Pakistan’s “Engage Africa” initiative | By Dr Mehmood-ul-Hassan Khan


Pakistan’s “Engage Africa” initiative

MANY latest research studies, papers and reports of the World Bank and IMF clearly indicate economic “potential” of the African Continent and term it “survivor” of global economy and human “survival” in the future.

The total population of African Continent is approximately 1.32 billion i.e. 16.72% of the world’s population, consisting of 54 countries.

Growth rate of Africa in 2020 has been 3.9% but parts of the African continent have been experiencing much faster growth rates.

Rising economies like Ethiopia, Rwanda, Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal, Benin, Uganda and Kenya are expected to grow by more than 6% in 2020 and these economies are also expected to maintain their growth rate in the next five year as per the World Bank.

African Continent has unlimited “precious” natural reservoirs, hardworking “human capital”, befitting geographies and last but not the least lessening carbonization propositions which would be utilized for the overall economic stability and sustainability of the entire world.

Moreover, it is the hub of “strategic seaports” which is vital for the development of blue economy.

This engage Africa/Look Africa/Connect Africa initiative of the Government of Pakistan holds great “significance” which has “multiplier” socio-economic effects. Prime Minister of Pakistan Khan’s initiative “Engage Africa” is now making valuable inroads.

Pakistan aims to deepen, revive and reinforce its relations with Africa as a matter of national priority.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi launched ‘Engage Africa Initiative’ in 2020 to build upon existing relations with African partners and open avenues of mutually beneficial collaboration.

In this regard, Pak-Africa Trade Development Conference 2020 was held in Nairobi. Moreover, African Envoys meeting was arranged with FM Qureshi in Islamabad in 2021.

Keeping in view the potential and importance of African Continent, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi visited Africa in an effort to boost economic cooperation, trade ties and to reaffirm momentous ties under Pakistan’s “Look Africa” policy initiative.

An Africa Fund was also established. Pakistan has now initiated its Africa Phase-II & III during which integrated activities relating to further expansion and consolidation of ties with all 54 partners will be started. Linkages with African Union and economic communities will also be fostered.

Appointments of Honourable Consulates and upgrading of bilateral political and economic cooperation may be operationalised as soon as possible.

In this connection, enhanced linkages in education, science, academia, parliaments and connectivity may also be speeded-up.

Pakistan is striving hard to establish sustainable diplomatic ties with African countries by launching a top-level drive to expand its trade ties with African nations, a sign of the country’s eagerness to boost its stagnant exports beyond traditional markets.

Under the ‘Look Africa Policy initiative’, the Ministry of Commerce organized the Pakistan-Africa Trade Development Conference in Nairobi, Kenya on January 30-31, 2020.

It was first of its kind, as over two hundred delegates comprising officials and businessmen from 20 African countries, arranged by Pakistan Missions abroad rigorously participated in the conference.

Pakistan, Kenya, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Senegal, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Niger, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Mauritius, Rwanda, Uganda, and Burundi participated in this conference.

In the past, main reason of the low trade volume had been low level of engagement of Pakistan with Africa.

Now sincere efforts are being made to streamline ways and means to enhance trade, develop banking and transportation channels, improve engagement and connectivity and remove tariff and non-tariff barriers with all the African countries.

Pakistan’s trade with Africa remained stagnant at $3 billion per year from 2012-13 to 2016-17, which increased to $4.6 billion in 2018-19.

Pakistan’s share in total trade of African countries is 0.4%. In 2019, the government had relocated six commercial sections from Europe to Africa taking the total number to ten, to cover top ten economies of Africa.

Pakistan and Africa have historic relations since the period of anti-colonial period because both the States were British colonies.

After getting independence on its part, Pakistan provided material, ethical and emotional assistance to Algeria, Kenya, Sudan, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Tanzania, Namibia, Morocco, Libya, Egypt and Nigeria.

Critical analysis of the economic ties of Pakistan and Africa upholds that Pakistan’s exports to Africa have been comparatively less in the sectors of textiles, leather, cotton and various fabrics.

Unfortunately, Pakistan’s presence and influence has been limited only to 13 resident missions in 54 African countries.

It is estimated that Pakistan can double its trade with Africa in the sectors of rice, engineering, food, electronic equipment, pharmaceutical products, sports items, surgical instruments and cutlery in the next six years that can boost the annual current trade volume of $4.28 billion.

Pakistan should now establish its diplomatic ties with all the 54 countries which can hike GDP from $2.4 trillion to $29 trillion.

Being prominent regional geopolitical expert, I uphold that Pakistan’s “Look Africa” policy initiative would be game and fate changer in the days to come.

It would further enhance economic cooperation and also generate employment opportunities and reduce poverty.

Pakistan has now reached out to the Southern African Customs Union, Economic Community of West African States and East African Community to discuss trade covenants and possible prospects that exist under the African Continental Free Trade Agreement.

To conclude the integration of Pakistan and Africa will hopefully, establish a connectivity hub providing G2-G2 and B2-B2 for further strengthening of bilateral relations

. Inclusion of private sector will further consolidate Pakistan drive of engage Africa. Role of private sector revolutionize the government’s efforts to connect with African Continent.

Pakistan can play a vital role in maintaining peace in African Continent through the UN.
Africa is slowly but surely towards greater economic integration through a number of sub-regional organizations.

Under the ‘Look Africa Plan’ Pakistan is trying to negotiate preferential trade agreements with three African trading blocs.

These blocs include Southern African Customs Union (SACU) comprising Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland; East African Community (EAC) comprising Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda; and Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) which consists of Benin, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Cote d’Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togolese.

—The writer is Director, Geopolitics/Economics Member Board of Experts, CGSS.