Myanmar is one of the last remaining frontiers for economic development, and so presents numerous opportunities for new and interesting ideas on economic development, sustainable business models, and social enterprise.



Myanmar is located strategically between China, India and Southeast Asia. After decades of economic isolation from sanctions, Myanmar is undertaking a platform of economic and political openness, including its first openly-contested elections held in 2015.


Myanmar is curently one of Asia's fastest-growing countries, with a GDP growth rate of 8.3%. It is also one of Southeast Asia's most resource-rich countries. However, Myanmar has seen, and will see, significant development challenges.

More than one quarter of Myanmar's population still lives in poverty. Limited infrastructure is a major impediment to the provision of basic social needs, especially in rural areas where almost 70% of Myanmar's population lives.

Myanmar, called Burma under British colonial rule, inherited from the British a system of laws and civil society, but little wealth trickled down to the Burmese population. Post-independence, Myanmar was one of the most developed economies in the region, but a policy of economic isolationism implemented after a 1962 military coup severely hampered further development.

Western sanctions were implemented in 1988 after a major crackdown on protests by Myanmar’s military government. This harmed an economy already damaged by a long period of economic isolationism.

Western sanctions have pushed Myanmar to deepen its economic relationship with other Asian economies. China in particular has invested large sums of money in hydropower and energy infrastructure in Myanmar’s north, while India and Japan have both pledged large investments after Myanmar’s opening. 

Myanmar’s finance sector saw a major setback in 2003 when several informal financial institutions collapsed. Private banks recalled their loans, and bank runs led to a shortage of cash. Myanmar’s economy has been essentially cash-based ever since.

Myanmar’s informal financial sector—moneylenders, pawnshops and hundis—continue to be active, as they often offer more convenient services and even better rates than formal banking systems.

Agriculture remains the mainstay of Myanmar's economy. It also relies on resource-based extractive industries such as oil and gas, mining and forestry.

Significant economic reforms include guidelines for a revised Foreign Investment Law, which allows global companies to do business in Myanmar for the first time in 50 years.

Yangon remains Myanmar’s financial and cultural capital even after the government’s move to Nay Pyi Taw. As Myanmar opens, it will likely see massive growth, with a predicted population of 10 million by 2040, double its current population.

It is estimated that only 42% of Yangon’s residents have access to running water; less than 10% have access to sewage infrastructure. Almost 40% of residents live in informal dwellings.

The lack of vocational training and skills in manufacturing and services continue to stifle Myanmar's economy and increase its youth unemployment.


The GLP uses real-world field projects to hone the practical skills needed to manage diverse teams in unfamiliar situations. Through with meetings partners, investors, community and business leaders, and through frank and open discussions, participants are invited to question their assumptions, learn to navigate conflicting and contradictory views, and to transform concepts and theories into realities on the ground. 

GIFT has conducted several programmes in Myanmar working with experienced and innovative partners on the ground. GIFT and the executives it has brought to the country have helped to create new business models that are financially-viable, sustainable and socially-directed.

GIFT's first programme in Myanmar focused on agriculture—specifically, milk production. Myanmar's government is encouraging milk consumption as a way to tackle malnutrition. However, domestic production is underdeveloped, and so Myanmar imports large amounts of UHT milk from Thailand and New Zealand.

GIFT brought business leaders from 19 different countries from across Asia and the world to Myanmar to work with Myanmar Dairy Nutrition (MDN), a new subsidiary of Yoma/SPA to expand the Group’s business operations into the agricultural sector. Participants spent a week in Yangon developing a business plan before presenting it in a public forum.

GIFT has also worked in Myanmar's fledgling financial sector. Myanmar in the early Sixties used to have one of the largest concentraitons of foreign banks in Southeast Asia, but policy shocks, economic sanctions and a 2003 banking crisis had left a legacy of distrust in banking amongst Myanmar's population.

GIFT has worked with Yoma Bank, one of Myanmar’s largest private banks with 2,000 employees and over 50 branches nationwide. Yoma Bank was the first in Myanmar to use a computerised account system and pioneered wireless banking communications.

For more information about our Myanmar Global Leaders Programmes, or about the Global Leaders Programme in general, please write to us at