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COVID-19 and SMEs in Bangladesh: innovation-support programs to mitigate the gender gap and promote digital inclusion

Prior research in Bangladesh has documented the numerous challenges facing women entrepreneurs who own less than 10% of firms in the micro, small and medium-sized enterprise (MSME) sector. The number of women-led enterprises has increased in recent years, but surveys by the team suggest that sectors with a higher share of female-owned enterprises have suffered disproportionately during the pandemic.

This project examines the gendered impacts of COVID-19 on MSMEs and the influence of the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC) training programs and government-led COVID-19 relief efforts on MSME survival and growth. To investigate the role of MSME support programs and the role of technology in surviving the pandemic, this project will characterize the MSME business environment following the second post-lockdown phase. This analysis will focus on female-owned enterprises and youth unemployment.

Using pre-pandemic baseline data, the project team will re-survey the BRAC-trained male and female entrepreneurs to understand their resilience to the economic shocks of the pandemic and compare the findings to firms that did not participate in the BRAC training or access government support during the pandemic. Finally, the role of technology will be investigated. BRAC provided extensive worker on-the-job training just before the pandemic started. The research findings will identify the effectiveness of these interventions and help formulate policies or interventions to support the MSME sector, and female-owned enterprises within that sector, to recover and to motivate more women to start businesses.

This project is funded through the 2020 open competition supported by IDRC entitled Evidence for Innovation: Equity, diversity, inclusion and impact analyses of innovation support programs for small and medium-size enterprises.

Project ID
Project Status
36 months
IDRC Officer
David O'Brien
Total Funding
CA$ 318,700.00
Education and Science
Education and Science
Institution Country
The BRAC University