Former President Islamabad Chamber of Commerce (ICCI) and senior leader of United Business Group (UBG) of FPCCI Zafar Bakhtawri said the current $4.18b annual trade volume between Pakistan and Africa was far below then its potential in the Africa region, which could be doubled in the next three years. Exploring new markets and trade diversification policy in Africa is critical to increasing annual trade, he said in a press release issued. He said this while addressing ‘Africa Day’ organized by Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry here. Atadjan Movlamov Dean of Diplomatic Corps, Mr Mohammad Karmoune Dean of Africa, Mthuthuzeli Madikiza High Commissioner South Africa, M. Bello Abioye High Commissioner of Nigeria, Rashid Ally Soobadar High Commissioner Mauritius, Ali Sheikh Abdullahi Ambassador of Somalia, Shakeel Munir President ICCI, Ali Javed Additional Foreign Secretary Khalid Iqbal Malik Chairman Founder Group (ICCI), Zafar Bakhtawari Chairman Pakistan Africa Friendship Association, Jamshed Akhter Sheikh (SVP), Faheem Khan (VP) also participated in event. A senior business leader said that Pakistan’s trade with Africa has remained stagnant at US $3b per year for the last few years but has now crossed the mark of USD 4b and is USD 4.18b. Main reason for the low trade volume has been the low level of engagement of Pakistan with Africa, he said. “We have put in place “Look Africa” and “Silk Reconnect” policy initiatives for Africa and Central Asian Republics respectively.” He said the World Bank expects that most African countries would reach middle-income status by 2025. He said that Africa’s importance is self-evident, a geographical expanse of 30.37m square kilometres, home to 1.3b people in 54 states, and a combined GDP of over $2.33t. He said that Pakistan has launched “Look Africa Policy Initiative” in 2017, which has already been made operational and is reflective of four broader policies towards Africa. To enhance connectivity between Africa and Pakistan, the ‘Look Africa’ Plan includes measures that can help boost trade between Pakistan and Africa, he added. He said that Africa is moving towards economic integration through a number of sub-regional organizations. Under the ‘Look Africa Plan’ Pakistan can seek to negotiate preferential trade agreements with three African trading blocs. In recent years, certain African countries’ growth rates have outpaced all others in the World. The Continent witnessed an 11pc growth in Foreign Direct Investment in 2018, reaching $46b, he said. He said that historically, Pakistan has enjoyed cordial political ties with African nations, based on trust, mutual respect and goodwill. Pakistan was one of the ardent supporters of their struggles for independence from Colonialism. He added that no cooperation was possible without the businesspersons and women from Africa and Pakistan, urging governments of both groups to facilitate robust collaboration. Zafar said with global priorities moving away from geo-politics to geo-economies all over the world, national policies need to focus on transformation via multiple facets. Africa, today, is the focus of the entire world, particularly of the major and middle powers. “We greatly value our cordial ties with African nations and cherish the long history of our support to each other in almost all spheres of activity. Pakistan is proud that one of the cornerstones of its foreign policy was extension of political, diplomatic, moral and material support to the freedom movements in Africa,” he said. He said that, “We are also proud of the contributions made by Pakistan in maintaining peace and security through participation in UN peacekeeping operations in different parts of Africa.” Despite the mutual goodwill, however, the level of trade and economic cooperation between te two sides lacks the requisite vigour and is far below the potential. He said the progress made by African countries in terms of alleviating poverty, reducing illiteracy, developing agriculture, building infrastructure, combating climate change and fighting terrorism is equally commendable.