Pakistan and East Africa’s emerging giant | By Engr Qaiser Nawab

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Pakistan and East Africa’s emerging giant

ETHIOPIA, Africa’s second most populous country, situated at a strategic location in the “Horn of Africa” near the Gulf of Aden-Red Sea, has now become the region’s fastest-growing economy.

Since the early 2000s, Ethiopia’s annual GDP growth has averaged above 10%, making it one of the world’s highest rates.

The government’s strong and ambitious economic development strategy proved to be the primary driver of this unprecedented rate of growth.

In recent years, owing to its rapid economic expansion and rising strategic importance in the region, Ethiopia has become East Africa’s emerging giant.

With the newly initiated “10-Year Development Plan 2021-2030”, based on the 2019 “Home-Grown Economic Reform Agenda”, the Ethiopian Government has set its goals to maintain tremendous economic growth while simultaneously supporting the transition towards an economy that is driven more by the private sector, similar to the way accomplished during the “Growth and Transformation Plans” of the preceding decade.

In addition to these goals, the government is also seeking to correct macro-economic imbalances, and enhance efficiency in growth-enabling industries like energy, logistics and telecom which will ultimately boost the business climate.

With technological advancement, being a key driver of both economic expansion and transformation, the country is also making headway in the creation of an innovation ecosystem, a technology transformation roadmap and a technology centre that is conducive to such innovative endeavours.

The Ethiopian government is working with a variety of partners and stakeholders to use information and communication technology for the country’s overall development.

Pakistan is also offering its expertise in research and technology, engineering and agro-processing to Ethiopia.

Since the establishment of diplomatic ties in 1958, Pakistan and Ethiopia have enjoyed a cordial relationship and made great progress on bilateral, regional and international concerns.

Pakistan established its embassy in Addis Ababa in 1973, while Ethiopia opened its embassy in Pakistan just earlier this year, after 75 years of its (Pakistan) independence.

The Ethiopian mission in Islamabad aims to focus on economic diplomacy, trade, promotion, tourism investment, technology transfer and the building of institutional ties between the two nations.

Pakistan has always placed a high priority on its relations with Ethiopia. The two countries are proud to offer support to each other in a variety of multilateral settings, including the UNGA and UNHRC.

Pakistan also backed Ethiopia for its non-permanent seat on the UNSC. In addition, through the Djibouti-Addis Ababa Railway (DAAR) and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the two nations are important players in China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

The route that goes through Gwadar and Djibouti is the quickest one, and it has the strategic potential to connect Pakistan to the rest of Africa.

Now that Ethiopia has opened a full-fledged embassy in Islamabad, it is particularly interested in increasing the scope of its commercial and financial ties with Pakistan.

At a ceremony in Karachi, the Ethiopian Ambassador to Pakistan, Jamal Baker Abdullah, announced that within the next month or two, multiple agreements relating to trade promotion, defence cooperation, political consultation, technology transfer, aviation and other areas will be signed with the government of Pakistan to assist in connecting the two countries and promoting economic exchange.

Furthermore, he added, that at present the bilateral trade value between Ethiopia and Pakistan is quite nominal at 7-8 million dollars a year.

Therefore, the target is to establish formal financial channels and boost commercial activity to at least 300 million dollars.

Another recent progress in the relationship between Pakistan and Ethiopia is the launch of “Ethiopian Airlines,” Africa’s largest airline, which will run direct flights between Addis Ababa and Karachi.

As per sources, soon between the end of December 2022 and the beginning of January 2023, the Airline will initiate direct service between the two cities two days a week.

Due to the geostrategic significance of Ethiopia, the gateway to African countries, it has the potential to play a pivotal role in Pakistan’s “Engage Africa” Policy, a strategy to increase trade with Africa.

The size of the market, shared values, strategic convergences and the diversity of the resource-rich African continent, have sparked Pakistan’s interest in lifting its bilateral relations and exchanges with Africa to a new level of friendship and collaboration.

Ethiopia may play a key role in connecting Pakistan to the market potential of the African continent while at the same time enhancing its economic and trade links with China and Central Asian markets via Pakistan.

Numerous chances will exist in the future for the two nations to use their geostrategic significance for geo-economic gain.

Both Pakistan and Ethiopia have the potential to open up new markets for each other, which would be beneficial on economic, political and diplomatic levels.

The bilateral ties between Ethiopia and Pakistan will not only build a legal commercial framework to incentivize investors from both countries and increase trade volume but will also strengthen both countries’ commitment to international peace and security.

The two nations have young, ardent activists, who engage in both online and offline means to advocate for a cause, therefore, the two countries should play a role in strengthening their youth capacity building by enhancing educational cooperation and people-to-people exchanges in a variety of fields, such as academia, science and technology, pharmaceuticals, the construction industry and garments.

To strengthen its cultural links with Ethiopia, Pakistan should establish a scholarship program at its various educational institutions open to Ethiopian students.

The two countries should also join hands to make progress in the area of technology, tourism and climate change.

—The writer is a Pakistani Climate Youth Leader, UN SDGs Advocate and an expert on Youth Development in the Global South.