Minister for Foreign Affairs Shah Mahmood Qureshi wooed the African investors to Pakistan citing its huge potential supported by the country’s peaceful atmosphere, government’s friendly policies and growing infrastructure providing connectivity and cost-effective business opportunities.
“Today, the sun has also dawned on a new Pakistan which has all ingredients to become a twenty-first century success,” he remarked in his address at the inaugural session of the Pakistan-Africa Trade Development Conference held in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, cabinet secretaries and leaders from other African countries attended the conference. Shah Mahmood Qureshi told the gathering that Pakistan is rich with a 207 million population with over half under 30 age, transformative structural reforms and a potential to become join top 25 biggest economies.
He said that Pakistan is a rapidly urbanizing country, with the third largest number of English speakers. In 2019, Pakistan jumped up 28 spots in the ease of doing business ranking and Moody’s International has upgraded Pakistan’s outlook from negative to stable.
“Like Africa, Pakistan’s resource base is rich, diverse and untapped. Pakistan has come knocking on Africa’s door. Let the palpable, visible synergy come into play. Let us become one another’s strength,” he said.
He hoped that the conference would enable both the countries to build trust and goodwill, generate awareness about each other’s strengths and ground realities, and move forward on customized economic collaboration that can lay the groundwork for robust futuristic partnerships.
FUTURE IS KENYA
Citing Kenya as Pakistan’s largest trading partner in Africa with nearly $1 billion dollars trade last year, Shah Mahmood Qureshi said that Kenya is the gateway to Africa, and Africa is the gateway to the future. In other words, “the future is Kenya,” he said.
President Uhuru Kenyatta’s transformative big-4 agenda also mirrored Pakistan’s development blueprint, he said. Speaking high of the huge participation of high-ranking dignitaries from Kenya and Uganda, the foreign minister said that in the context of Pakistan-Africa relations, Islamabad had done the necessary groundwork and made the necessary determination.
He said that Africa is a burgeoning, fast integrating and rapidly urbanizing economy of $2.5 trillion comprising 54 states and some 1.3 billion consumers. About 54 states embarked on a common pan-African agenda of deepening societal, political and economic ties, he said.
AU PASSPORT, AIR SERVICE
Under the African Union, he said that the continent is making impressive strides in ensuring freedom of movement, through the AU passport, and the AU single African air transport market initiative. Shah Mahmood Qureshi said that more than 400 African companies today earn annual revenues of over $1 billion.
Of the 10 fastest growing economies of the world in 2018, six companies have been African. In the World Bank’s 2019 ease of doing business index, five of the 10 most improved economies are African. And one-thirds of all reforms recorded globally are from Sub-Saharan Africa, he remarked.
Similarly, he also apprised the audience of fourth largest irrigated area of Pakistan, possession of 92 minerals, the country’s digital readiness and country’s potential in IT exports and energy resources. He said the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is fast transforming Pakistan’s geographic advantage into a geo-economic dividend.
“CPEC culminates at our deep-sea Gwadar Port, which gives the shortest maritime access to the vast Asian hinterland. Its proximity to Africa is an added plus. The early harvest phase of CPEC helped plug critical infrastructure and energy gaps,” Shah Mahmood Qureshi said.
In the next phase, “we are setting up special economic zones along the CPEC route, to take advantage of Pakistan’s enhanced market access, and proximity to China. Pakistan enjoys preferential access to both the European and American markets,” he maintained. “Pakistan is opening up to the world,” he said, mentioning the new visa policy allowing visa on arrival for nationals from 50 countries for tourism, and online visa services for 175.
He said that Pakistan’s defence industry is developed than most of the states as the country produced a range of high quality, high end products, that were available at far lower prices than their western and other counterparts. A JF-17 with capabilities comparable to an F-16 could be made available at a fraction of the cost, he said.
Shah Mahmood Qureshi told the gathering that the structural issues in Pakistan’s economy were being addressed and the painful reforms were now bearing fruit. “Pakistan’s economy has stabilized, and is on path for sustained growth, over a longer trajectory,” he said.
AFRICA’S ACCESS TO ASIA
In the last year alone, the current account deficit declined by 73%, exports grew by 12%, domestic tax collection increased by 28.4% and overall by 16.9% besides an increase in the forex buffers, currency market stability and increase of foreign direct investment by 200%.
He said the purpose of this conference was to crystallize through closer consultations and collaboration among business communities. He said that the Gwadar Port would allow African exports easy access to Asian markets and enable Asian materials, resources and products, a faster, shorter and better route to Africa.
He said the investments into each other’s economies and industries could spur win-win synergies and offered the African countries to procure technologies and capabilities from Pakistan far cheaper than those available from other resources.