ISLAMABAD: The Ethiopian Airlines will commence operations from Karachi on March 26, said Jemal Beker Abdula, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Ethiopia in Islamabad.

“In this critical time in history, it is important to bring the two countries together,” Ambassador Abdula told Dawn exclusively.

The pan-African airline is already flying to 130 destinations and will be an instrument to connect Pakistan with Africa, he said.

Mr Abdula, who is the first Ethiopian ambassador to Pakistan, has been endeavouring to enhance people-to-people contacts since his arrival.

In these hard times, he said, Pakistan like many other countries had its challenges, in trade and business related matters, and especially climate change that was wrecking havoc.

The ambassador said the prospect of trade between the two countries was bright as the business community from both Pakistan and Ethiopia were eager to penetrate in each other’s markets.

“Export is a critical issue for Pakistan. We need to work with the government and other related institutions in a way to increase Pakistan’s exports to the rest of the world. This is a right time for Pakistani businessmen to enter the market of Ethiopia, which is a gateway to entire Africa, with a total population of around 1.4 billion in 54 countries,” said Mr Abdula, who has set a target to increase trade volume between Pakistan and Ethiopia from roughly $80 million to $200 million.

For this purpose, the ambassador was also facilitating a Pakistani business delegation flying to Ethiopia on March 5-10 to explore business, trade and investment opportunities.

The delegation comprised 100 plus members of the chambers of commerce and industry in Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Karachi, Lahore, Multan, Faisalabad and Sialkot.

“We are calling it ‘Exploring trade and investment opportunities in the emerging Africa Ethiopia’. It is a turning point in the histories of the two brotherly countries,” said Mr Abdula.

Cheap energy, abundant skilled labour and a supportive government are some of the incentives vital for establishing businesses in Ethiopia, the fastest growing economy in the world in the last two consecutive decades, he said as he invited Pakistani businessmen to consider his country for enhancing trade.

“Similarly, there is a huge demand for pharmaceutical products in Ethiopia, which imported roughly 80 per cent of pharmaceutical equipment from around the world and is an excellent market for Pakistani products. Visit of the Pakistani business community to Ethiopia will open a new window of trade and investment opportunities for them in diverse sectors of economy including textile, pharmaceutical, rice, chemicals, steel and cement. Likewise, Pakistan could import coffee, tea, pulses, oil seeds and other agricultural products from Ethiopia.”

In other areas of enhancing people-to-people connections, the envoy invited Pakistanis to his country to increase tourism. He said Ethiopia was opening up as a land of Islamic tourism and was taking shape well, rich in heritage and traditions.

“Pakistan is quite advanced in technologies to enhance textile, engineering and health. We are planning to sign agreements with the minister of science and technology and drafts have been agreed upon by both sides after the embassy opens officially. A trade agreement would be signed next week to facilitate institutional linkages,” he said, adding the Ethiopian embassy would open officially in April and would be marked by MoU signings to further strengthen ties between the two counties.

Ambassador Abdula said Ethiopia accorded utmost importance to its ties with of Pakistan as both countries had a long history of working together for global peace.

“A lot of things are happening. Time is now right when there is understanding between the two countries and business communities to facilitate entry into the African market. We are talking about transforming trade compositions of the two countries,” he said.

Published in Dawn, February 11th, 2023

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