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ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi Wednesday asked Pakistan’s envoys based in African countries to cultivate and broaden mutually-beneficial trade and economic partnerships with the host states, focusing on key goals of trade promotion, financial inflows, investments, remittances, tourism, and technology transfer.

The foreign minister gave these instructions, while chairing third virtual envoys meeting on economic diplomacy with Pakistani envoys in African countries, the Foreign Office said in a statement.

With emphasis on Africa, and held under the government’s “Engage Africa” initiative, Pakistan’s heads of missions in Abuja, Addis Abba, Algiers, Nairobi, Tripoli, Port Louis, Rabat, Pretoria, Niamey, Khartoum, Dar es Salam, Dakar, Harare, and Tunis participated in the meeting.

Underlining the shift from geo-politics to geo-economics, the foreign minister emphasized the importance of economic diplomacy as a key component of modern diplomatic practice.

He said that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was at the forefront of safeguarding and protecting Pakistan’s economic interests through initiatives such as the Prime Minister’s Global Initiative on Debt Relief for Developing Countries.

The ministry and the missions abroad were also working on advancing the Roshan Digital Account and the Home Remittances, and the Prime Minister’s Economic Outreach Initiatives.

Noting the importance of Africa as the “continent of future”, with 54 countries and a population of 1.3 billion, Qureshi said that Pakistan enjoyed friendly relations and political goodwill in African countries that needed to be translated into a more robust economic partnership.

Recognising this, Pakistan had embarked on the “Engage Africa” initiative, aimed at expanding Pakistan’s diplomatic footprint and deepening economic engagement with Africa, he stated.

As part of this initiative, he added that Pakistan’s outreach and presence in Africa was being significantly enhanced.

An Envoys Conference on Africa was held in November 2019, followed by the first ever Pakistan-Africa Trade Development Conference in Nairobi in January 2020.

Qureshi said that the initiative had started paying off, with a seven percent growth in Pakistan’s trade with Africa, despite the Covid-19 related challenges.

The foreign minister encouraged envoys to cultivate and broaden mutually-beneficial trade and economic partnerships with African countries, focusing on key goals of trade promotion, financial inflows, investments, remittances, tourism, and technology transfer.

He further stated that economic diplomacy was not limited to imports and exports but was a multifaceted and comprehensive process that includes the promotion of bilateral cooperation in our trade as well as investment, services, tourism, technology exchange, and other areas.

During the meeting, the Pakistani envoys apprised the foreign minister of their activities in economic and commercial domain.

They highlighted specific steps in follow-up of the Trade Development Conference and apprised of measures to strengthen existing linkages and forging new ones for enhanced economic collaboration.

Speaking further about Pakistan ties with African states, he pointed out that Pakistan assisted the African countries in their struggle for decolonization, adding that Pakistan has long been playing an active and significant role in UN peacekeeping operations to restore peace in the African countries.

Qureshi, however, admitted with regrets that Pakistan’s diplomatic relations with African countries have remained at a snail’s pace.

In keeping with Prime Minister Imran Khan’s vision, the foreign minister has consistently sought to strengthen Pakistan’s economic diplomacy footprint, the statement added.

It further stated that the foreign minister has been regularly holding virtual meetings on economic diplomacy with Pakistani envoys in key countries.

“Today’s virtual Envoys meeting focusing on Africa region is the first of a series of region-specific economic diplomacy meetings scheduled over the coming months,” it added.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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