KARACHI: Honorary Consul General of Rwanda Farooque Azam Khawaja has said that ‘this century is an African century’ and there is a huge potential to enhance Pakistan’s trade ties with Rwanda therefore the business & industrial community of Karachi should come forward to explore trade and investment opportunities in Rwanda which is an ideal place for business and is also one of safest and cleanest country in the entire African region.
“Textiles, clothing, garments, pharmaceuticals, agricultural products, cement, surgical goods and many other Pakistani products can be exported not only to Rwanda but also to other countries in the entire African region with a huge population of 1.25 billion. Whatever is being produced in Pakistan, can be sent to Africa as there is a huge demand because of dire shortage of many products”, he said while speaking at a meeting during his visit to the Karachi Chamber of Commerce & Industry.
President KCCI Junaid Esmail Makda, Senior Vice President Khurram Shahzad, Vice President Asif Sheikh Javaid, Chairman Diplomatic Missions & Embassies Liaison Sub-Committee Shamoon Zaki and KCCI Managing Committee Members were also present at the meeting.
Referring to dire shortage of pharmaceutical products in the entire African region, Farooque Khawaja said that as many Pakistan pharmaceutical companies have been manufacturing good quality medicines, these can be exported to Africa whereas the construction sector has also been booming in this region therefore, the business community can look into the possibility of supplying cement and other allied products to Rwanda and other African states.
Identifying some of the obstacles hindering trade and investment, he said that the African region comprises of 54 countries but unfortunately, only 14 Pakistani embassies are operational in this important region whereas India has a total of 48 embassies. “The overall trade volume of the African region stood at US$1 trillion, of which Pakistan hardly holds a share of US$3 billion mainly due to lack of connectivity and attention whereas India has taken advantage of the situation by effectively penetrating into the African region and China has also invested heavily while Japan and Turkey were also taking keen interest in this important market”, he said, adding that no airspace agreement exists and there was no Pakistani embassy in Rwanda so how could a businessman from Rwanda travel directly to Pakistan as he will have to go to any other African country first where a Pakistani embassy exists to get a visa for Pakistan. These complexities were creating hurdles in smooth trade between the two countries.
He further mentioned that during the last 15 years, not a single high official including the President, Prime Minister, or any other Parliamentarian from Pakistan visited Rwanda therefore there was a dire need to improve government-to-government and business-to-business contacts. “Pakistan remains focused on enhancing its exports to European Union, United States, United Kingdom, Middle East and China while one of the most promising and huge African market is being overlooked which is the basic reason why Pakistan’s exports continue to hover in between US$18 to US$24 billion”, he added.
President KCCI Junaid Esmail Makda, in his remarks, said that it was a matter of concern that not a single agreement has ever been signed either at the government level or at the private sector level despite the fact that huge potential to enhance trade and investment ties exists between the two countries.
He assured that the Karachi Chamber will take up the Embassy issue with Ministry of Foreign Affairs and will strive hard to convince the decision makers to look into the possibility of opening up Pakistani Embassy in Rwanda which would certainly help in improving the connectivity and bring business communities of the two countries close to each other.
Expressing concerns over limited trade volume between the two countries, President KCCI noted that during 2017, Pakistan exported goods to Rwanda of worth just $0.205 million while imports from Rwanda stood at $34.485 million which require special attention of the policymakers of both countries.
He was of the opinion that Pakistan and Rwanda can enhance trade by trading in agricultural products. There is also potential in live animal, meat and edible meat trade between two countries. “Pakistan can help Rwanda in the fields of healthcare and can accommodate Rwanda in terms of medical tourism”, he added.