is among the IFC programs helping make Bangladesh’s garment industry internationally competitive, sustainable, and safe for its workers. The industry is a major driver of Bangladesh’s economy: It accounts for more than 80 percent of the country’s exports and employs more than 4 million people.

Strengthening economies is critical because more than 250 million South Asians live in extreme poverty. Close to 500 million people across the region are not connected to the grid. In FY19, we provided almost $3.0 billion in financing for businesses in South Asia, including $1.1 billion mobilized from other investors, expanding our portfolio in the region to $11.5 billion.

As part of our continuing work in Bangladesh’s garment sector, IFC’s $14.4 million loan to the Epyllion Group will help set up a new manufacturing facility that will nearly double the garment manufacturer and exporter’s production capacity, upgrade machinery, and add more value-added items to its product line. IFC’s multiyear engagement with the Bangladeshi garment sector includes investment and advisory services and is focused on promoting women’s employment and the sector’s sustainable growth.

To help Bangladesh counter declining natural gas supplies and deliver clean energy to its citizens, we provided a $20 million long-term loan to Omera Petroleum to help the company double its capacity and increase the availability of liquefied petroleum gas. This effort will expand access of cooking gas to 350,000 additional households — reducing the use of firewood, coal, and natural gas.

In India, we invested $100 million in the India Resurgence Fund to create a dedicated platform for distressed assets resolution. The fund will restructure potentially viable mid- to large-size nonperforming companies, helping preserve existing jobs and create new ones. The restructuring will enable banks to dispose of nonperforming loans, freeing up capital for their lending activity.

To help mechanize farming in India, IFC invested $100 million in Mahindra & Mahindra Financial Services. This will enable the company to extend loans to farmers for tractors, vehicles, and other equipment and to finance small and medium enterprises (SMEs). The effort contributes to the government’s target of doubling farmers’ incomes by 2022 and increasing agricultural productivity, which contributes to food security.