Leveraging the impact of Dubai Expo

Leveraging the impact of Dubai Expo

Engr. Said Mahmood

The current economic situation of the country demands pragmatic planning, out-of-the-box strategies, and creating an enabling environment for attracting foreign and mobilizing domestic investments. Recovering from the post-COVID global financial situation, investors are seeking out avenues that offer promising markets, natural resources, or productive efficiencies.

Thus, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa competes for resources not just with other provinces but with other countries as well. During the last 5 years, the Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has focused on sectoral competitiveness with special emphasis on projects and initiatives that are most likely to yield the highest impacts. In the last 3 years, sizeable investment has been attracted by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa through the initiation of Special Economic Zones and in consumer-led industries.

Renowned and established investment groups like Premier Cement Limited with their estimated investment of USD 185 million, Turkish investment worth USD 50 million (during the first phase) in setting up a bottling plant, USD 360 million Chinese investment in steel industry as well as Fatima Group’s investment of USD 1 billion in Dera Ismail Khan have seen significant investment mobilization that happened due to the PTI Government’s pragmatic policies including ease-of-doing-business initiative led by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Board of Investment & Trade, formulation of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Industrial Policy and implementation of the 5-year Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Investment Strategy.

These measures including the policy reforms and strategic actions have even been acknowledged by International Finance Corporation of the World Bank Group as well as many foreign investors.

To reach out to the global markets and tap into new markets, the Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa participated in the Dubai Expo 2020 where the month of January 2022 was exclusively dedicated for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Following extensive consultations with the business chambers, industrial experts and government officials, a diverse set of focused activities, exhibitions and conferences including cultural activities showcasing Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s cottage industry were organized.

There were also thematic conferences highlighting key investment sectors including tourism, mines & minerals, energy & power, information technology, agriculture & livestock, special economic zones, forestry and infrastructure. These sectoral conferences were followed by the mainstream KP’s Investment Conference.

A multipurpose strategy for stimulating investment attraction was made by showcasing the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s potential in the cottage and small industries during the first 2 days, followed by dedicated sectoral conferences for 2-3 days to harness resource and investment potential in all the high-value sectors including special economic zones, mining, tourism, agriculture, etc.

The evenings were dedicated for the cultural events which spurred the interest of a large number of people of various nationalities as well as by the Pakistani diaspora living in the United Arab Emirates. The implementation of “cultural plan” led by Culture & Tourism Authority and “investment attraction strategy” under Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Board of Investment & Trade also involved reaching out to the sizable diaspora who have huge investments in UAE and are engaged in meaningful projects in the tourism, hospitality, infrastructure and maritime industries.

During the Expo, potential investors and visitors were properly briefed on the key features of the Special Economic Zones and Integrated Tourism Zones, along with the dissemination of the enabling policies and incentives offered by the Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The Investment Conference was widely attended by the business community and local chambers for which the support of Dubai-based Pakhtun business forum was solicited. At the Investment Conference, 49 MoUs worth USD billion were signed on 16th January 2022 in different sectors including infrastructure, energy, technical & vocational education, economic zones and tourism by investors from Kuwait, Korea, Dubai, Pakistan, etc. When materialized, these projects are likely to create 15,000 to 20,000 direct and indirect employment opportunities in various sectors.

The feedback received from the investors was overwhelming who lauded the efforts put in by the Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to ensure impeccable preparations and vibrant participation. Immediately after the conference, the international media highlighted Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s efforts through extensive print and electronic media coverage.

An outreach program was also initiated soon afterwards, under which LOIs were signed including Enertech Holdings for a USD 1 billion hydrogen energy-based investment in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, investment in Integrated Tourism Zones, green solar-based investment in the transport sector by Sapphire Group and several investments in Special Economic Zones especially Rashakai Special Economic Zone.

Stage two of the Investment Promotion and Mobilization Strategy involves a sectoral assessment to determine globally-competitive and development-oriented sectors which can be targeted by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Board of Investment & Trade for the highest marginal impact on the province’s foreign direct investment outcomes. These priority sectors will be reviewed annually on the basis of results and changing economic, political, and financial circumstances.

The focus will be set on agribusiness, including food and beverage manufacturing and distribution, quarrying and processing of non-metallic minerals for construction materials (e.g., marble, limestone, sandstone), information technology and IT-enabled services, electrical and electronic components (e.g., electric turbines) and tourism where substantial potential exists.

Following global best practices and through these strategic interventions, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Board of Investment & Trade plans to harmonize and accentuate the drivers of investment promotion in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa by addressing key challenges including the naysayers undermining the efforts of the Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, including CPEC, owing to their political agendas and vested interests. Such cynics also fail to comprehend the huge opportunities that are offered through the large Pakhtun diaspora who have made their mark as key investors in the Emirates through sheer hard work and gritty determination, with some even being placed at key positions including the Abu Dhabi Chamber. The pessimists without playing their role in a positive way keep targeting professionals and organizations working on showcasing Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as the land of growing opportunities for locals and people across Pakistan, leveraging endowments and opportunities like Dubai Expo 2020.

It goes without saying that such events help showcase the potential to a diverse range of investors, including Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s highly capable and resourceful diaspora. This provides us with a platform to promote our products and services to a wider group at a global scale that may have little or no knowledge about Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

This also entails continuing with our ease-of-doing-business initiative, carrying on with the implementation of the investment facilitation strategy through digitization, providing a one-stop facility at Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Board of Investment & Trade as well as safeguarding the financial and physical security of investors through the pertinent departments of the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

It is an uphill task, but can be done through synergizing the efforts of our stakeholders and by using information technologies to achieve impactful targets. The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Board of Investment & Trade will be adopting best-practices for investment promotion and facilitation, as well as undertaking the periodic fine-tuning of the investment strategy through continuous monitoring and evaluation of performance and results to make Khyber Pakhtunkhwa truly the land of growing opportunities.

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