by Cheng Xizhong
BEIJING, Jan. 8 (China Economic Net) - Pakistani Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi Wednesday while underlining the importance of Africa as a "continent of future" said that Pakistan enjoys friendly relations and political goodwill in African countries, which needs to be translated into a more robust economic partnership.
Since Prime Minister Imran Khan came to power, the Federal Government of Pakistan has been committed to developing its economy and increasing exports and has got miraculous achievements. Despite the novel coronavirus pneumonia, Pakistan’s economy has recovered rapidly and exports have increased substantially.
However, for a long time, Pakistan’s foreign trade has been dominated by the United States, China, Europe and the Middle East. The top three export destinations are the United States, China and the United Kingdom.
When I participated in UN peacekeeping operations in Africa, I felt that Pakistan had a very important role in Africa. Pakistan is one of the major troops contributing countries to UN peacekeeping. It has dispatched a large number of troops to various peacekeeping missions in Africa and has made great contributions to peace and stability in Africa.
Africa has 54 sovereign countries with a total population of 1.3 billion. On the first day of this year, the African continent started trading under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which will greatly enhance the relationship between Africa and its external trade partners.
As a matter of fact, the Imran Khan administration has long recognized the importance of further westward expansion through the Middle East and opening up the African market, and for this purpose, Pakistan has embarked on the “Engage Africa” initiative, aiming at expanding Pakistan’s diplomatic footprint and deepening economic engagement with Africa.
According to my observation, the “Engage Africa” initiative aims to expand Pakistan’s foreign trade market in breadth and depth. Since the launch of this initiative, Pakistan has achieved initial results with a 7% growth in its trade with Africa despite the Covid-19 related challenges.
When I was in Africa, in terms of trade there, I was impressed by three points:
First, the African market is huge. Africa’s annual import and export volume is over 300 billion U.S. dollars, with an annual growth rate of 3%.
I had a Chinese friend doing trade in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo. He was there mainly to investigate and analyze the local demand for Chinese commodities and then sent the information back to his partner in China. His partner in China was responsible for purchasing and shipping to Kinshasa once a week. When the Chinese goods arrived, they were snapped up by local retailers. Their business was booming there.
Second, it is easy to make money in Africa. Many African countries have no industry and processing industry, let alone the heavy industry. Industrial products, daily necessities and office supplies all depend on imports, and most of the African countries have no import restrictions. Free trade is implemented, and merchants can import as long as they pay taxes.
Third, the pharmaceutical market is very large. Most African countries are short of medicines, especially anti-malarial medicines. Africa needs to spend 20 billion U.S. dollars a year importing anti-malarial medicines.
Cheng Xizhong, visiting professor at Southwest University of Political Science and Law, senior fellow of the Charhar Institute, former Defense Attache in South Asian countries