The Centre of Middle East & Africa (CMEA) at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI) hosted a WebCelebration to commemorate Africa Day on May 20, 2020. The event was held in advance because Africa Day which is celebrated the world over on May 25 is falling during the Eid break this year. The Keynote address was given by H.E. Prof. Julius Kibet Bitok, High Commissioner of the Republic of Kenya & Dean of African Countries’ Ambassadors in Pakistan, while the Chief Guest in the occasion was Mr. Ali Javed, Additional Secretary Africa, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Pakistan. Other speakers included Ambassador Imran Yawar, Former Ambassador-designate to the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and Dr Rukhsana Siddiqui, Former HoD, IR Department, Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad & African Expert.
The webinar was moderated by Ms. Amina Khan, Director CMEA, ISSI.
Introducing the subject of the webinar, Ms. Amina Khan said never once looking back, our African brothers and sisters have turned adversity into opportunity and are embracing the future with arms wide open. Steadfastness in the face of hardship is what Pakistan shares with Africa and this is precisely what makes up the foundation of our future ties with Africa, she said. She believed that for Pakistan-Africa ties; a better tomorrow awaits and ended her speech with words of Mr. Nelson Mandela describing Pakistan’s relations with Africa: “Our nations are joined, not only by cultural and religious bonds, but also by common experiences and challenges.”
Ms. Fatima Raza, Research Associate CMEA, ISSI gave a presentation on Pakistan-Africa relationship, stressing on the ‘Engage Africa’ policy.
In his welcome remarks, Ambassador Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry, Director General Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad said that ‘A prosperous Africa, based on inclusive growth and sustainable development’ is the theme for this year’s Africa Day. The idea is premised on equitable opportunities and equitable benefits which is exactly what Pakistan wants to achieve itself, he said.
In his address, Ambassador Bitok said that the African group of ambassadors and high commissioners in Pakistan are happy with the steps the government of Pakistan and people of Pakistan have taken to engage with Africa. He highlighted the notable efforts by the government of Pakistan to boost engagement with African countries. He called the recently held Pakistan- Africa Trade and Development Conference held in Nairobi in January 2020, a landmark development in the ‘Engage Africa’ policy of Pakistan. The conference hosted over a hundred business men and women from Pakistan. He said that there was no better time to forge better and deeper partnership especially in the backdrop of Pakistan’s ‘Engage Africa’ policy coupled together with the new African Continental Free Trade Agreement. He said he looked forward to more such interaction and visits at the highest levels of government. These he said were engines of effective engagement.
During his remarks, Mr. Ali Javed stated that Pakistan has a similar history of struggle as the African continent. Therefore, since the day Pakistan achieved its own independence, it has always raised its voice for suppressed and oppressed nations. This, he said, is the strongest point which binds the Pakistani nation with Africa. He went on to point out how the Pakistani nation as a whole, should all come together every year to celebrate what he called, Pakistan-Africa day. This will help raise awareness of the dept and the diversity of the Pakistan- Africa relationship, he said. Ambassador Yawar pointed out how while Africa has succeeded in gaining its political freedom, through its hard struggle for self determination, the continent is still hostage to a number of challenges that require a concerted and sustainable effort to overcome. Challenges include the elimination of poverty and hunger, terrorism, ecological issues and climate change. There is an urgent need for a real and economic uplift in the region to create sustainable job opportunities for the people, he said. Hence, it is vital that Pakistan must boost its official presence in Africa.
During her remarks, Dr Siddiqui lay emphasis on how Pakistani scholars of Africa should articulate, and defend the suffering and deprivation in all continents especially Afro-asia region. She stated that research in Africa provides the opportunity to test different academic theories in both regions. Hence, courses in Africa should be offered in all Pakistani universities and training institutes.
In his concluding remarks, Ambassador Khalid Mahmood, Chairman BOG, ISSI, referred to how, Pakistan spearheaded the fight against colonialism and apartheid. In fact, Pakistan’s mission to the United Nations was the modus operandi for many African countries for several years. He said that it was a pity that Pakistan has not been able to benefit from the historical linkages it shares with African countries. He also talked about how Pakistan should also particularly try to gain from the rich experience of Africa in the field of tourism.