Mandalay is Myanmar’s second largest city, a vibrant and bustling city of about one million people. It has over 20,000 registered businesses, and is a main trading centre and transit hub for jade, gems and agricultural products. Its strategic location in the north of the country gives the city a prosperous border trade with China, and India. In the financial year 2012-13 the volume of Myanmar-China trade was nearly $4.96 billion and Myanmar-India trade was $1.32 billion. However, 75 per cent of businesses in Mandalay are still dependent on agriculture; main products include rice, sugar, and beans, and pulses, which companies generally trade to resellers in Yangon or export to China or India.
Mandalay is also an industrial hub. Mandalay’s industrial zones house over 1,100 factories, with most of the companies involved in the production of agricultural products or heavy machinery. Another clear indication of the commercial importance of Mandalay is the fact that all of Myanmar’s 14 private banks have branches in the city.
However, future growth is under threat by a shortage in skilled labour. Employers complain that workers are not prepared for work, and lack the vocational and technical skills needed. Given the increasing international attention on the country, growing FDI flows and a large pool of unemployed unskilled labour, business associations have taken on the responsibility to provide training to members and young entrepreneurs. This step is crucial to help address the existing skills gap and to prepare Myanmar businesses to take advantage to the new opportunities the opening up has brought to the country.
This case study identifies ways for the Mandalay Region Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MRCCI) to improve the quantity and quality of workforce skills in the Mandalay region, both independently and through collaboration with other stakeholders.