Africa has rightly been labelled as the ‘Continent of the Future’ owing to its promising economic potential, lucrative investment opportunities, abundant natural resources and most importantly due to its high percentage of youth population. For a country like Pakistan – where economic activity has received a boost in wake of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) – Africa is a land of endless opportunities. However, despite the friendly nature of Pakistan’s ties with African countries, mutual trade figures have remained quite meager. Recently however, under Pakistan’s new ‘Engage Africa’ policy, economic outreach to the African continent is one of the top priorities of the country’s foreign policy.
Both Pakistan and African nations have their own geostrategic significance. The location of Africa allows it to trade globally. Pakistan and Africa share many commonalities. Both regions have suffered greatly in the past in terms of poverty, inflation, unemployment etc. Today, both nations are trying to stabilize their regions to overcome these challenges.
The “Look Africa” policy was initiated in 2017. Accordingly ten important countries of Africa: Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Sudan, Tanzania, Nigeria, Kenya, Senegal, Ethiopia, and South Africa were selected for the promotion of trade with the intention to double trade with African countries by the year 2025. In January 2020, a Trade and Development Conference was held in Nairobi by Pakistan’s Ministry of Commerce. The conference was attended by around 200 participants from various African nations to determine how trade could be increased up to its maximum. The conference discussed common interests that will be beneficial for both Pakistan and the African continent.
Moreover, six trade wings have opened in Algeria, Egypt, Ethiopia, Sudan and Tanzania. Under these wings, local people have been appointed as trade development officers in various African counties where resident missions have not been established. They are working under an accredited ambassador’s supervision and are responsible for the trade and development activities.
For instance, in order to boost the business activity, the Pakistan South African Association based in South Africa works closely with the Pakistan mission in South Africa. This Association is operating in many parts of Africa like Malawi, Zambia, Kenya, Maputo, Swaziland, Lesotho, and Namibia. Under this Association many Pakistani businessmen are expanding their businesses in the fields of textile, infrastructure development and in imports and exports.
Marketing strategies should also involve mechanisms regarding mobilizing ‘Duty-Free Agreements’ in different parts of Africa through foreign missions to create trade linkages.
In order to improve trade with the African region, Pakistan is fully capable of exporting products such as rice, frozen food, machinery and textile apparels. Pakistan’s contribution in agriculture can also play a vital role in developing the Pakistani market and trade in Africa, an example of which is Millat Tractors. In December 2020 Millat Tractors secured an export order for 600 tractors to Angola which is an important milestone towards the practical implementation of the ‘Engage Africa Policy’. However, during 2019 Millat tractors exported 1,100 tractors and related engineering products worth USD 9 million to the African markets. Other exporters should follow the same example of exporting non-traditional products to the African markets to enhance trade activity. Because at this time it is pertinent to understand that in the future geographical diversification of exports will work as a foundation stone for the expansion of trade and businesses around the world.
In the health sector, Africa is lagging behind and facing major diseases such as malaria, typhoid, cholera, dengue fever etc. This health emergency creates an opportunity for Pakistani pharmaceutical companies to work with relevant stakeholders in Africa to combat the crisis. Pakistan has prior experience in dealing with these diseases specifically with malaria and dengue fever, it can help Africa to counter such largescale health issues effectively as local pharmaceutical companies in Pakistan are competent enough and are ready to invest in Western and Eastern regions of Africa. Moreover, the current Pakistan government is keen on increasing pharma export to $5 billion to increase the exports manifold. To achieve this goal a Pharmaceutical Export Promotion Committee has also been set up to encourage the production and export of medicines and medical products to countries abroad and specifically to African countries like Kenya, Rwanda, Ivory Coast and Djibouti.
To create relevant and friendly ties with African markets Pakistan needs to implement conventional methods of marketing. For instance, confectionery manufactures in Pakistan can penetrate in African markets by providing them low-cost packaging of products to target the low-income groups, this can also be converted into a major business later on. These products can be consumer goods, fiber foods, textiles, pharmaceuticals and chemicals. In addition to this, marketing strategies should also involve mechanisms regarding mobilizing ‘Duty-Free Agreements’ in different parts of Africa through foreign missions to create trade linkages.
Cooperation can further be reinforced by focusing on areas of mutual interests, such as cross-cultural diplomacy. In this vein, sports leagues will bolster cross-cultural inter-relatedness, for example cricket diplomacy can play a major role. Secondly, it will also pave way for the advertisement of Pakistani products in African markets. Moreover, other tactics such as setting up a permanent Pakistani business exhibition centre and hosting musical concerts can act as a catalyst in furthering the Pak-Afro ties and will help largely to brand a positive image of Pakistan.
Conclusively Africa is full of economic opportunities. Various sectors in which Pakistan is capable of exporting should be brought to the light in terms of potential and capacity. Pakistan’s investors and manufacturers should come up with innovative ideas that in turn would greatly benefit the economy and help create sustainable trading channels. However, at this stage policy-making decisions supplemented by a mindful approach will play a substantial role.