JOHANNESBURG - Pakistan is crazy about cricket. Beyond, cricket, the country is also a bustling economic activity trying to recover from the ruins of terrorism.
Although the market has very little traction with South African corporations, Nandos, the much loved flame-grilled chicken outlet is one of the few local companies that has a presence in the south Asian country.
Post 1994, South Africa’s “Asian engagement has mainly been focused on Japan, China, India and Malaysia. Pakistan has never really featured. Perhaps because government agencies have not done much to promote the country.
Trade between South Africa and Pakistan is below its full at $653 million. Coal comprises 75 percent of exports from South Africa followed by steel and iron ore at around 18 percent. Textile comprises 60 percent of imports from Pakistan to South Africa followed by leather at 10 percent and rice at 10 percent. Pakistani agriculture accounts for 19.53 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
A source close to the Department of Trade and Industry says there are 75 types of mangoes in Pakistan which South African can import because seasons were different. Last week the Pakistani government hosted the tenth annual Emerging Pakistan initiative hosted at the Karachi Expo Centre in Karachi. Karachi is Pakistan’s biggest city with a population of 20 million.
There is no tavern here in line with Muslim law (which frustrated some of the delegates). Over three-days, the Pakistan government told a different story from what is currently portrayed on global news networks including CNN and the BBC. The story was that it was rising from its troubles.
GDP is forecast to grow by 6 percent this year from 5.28 percent in the 2016-2017 financial year.
Pakistan is expected to become the world’s 20th largest economy by 2030 and the 16th largest by 2050 based on results of previous years. It is also expected to be the world’s fastest-growing Islamic economy in 2017. This is no small feat considering that it was engulfed in turmoil a few years ago. Six years ago Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden was killed by the US navy seals during a bloody shoot out that shocked the world in a compound in Abbottabad, as the war on terrorism continued.
The government says the phenomenon has cost the the country $68 billion in direct and indirect impact between 2000 and 2010. The army is always on the street - a reminder of the precarious situation that Pakistan still finds itself in.
Even the 750 delegates from 85 different countries who attended the Emerging Pakistan initiative had to be under full time police escort. Snipers on top of buildings are a common site in the country. But the country wants to reclaim its national image and narrative and present it for what it truly is: positive and full of potential.
Pakistan is building a brand that communicates the opportunities to a diverse audience that includes investors both international and local. Organisers says the attendance was double the size from last year.
Some say Pakistan is on a charm offensive to upset its neighbour and rival India with a 1.2 billion population which has strong ties with Africa.
One thing that South Africa can learn from Pakistan is to take the future into its own hands. A widening trust deficit between business and the government means lost opportunities for trade.
- BUSINESS REPORT