The strategic and resourceful importance of Africa for developed and developing nations around the globe is immense. An existing fact remains is the benefit colonial powers such as Britain and France have utilized in the past through the exercise of force and calculated politics. With the recent structural changes and shifting dynamics in the world economic system, opportunities for South Asian countries such as Pakistan and Bangladesh are enormous. The existing question remains; why at a halt for Pakistan?
It is important to highlight the factors which greatly impact trading between Pakistan and Africa. To analyse the situation further and to create connectivity between Pakistan and Africa, the economy of Africa is of great relevance. Pakistan and Africa possess great similarities in their socio-economic systems. The dependency on western powers for financial aid [which inevitably leads to undesired interference in the country’s policymaking] provides Pakistan and Africa with a common thread. To liberate from foreign powers and their influence, a trading system that would benefit both countries must be prioritized. Pakistan enjoys cordial relations with Africa whilst being a constant member of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). A similar pattern of ideological thinking is on the cards, which would facilitate Pakistan and Africa to strengthen political to political ties in the future.
An element that has caused a sense of demotivation for investors in Pakistan to participate in trade with Africa is the stereotype regarding African banks. The ‘African Nigerian Bank Scams’, for instance, has portrayed a side of Africa that has created pessimism regarding its business structure and domain. To eradicate this outdated misconception and to create an authentic banking channel, the government of Pakistan must prioritize bringing accountability to the table. To attract business investment in Africa policies regarding their safeguard must follow. The Pak-Afro trade which has remained constant at a level of US$2 billion, between financial years 2012-13 and 2016-17, a mere rise to US$3 billion from the years of 2018-2019 is quite inadequate. The economic opportunities available and the atmosphere that has been created with China’s involvement in Africa have generated a resentment bloc in Africa, concerning foreign influence. It can, therefore, be established that Pakistan and Africa must reciprocate mutual feelings if the trade has to expand and expedite.
In the past many years, Pakistan has been unable to increase its trade with Africa as compared to its competitors in the region. Taking India into consideration, the introspective approach would lead us to examine the initiatives led by the Indian government which has allowed its economy to boost. India’s Duty-Free Tariff Preference Scheme for the least developed countries in 2011 and the consistency of meetings hosted by India of ‘African Development Bank’ (AFDB) in 2017 are some of India’s many ventures. India has prioritized its presence in Africa with a focus on industrial sectors which strategize and research on market developments. India has been able to hold its ground in Africa by engaging in productive fieldwork that has often led to the discovery of several potential markets which has led India to successfully streamline its businesses community, accordingly. The Indian pharmaceutical company, Cipla, has initiated series of notable joint ventures in South Africa over the past that have proven fruitful in terms of encouraging other Indian companies to follow suit. Pakistan should also adopt relatable methods to stand a chance to penetrate the African markets.
Pakistan is fully capable of exporting major products such as rice, frozen foods, machinery, and textile apparels in Africa but due to the strong presence of European countries, and other South Asian competitors, Pakistan remains a mere spectator. Pakistani pharmaceutical industry which has great scope in Africa can be a point of focus. The sector has gained good credibility in Pakistan, due to its experience in dealing with frequent lapse of the unfortunate Malaria and Dengue crisis, over the past many years. Africa too faces a similar medical emergency, which creates an opening for Pakistani pharmaceutical companies to mutually work with the African business community in combating these diseases. These local pharmaceutical firms are competent and keen on investing in Western and Eastern Africa, and the government must give it a chance.
With relevance to African markets, it may come in handy to implement conventional methods of marketing. Confectionery manufacturers in Pakistan, for example, could formulate strategies to penetrate the African markets by assembling low-cost packaging of products in a way to target low-income groups, which the investors can later delve in and astutely capture market share of foreign businesses. Another upcoming trend is the use of Cause-Related Marketing which falls under the category of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) - Apple and Gap dedicated 50 percent of profits from their designated brands to provide antiretroviral medicine to Africa. For aspiring Pakistani exporters in Africa, this tool can effectively boost the visibility of ‘Make in Pakistan’, and at the same time elevate consumer behaviour, and instil a sense of goodwill among the African middle class, especially during the Covid-19 times.
Along with this marketing strategy, there should be a focus on mobilizing ‘Duty-Free Agreements’ in different parts of Africa through foreign missions in an attempt to create viable trade links. These can further be reinforced by a focus on areas of mutual interests, such as cricket and soccer that are adored by citizens of both nations. The sports leagues will bolster cross-cultural interrelatedness, and pave way for advertisement of non-traditional [yet supreme] Pakistani products and in turn build the Pakistani brand image. Tactics such as holding roadshows, setting up a permanent Pakistani business exhibition centre and hosting musical concerts can act as a catalyst in furthering the Pak-Afro ties.
In conclusion, Africa is a hub of a multitude of investment opportunities. Sectors ranging from necessities to luxury items which Pakistan is fully capable of exporting must be brought to light in terms of potential and capacity. Pakistan’s investors, manufacturers, and the economy would benefit greatly if innovative ways are explored and adopted to create a stable and sustainable trading channel. Pakistan’s trade with Africa can increase substantially through clear-cut policymaking decisions and mindful approaches. This evaluation is based on the current circumstances which play a massive role in the world economic system.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2021