ISLAMABAD, Jan 30 (APP):Minister for Foreign Affairs Shah Mahmood Qureshi Thursday 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 particularly for Africa.
“Today, the sun has also dawned on a brave, new Pakistan. With resolute action, we have turned the tide against the scourge of terrorism. If you visit Pakistan today, you will realize, that insecurity is a thing of the past. Pakistan today has all the ingredients to become a twenty-first century success,” the foreign minister remarked in his address at the inaugural session of Pakistan-Africa Trade Development Conference held in the Kenyan capital city arranged by both the countries.
President of the Republic of Kenya Uhuru Kenyatta, Cabinet Secretaries of Kenya and Advisor on Commerce Abdul Razzaq Dawood and leaders from other African countries attended the conference.
The foreign minister told the international gathering that Pakistan was rich with a 207 million population with over half under 30, transformative structural reforms and a potential to become join top 25 biggest economies.
He said Pakistan was 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,” the minister 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.
Citing a Kenya as Pakistan’s largest trading partner in Africa with nearly $ 1 billion dollars trade last year he said, “this beautiful country (Kenya) is the gateway to Africa, and Africa is the gateway to the future. In other words, the “future is Kenya.”
President Kenyatta’s transformative Big-4 agenda also mirrored the Pakistan’s own development blueprint.
Speaking high of the huge participation of high ranking dignitaries from Kenya and Uganda, the foreign minister said in the context of Pakistan-Africa relations, the Government of Pakistan had done the necessary groundwork and made the necessary determination.
Highlighting the historical background of the deep-rooted Pakistan-African ties including Pakistan’s , support to independence movements of many African states, capacity building of African states including diplomats and database projects executed by Pakistan’s NADRA with partners in Africa.
He also referred to the sending of Pakistan peace troops from Somalia to Liberia and said Pakistan also assisted in the capacity building of armed forces of friendly states.
He said Africa was a burgeoning, fast integrating and rapidly urbanizing economy of
US$ 2.5 trillion comprising 54 States and some 1.3 billion consumers. 54 States embarked on a common pan-African agenda of deepening societal, political and economic ties.
He said under the African Union, the continent was making impressive strides in ensuring freedom of movement, through the AU Passport, and the AU Single African Air Transport Market Initiative.
“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 have been African. In the World Bank’s 2019 Ease of Doing Business Index, 5 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 was fast transforming the Pakistan’s geographic advantage into a geo-economic dividend.
“CPEC culminates at our deep sea Port of Gwadar, 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. 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 also, preferential access to both the European and American market,” 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 Pakistan’s defence industry was 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 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. 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 our business communities. He said 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 African countries to procure technologies and capabilities from Pakistan far cheaper than those available from other resources.