Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi held a meeting with ambassadors of African countries to discuss bilateral economic cooperation. Image Credit: Supplied

Islamabad: Pakistan’s foreign minister says the government is committed to develop economic ties with African countries to boost people-to-people and business links. Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi held a meeting with ambassadors of different African countries at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Thursday to discuss bilateral economic cooperation prospects. Diplomats from Algeria, Kenya, Libya, Mauritius, Morocco, South Africa, Sudan and Tunisia attended the meeting.

“Pakistan attaches great importance to its relations with African countries” and the government is committed to developing trade ties to explore the untapped economic potential, FM Qureshi said. Pakistan is eager to “promote bilateral cooperation with African countries in various fields, including agriculture, health, technology, tourism.” Describing Africa as the “continent of the future”, with 54 countries and a population of 1.3 billion, the foreign minister said Pakistan’s friendly relations with African countries needed to be “translated into a more robust economic partnership.”

Pakistan is keen to upgrade its diplomatic ties and develop strategic cooperation with African states, he said. The country has planned to open new embassies and the foreign ministry has encouraged the Pakistani diplomats in the African region to devote all their energies to promote and strengthen the economic partnership between Pakistan and Africa. Last week, Pakistan announced to establish its diplomatic mission in strategically located Djibouti.

Focus on economic partnership

Recently, FM Qureshi held a virtual meeting on economic diplomacy with Pakistani envoys posted in Algeria, Kenya, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Niger, Libya, Mauritius, Morocco, South Africa, Sudan, Senegal, Tanzania. Zimbabwe and Tunisia to emphasize the importance of economic diplomacy. Underlining the shift from geo-politics to geo-economics, the foreign minister urged the Pakistani envoys to develop mutually beneficial economic partnerships with African countries, focusing on trade promotion, financial inflows, investments, tourism and technology transfer.

Pakistan’s trade with African countries touched US$4.18 billion in 2019-20, signifying an increase by seven percent as compared to the previous year (US$1.38 billion) despite the pandemic challenges. The success came after the first-ever ‘Pakistan-Africa Trade Development Conference’ in Nairobi in January 2020.

The recent development is part of Pakistan’s “Engage Africa” policy, which aims at forging closer ties with the continent by expanding Islamabad’s diplomatic economic interaction and develop it into a strategic partnership. In 2019, Pakistan hosted the ‘Engage Africa’ diplomats’ conference in which Prime Minister Imran Khan urged Pakistani diplomats to “focus on African countries” to improve ties with the region with an emphasis on trade.