Overview of best prospect sectors, major infrastructure projects, significant government procurements and business opportunities.
Nepal needs significant infrastructure development. Cognizant of this need, the government is prioritizing infrastructure development in its policies, programs, and budgets. Due to the pandemic, a larger portion of the budget will now be channeled to developing health infrastructure - building new hospitals and re-equipping existing ones. Nonetheless, large sums continue to be allocated to the development of energy, mainly hydropower, aviation, and transport infrastructure. This government’s stated long-term aim is to develop a total of 15,000 megawatts (MW) of new hydropower electricity production in the next 10 years. In addition to upgrading the current international airport, three new international airports are being planned, two of which are expected to be completed in 2022 after several delays. While budget pronouncements in Nepal are generally loftier than reality, opportunities in the infrastructure sector (hydropower, renewable energy, transport, urban, and health infrastructure) will increase in coming years. Many infrastructure projects are financed by multilateral development banks. Interested companies should monitor the websites of these organizations for tender opportunities and that of the Investment Board of Nepal (https://ibn.gov.np/), which approves and facilitates large-scale infrastructure projects.
In September 2017, the Government of Nepal signed a $500 million compact with the U.S. government’s Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) to build 300 km of electricity transmission lines and upgrade/maintain 305 km of roads in different parts of the country. The Government of Nepal agreed to contribute an additional $130 million to this project designed to “spur economic growth and private investment, and open new markets.” This is the first MCC compact in South Asia and the Government of Nepal’s additional contribution is the largest up-front contribution in MCC’s history. Components of this project will be open to international bidding. Interested parties can obtain more information on working with the MCC via https://www.mcc.gov/work-with-us and https://mcanp.org/.
Tourism and hospitality are areas of budding opportunity. Indicative of the interest in Nepal’s tourism sector, a number of new international hotel brands, including Marriott and Aloft, have opened in Kathmandu and Sheraton and Le Meridien hotels are under construction. However, the COVID pandemic has hit Nepal’s tourism sector hard, and it is likely to take several years to recover.
The leading commercial sectors for U.S. exports are:
- Aircraft parts
- Medical, optical, and surgical instruments
- Airport and Ground Support Equipment
- Information Communication & Telecommunications (ICT) Equipment and Services (including computers/peripherals)
- Electrical and Industrial machinery and equipment
- Water resource equipment/services
- Renewable energy equipment
- Seeds and miscellaneous grains
- Franchising, and
- Perfumery and cosmetics.
On the whole, Nepal has many of the ingredients to be an economy on an upward trajectory. It is post-conflict, and nearly recovered from a massive earthquake in 2015. A young population and rising middle class will mean new markets and opportunities for new and better products and services. Straddled between India and China, Nepal should be an interesting destination to explore business opportunities, not only to serve Nepal, but also the larger markets to the north and south. However, ongoing infighting among political parties has hamstrung important policy action. Given its performance in the last eighteen months, the Government of Nepal’s ability to steer the Nepali economy out of the COVID crisis remains in question.