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Africa: An emerging continent

10:51 PM | 10 May, 2024
Africa: An emerging continent

Ayesha Afgun

The resource-rich Africa, dubbed as the continent of the future, has been the centre of attention of major and middle powers for quite some time. Africa is the second largest continent, home to 54 sovereign countries and boasting a combined GDP of over $3 trillion. Africa hosts almost 25% of the natural global biodiversity and 30% of the world's mineral resources. The African Development Bank has projected GDP growth in Africa to average 4% in 2023 and 2024, which is higher than the global averages of 2.7% and 3.2%, respectively. Besides, Africa's deepening economic integration and accelerated development through the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement has created vast opportunities for Africa and its international partners. Thus, the African continent's lucrative economic prospects are self-evident.

Pakistan has so far initiated three policy initiatives: two by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) and one by the Ministry of Commerce (MoC), respectively. MoFA proposed the first policy for Africa in 2014, known as the "Look Africa" policy, which underscored the importance of consolidating Pakistan's ties with key African countries. However, it remained largely on paper and could not bear substantive outcomes.

Later, in 2017, MoC initiated the "Look Africa" policy to capitalise on Africa's economic opportunities and increase Pakistan's economic footprint in Africa. It targets three major trading blocs: the Southern African Customs Union (SACU), the East African Community (EAC), and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). It prioritises 10 African countries – Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, Algeria, Morocco, Egypt, Tanzania, Sudan, Ethiopia, and Senegal – comprising 72% of the total GDP of Africa. It entails six new commercial sections in Algeria, Tanzania, Egypt, Sudan, Senegal and Ethiopia, respectively. It initiates granting accreditations, appointing Trade Development Officers (TDOs), providing special facilitation to delegations to/ from Africa, and initiating negotiations on bilateral/ multilateral trade agreements for market access in Africa, formation of Joint Working Groups (JWGs) on trade, establishment of an Africa Cell in Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP), Karachi.  

Moreover, the policy stipulates organising a series of Pakistan-Africa Trade and Development Conferences (PATDC). The first such conference took place in Nairobi in January 2020, inaugurated by the Kenyan President, and attended by delegations from 26 countries of Africa, including Kenyan trade minister and senior Kenyan and East African community officials. The second PATDC was held in Lagos in November 2021, attended by Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and Nigerian business community, while the third conference was held in Johannesburg in 2022 with heavy participation from the South African Customs Union (SACU) and South African Development Community (SADC).

Later, in 2019, MoFA also introduced the "Engage Africa Initiative". This comprehensive initiative aims to pragmatically engage Africa through a targeted approach to increase political, diplomatic, social and people-to-people and government-to-government contacts. The policy attempts to address the gaps and lay the foundation of a renewed mechanism for greater cooperation, engagement and economic ties between Pakistan and Africa. Under this initiative, Pakistan has opened five new resident missions in Africa: Djibouti, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Rwanda and Uganda, thereby raising the number to nineteen missions in the African continent. Other steps include appointing eleven Honorary Counsels, with a total number reaching thirty-eight, six bilateral political consultations, thirteen Joint Economic Commissions, and three Visa Exemption Agreements with four similar initiatives in the pipeline. 

For years, Pakistan has looked towards its traditional partners (Europe, China, the US and the Middle East) for its market expansion and trade. However, with African policy initiatives, Pakistan has attempted to navigate promising prospects of economic dividends that Africa offers. To yield favourable results from both African policies, Pakistan needs to synchronise its policy initiatives to boost political, economic and commercial ties with various African countries. 

The graph provides an overview of import/ export, total trade, and trade balance statistics between Pakistan and Africa. Historically, trade between Pakistan and Africa has remained low, hovering around $2-3 billion annually for many years. However, it crossed $4 billion since 2018 after introducing the "Look Africa policy". The trade volume has reached nearly $6 billion in 2022, as shown in the graph below, but its full potential is still to be realised. Imports between Pakistan and Africa have grown but are not directly proportional to the export growth. Pakistan's exports to Africa remain limited to cereals, made-up textile articles, cotton, rice, pharmaceuticals, beverages, apparel and clothing accessories, to name a few. The recently established AfCFTA provides a business-friendly and cooperative environment that facilitates trade and easy accessibility to African markets, services, and produce by eliminating trade barriers and gaining preferential access to its market of over 1.2 billion.

No doubt, the Look Africa policy and Engage Africa initiatives are steps in the right direction; however, the engagement level does not reflect the vigorous efforts required to take Pakistan's ties with African countries to new levels. 

Recommendations

•    Policy formulation regarding Africa has been done; however, implementing the policy is still challenging. There is a need to strategise the implementation by establishing Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) in various phases.
•    To enhance people-to-people interaction with locals and create awareness about Pakistan's culture and landscape, annual cultural shows in countries where we have diplomatic missions should be planned.   

Engaging with Africa purposefully and proactively is a strategic imperative for Pakistan. While geopolitical factors continue to play their role, Pakistan's shift to geo-economics provides a solid base for deeper and stronger commercial connectivity with Africa. Pakistan and Africa can access each other's markets and reap greater economic and security benefits and prosperity for the people of the African continent and South Asia. Despite opportunities, Africa still remains an untapped market for Pakistani goods. The policymakers should make full use of the opportunity to forge deeper ties with the continent. 

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Pakistani Rupee exchange rate to US Dollar, Euro, Pound, Dirham, and Riyal - 28 May 2024

Pakistani currency rates against US Dollar and other currencies on May 28, 2024 (Tuesday) in open market.

USD to PKR rate today

US dollar was being quoted at 277.4 for buying and 280.25 for selling.

Euro stands at 298 for buying and 301 for selling while British Pound rate is 349.5 for buying, and 353 for selling.

UAE Dirham AED was at 75.25 and Saudi Riyal increased to 73.45.

Source: Forex Association of Pakistan. (last update 08:00 AM)

Currency Symbol Buying Selling
US Dollar USD 277.4 280.25
Euro EUR 298 301
UK Pound Sterling GBP 349.5 353
U.A.E Dirham AED 75.25 75.9
Saudi Riyal SAR 73.45 74.2
Australian Dollar AUD 183 184.8
Bahrain Dinar BHD 740.03 748.03
Canadian Dollar CAD 203 205
China Yuan CNY 38.42 38.82
Danish Krone DKK 40.44 40.84
Hong Kong Dollar HKD 35.62 35.97
Indian Rupee INR 3.35 3.46
Japanese Yen JPY 1.91 1.99
Kuwaiti Dinar KWD 904.07 913.07
Malaysian Ringgit MYR 59.05 59.65
New Zealand Dollar NZD 170.03 172.03
Norwegians Krone NOK 25.92 26.22
Omani Riyal OMR 723.64 731.64
Qatari Riyal QAR 76.42 77.12
Singapore Dollar SGD 203 205
Swedish Korona SEK 26.02 26.32
Swiss Franc CHF 304.75 307.25
Thai Bhat THB 7.6 7.75

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