Pakistan’s relations with African countries have always been vibrant and jovial since the colonial era. There is no doubt that Pakistan was among the first Muslim countries to show solidarity and support the struggle of right to self-determination of African colonies. While moving ahead with the same spirit, Pakistan was also among one of the first countries to support Eritrea’s independence from Italian imperialism. With the similar zeal, Pakistan supported Morocco, Zimbabwe, Namibia and South Africa in their liberation struggles. By emulating the paths of friendship and solidarity, many African leaders have travelled on Pakistani Diplomatic Passports. Indeed, this sponsorship is extraordinary and exemplary in the contemporary diplomatic arena. Likewise, thousands of students from African origin have received a chance to get higher education in Pakistan’s Universities. Pakistan’s contribution in terms of peacekeeping contingents to the United Nations is yet another area, which illuminates the cordial relationship between Pakistan and its African counterparts, where Pakistan assisted their African partners in the transition to self-rule. The deployment of Pakistani contingents in Africa, under the umbrella of the UN, to provide relief assistance to famine-affected areas and protect the civilians from human rights transgressions of rebel groups also narrates the tale of a strong friendship.
Although the African region is famous for its diversity, dynamism and richness of tradition and culture, Kenya outshines other regional actors owing to its exuberant history and culture. Presently, the bilateral relations between Pakistan and Kenya stand on firm grounds in a swiftly changing world. Both countries, Pakistan and Kenya, enjoy pleasant ties with each other that span over several decades and these ties based on profoundly rooted historical perspectives and their unanimous understanding of various global issues. Unlike others, the relation between both nations are not confined to certain specific fields and both partners extend their full-length support to each other, whether its trade, investment, education, counter-terrorism, tourism, cultural diplomacy and other fields of mutual interest.
The Republic of Kenya with its Capital Nairobi is the most important country and leading sovereign state in East Africa and is the 47th largest country in the world and a developing economy, struggling hard to accomplish rapid national development and economic autonomy. The economic and political outlook of Kenya is a major reason for Pakistan to pursue closer economic, social and cultural cooperation with the country. In a nutshell, a peaceful, prosperous and globally competitive Kenya is the gist of the foreign policy of Kenya.
Although Kenya is famous for the largest production of coffee and tea, and it is also considered as an utmost tourism destination in the world. Besides being rich in natural resources, Kenya exhibits great economic potential triggering sustainable development within the region and having a spillover effect across the globe. A couple of years ago, Kenya issued a foreign policy document comprehending the vision and greater role the country will play in the region and beyond.
Kenya vision 2030 is the vision of peace and making the country more vibrant and prosperous with financial independence and stability. The diplomatic vision of Kenya and its collaborative foreign policy corresponds to Pakistan’s ideology of peace and prosperity. This became the underlying reason for both countries to forge strong bilateral ties and advance their relations. Innovative diplomacy also adds value to the bilateral ties of both countries. Pak-Kenya trade volume has increased manifold in recent years but the trade balance is twisted towards Kenya since 2015, as Pakistan’s exports to Kenya are dominated by rice while imports from Kenya are dominated by tea. If we have a look at the bilateral trade of the first six months of 2018, Pakistan’s exports to Kenya were turned down by 2.7 per cent but the imports by Pakistan from Kenya have augmented by 35 per cent as compared to the same period of 2017. However, the annual trade represents a surge of 20 per cent in Pakistan exports to Kenya whereas imports of Pakistan from Kenya have rushed forward by 16 per cent. The import outline of Kenya is comprised of minerals, machinery, vehicles, and cereals. While having a look at the monthly statistics of the first few months of 2018, we get to observe the comparable trend. The trade deficit of Pakistan to Kenya has enlarged by 132 per cent in the first six months of 2018. Pakistan also paved its position as the major buyer of Kenyan tea with stocks worth 35 billion in October 2019. The Tea Directorate indicated that only Karachi bought 14.8 million kilos of tea in the period previously mentioned with a marginal increase from 14.7 million kilos in 2018.
The presence of a substantial Pakistani Diaspora in Nairobi is another avenue through which both states can further enhance a stronger relationship. Kenya is constantly emulating the new trends and is involved in the process of evolving the country for good. While continuing with the same trend, trading patterns of the country have also evolved significantly in recent years. Kenya’s trade destinations have transferred from countries like the United States, UK and African countries toward South Asian countries. This is indeed an opportunity for Pakistan to get most out of it. For instance, Pakistan’s import from Kenya now surpassed that of Uganda, an African country. Traditionally Pakistan’s exports to the world have mostly been focused on agriculture and textile. Pakistan can further broaden its horizons in order to endorse other products as well in the Kenyan market. Kenyan authorities have taken initiatives and included the domestic production of rice in the vision 2030.
Giving importance to the African Region in 2017 the Ministry of Commerce in Pakistan has approved a plan called “Look Africa Plan”. It was envisioned to boost economic ties with top 10 African Nations including Kenya. It is pertinent to mention that Kenya’s geographic positioning also has a great significance in this regard. While developing good economic ties with East African countries, Kenya is the hub where the economic activities can further be excelled within the region. Developing good ties with Kenya can further pave a way to get a chance of having the same relations with other East African Nations. The strength and importance of Kenya have further increased with the formation of the East African communities. Such entities can prove to be a reason for evident support and furthering the bilateral relations with Pakistan.
Kenya being the regional hub for economic activity is a gateway to building relations with other African Nations. Construction of Luma port and a Railway Network linking Nairobi with the other region further enhanced the importance and significance of Kenya. In January 2020, Nairobi hosted the inaugural session of Pakistan-Africa Trade and Development Conference. This was indeed a platform for Kenya to discover more opportunities for trade and investment under the Big Four Agenda and Vision 2030 plan. Pakistan’s Ministry of commerce conference has organized the conference called “Engage Africa,” which was attended by over 100 leading Pakistani companies working in various sectors such as textile and apparel, pharmaceuticals, agriculture, banking, transportation, surgical instruments, leather and sports goods, light engineering and electronics, IT and software and cement and construction services.
Pakistan is in a quest of increasing its trade with the African region in the next five years and coalesce it with the Chinese development endeavours. Trade prospects are directly dependent on the bilateral ties and economic collaborations of both nations, especially on the sustainability of Pakistan’s Look Africa Policy Initiative. It is pertinent to mention that Pakistan is in search of foreign investments beyond its borders and its leadership is a staunch advocate of economic diplomacy for the cause. The incumbent government of Pakistan seeks avenues of increasing the trade volume through economic diplomacy and following the paths of modern diplomacy around the world, based on rules of mutual interest and benefits. The Islamic Republic of Pakistan is intended to further enhance its economic engagements with regional blocs such as the East African Community (EAC) and African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA) to ameliorate the country’s positioning in the trade negotiations. However, there are many unexploited business opportunities on both sides, which once indicated can be beneficial for investors of both countries. The AFCFTA is a unique platform for investors to connect Africa as a bloc, thus benefiting from economies of scale. The same applies to the EAC, which boasts a population of over 100 million. Pakistan’s Look Africa policy is both opportune and spectacle in its nature for the African economies.
The continuing deployment of Pakistan Navy ships to Africa is intended to further strengthen the bilateral ties with African countries while at the same time, the country is keen to extend humanitarian aid and increasing interoperability with the African host forces. Additionally, this military cooperation can result in the joint defence agreements or sharing of intelligence for eliminating transcontinental crimes. Thus, it is another avenue where Pakistan and the African Nations, especially Kenya can cultivate strong ties.
Until now, both nations have taken many pragmatic steps to secure their economic and military interests but as mentioned before, there is still an ample room for cooperation in many fields between Kenya and Pakistan. Exploration of these avenues for cooperation will certainly be in favour of both nation-states.