By: Atle Hetland
“Africa is the continent of the future”, said Tunisian ambassador Adel Alarbi who is dean of the Africa Group of 11 embassies and high commissions in Islamabad. The day is marked every year to commemorate the establishment of the Africa Union (AU), earlier named Organization of African Unity (OAU), established in 1963, which has 55 members. This year, Egypt holds the chair of AU and the Egyptian ambassador Ahmed Fadel Yacoub spoke about the future development potential of the African continent. The chief guest on the occasion, Shahibzada Mehboob Sultan, Minister of Food Security, underlined the importance of trade and other cooperation between Pakistan and the African continent.
“There are four corners, or economic engines on the African continent, with Nigeria in the West, the continent’s largest economy and a population size similar to Pakistan’s, followed by South Africa, with a diverse population of about sixty million”, said a guest who had lived on the continent. “Kenya in East Africa has a strong economy and it is a particularly popular tourist destination because of its wildlife, mountains and beeches. He said that Egypt is certainly an important country for tourism and in many other ways, and then he stressed that many of the African countries have high economic growth but also a high population growth and young populations, in all about 1.3 billion. “Inequality is a serious problem in all African countries. During the first and second generations after independence, education was a certain way to jobs and a better life, but that is no longer automatic. There are many challenges, but the political systems are doing better now than the former one-party states and strongmen a few decades ago.”
A Pakistani guest suggested that South-South cooperation between Pakistan and other Asian countries, and African countries, can be of mutual benefit in development. “Often, Pakistanis think there is little to learn from Africa, but that is not always the case. For example, many African countries have better education coverage at primary level than Pakistan has. They have modern cities, not only traditional and backward villages. And there is Chinese investments in infrastructure and natural resources, like in Pakistan”, said an East African student at IIUI, the Islamic university in Islamabad.
A female African guest said that she hoped for concrete cooperation projects involving women. “African women are strong and conscious, and many have great entrepreneurial skills”, she said.