Afro-Asian business forum: a way forward to augment cooperation

The increased engagement of Asian powers with Africa over the last two decades has led to a plethora of studies analysing the evolving relationships from a variety of angles. It is clear that Asian countries and their economic and political strategies in Africa have caught the greatest attention.

Historical studies are important for showing that Africa-Asia relations are not a new phenomenon. Indeed, current relationships often build and expand on older economic, political and cultural ties and social networks, for instance precolonial connections across the Indian Ocean and between North Africa and South East Asia/ Middle East.

Current migration flows from Asians to Africa and from Africans to Asia for such diverse reasons as education, work, and family, and how these co-shape Africa-Asia relationships will be an important field of study in the years to come. Diplomats and academics have stressed the need for concrete measures to promote bilateral trade between Pakistan and African countries. Pakistan’s total trade with Africa is $3 billion as against the total trade volume of $3 trillion.

Pakistan’s share in total trade of African countries is 0.3 per cent. Under the policy, top 10 countries out of the 54 African nations selected trade promotion include Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, Sudan, Tanzania, and Ethiopia. All these countries constitute 78pc of the total African gross domestic product (GDP). COPAIR Pakistan has fully realised the need of the time. The recent launch of Afro Asian business forum is indeed a great initiative by COPAIR. President Center of Pakistan and International Relations (COPAIR) Amna Malik has been elected the President Pakistan chapter, while Khulu Radebe has been elected as President of South African chapter of this forum.

The forum intends to enhance cooperation in education, think tanks collaboration, social sector, media, civil society, economic, investment and tourism sectors to engrave maximum benefits and to further build the bilateral cooperation in these areas. On the occasion Khulu Radebe revealed that the basic purpose of this forum is to attain the unity of the both regions. He admitted he will engage some prestigious people from Africa in this forum, though it will be an independent entity but their support can make a huge difference. He also stressed on the need of enhancing cooperation in infrastructure sector from the both sides.

He also appreciated the efforts of COPAIR for this initiative adding that Amna Malik is a global icon as she has a vision and knows how to use the resources for result oriented approach. He also expressed his personal views as well as objective of this forum to empower women to play their role in global affairs which includes economic cooperation as well as diplomatic relations. Addressing the forum Amna Malik said that there is need to enhance diplomatic relations between Pakistan and African countries. She further added that this forum will unveil different opportunities to work together. The leaders from both regions should come forward to enhance bilateral cooperation, she further said.

Pakistan and African countries have had close ties before and during the colonial days. Pakistan which was among the first Muslim countries to gain independence spear headed support to the struggle for self determination of African colonies. Pakistan was also one of the first countries to support Eritrea’s independence from Italian colonialism and morally supported Morocco, Zimbabwe, Namibia and South Africa in their liberation struggles. Moreover, a large number of students from African countries have studied in Pakistani Universities.

Pakistan has, on different occasions, contributed peace keeping contingents to the UN, which were deployed in Ghana, Somalia, Eritrea, Sudan, Congo and Namibia to assist them in transition to self rule or to provide relief assistance to famine affected areas. Presently too its troops are stationed in Sierra Leone to maintain peace between warring factions. Pakistan has fairly robust relations with most of Africa. It greatly values these relations and is committed to stronger ties with the African continent at large. Pakistan’s relations with many African countries date back to their respective independence movements.

Pakistan has supported both morally, materially, and on the diplomatic level. Regular exchange of visits among Africa and Pakistani exhibitions and seminars on trade promotion should be encouraged. This will facilitate identification of areas where mutual trade and investments are feasible. Pakistan has recorded significant achievement in the fields of science and technology, information technology, telecommunications, agriculture and agro-allied industries.

In any of the above fields, Pakistani experience shared with African countries will be very invaluable. This is particularly the case in matters concerning bio-technology, alternative energy source and above all water management and irrigation being domains where Pakistan has made great strides. The role of the press in promoting trade and investment and other forms of interaction between Pakistan and Africa cannot be overemphasized. Effective use should be made of media adverts as a way of bringing available opportunities to the awareness of the business communities. African – Pakistani relations stand today on solid grounds in a rapidly changing world.

We must stand together to protect our interests and above all our independence, sovereignty and identities fully aware that the future calls upon us to modernize our societies so that they become more democratic, corrupt free, more transparent and more respectful of human rights and the rule of law. Both Africa and Pakistan are seriously engaged in this lofty endeavor and muster enough political will to adopt policies and programs that would make this in the not so far distant future.

We need to muster the will and conjugate our efforts to push for a quantum change in our traditional relationship. The avenues are available. We should be able to explore and exploit them to the mutual benefits of people from both sides and this is what the purpose behind establishing this forum.

Published in Melange Intl. Magazine in October 2018.

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