ISLAMABAD: In a welcoming development, Africa having 54 countries in it and population of 1.2 billion people with the size of economy at $2.4 trillion has positively indicated to using CPEC (China-Pakistan Economic Corridor) and Gwadar Port to ensure access for its products to the markets of Central Asian Republics (CARs) and China. And more importantly Africa has also shown its willingness to start negotiations with Pakistan on Early Harvest that will stimulate the growth of Pak-African trade volume up to $8 billion in the next five years’ time. Kenya’s central bank has also agreed to allow Pakistani banks to open up their branches to facilitate the country’s exporters in Africa.
Adviser to Prime Minister on Commerce, Industries & Production, Textile and Investment Abdul Razak Dawood has disclosed this to The News in an exclusive interview on Sunday at his Ministry’s office.
Pakistan’s CPEC and Gwadar are a low hanging fruit that African countries want to pluck by exporting their products to Central Asian States and China and increase their trade with them. The use of Gwadar and CPEC in big way by African countries will stimulate the Pakistan economy manifold too. Pakistan under its Look Africa Policy Initiative is seriously aiming to tap the maximum share in economy of Africa that currently stands at $2.4 trillion, which is estimated to further go up to over $4 trillion in the next 10 years and to this effect we have decided to double the Pak-Africa trade volume to $8 billion from existing $4 billion in the next five years’ time.
Mentioning the successful two-day seminar held in Kenya under the Look Africa Policy that concluded on January 31, the adviser said that apart from government-to-government level interactions, business-to-business (B to B) interactions proved very productive as Pakistani businessmen managed to attain export orders of millions of dollars worth for rice, fruits, vegetables, processed food, confectionery, pharmaceuticals, sports goods, tractors, cement and light engineering sector companies. He said that huge attendance by business delegates and top officials from 20 African countries was witnessed. President of Kenya also attended the seminar and he himself met with Pakistan businessmen. Dawood also mentioned that about 100 businessmen from Pakistan attended the conference in Kenya on their own expenses.
And to this effect, the adviser said Pakistan and Africa have decided to immediately start negotiations for early harvest on at least 10 products to make inroads into Africa’s market to stimulate the growth in Pak-Africa trade.
To a question if Pakistan is going to ink Preferential Trade Agreement or Free Trade Agreement with African countries, he said there are 4-5 economic zones such as East Africa, West Africa, North and South Africa and whole Africa economic zone and the commerce ministry would first hire top class consultants and carry out a study to know should Pakistan go for trade agreement either with whole Africa economic zone, or with East Africa, West Africa, North and South Africa zones.
To a question, he said that the Early Harvest will be inked with the East Africa economic zone. The adviser also mentioned about that Bohri and Gujrati communities that left the Subcontinent in 1920s and settled in Africa since then. ‘They were very interested to go for trade with Pakistan.’
He said that Africa’s annual global trade was $1.075 trillion in 2018. On the other hand, Africa-Pakistan trade has remained stagnant at a meagre US$3 billion for many years. It only crossed US$4 billion during the last two years, reaching US$4.28 billion in 2018-19, which still is a fraction of the total trade. With a collective GDP of $2.45 trillion (2018) and projected to be 4.1 percent in 2020, it’s time for the world to acknowledge this robust economic performance.
He said that Pakistan has increased the number of commercial councillors from 4 to 14 which will further be increased in the time to come to ensure tapping of maximum potential of African countries for Pakistan’s exports. The adviser said that Pakistan is opening six new Trade Wings at our embassies in Africa. These include Algeria, Egypt, Ethiopia, Senegal, Sudan and Tanzania. This has increased the number to 10. They will be mandated to increase engagement with African countries at ministerial level. He said that Pakistan will form bilateral Joint Working Groups on trade and establish the Africa Cell in the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan to enhance facilitation for exchange of delegations with Africa and increase facilitation for companies’ participating in trade fairs in Africa.
He said that in Pakistan, there has been no progress when it comes to issues such as implementation of decisions and follow-ups. The adviser said that Pakistan would attend the Commonwealth Conference to be held in Rwanda in June 2020 to explore more trade avenues in Africa. Pakistan under the Look Africa Policy will also hold a conference in Karachi somewhere in October where a large number of business and official delegates from Africa will be invited.
‘‘And the third seminar will be held either in Nairobi or in Morocco for interaction with West African countries,” Dawood added.