Pak-Africa Relations
Guard of Honor for the South African President Nelson Mandela, May 4, 1999. Source: AFP

Rukhsana A. Siddiqui

Pakistan-Africa Relations

Pakistan’s relations with many African countries date back to their respective independence movements. Pakistan supported both morally and materially countries such as Algeria, Kenya, Sudan, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Tanzania, Namibia, Morocco, Libya, Egypt and Nigeria. Pakistan has resident missions in 13 African countries while others are covered through concurrent accreditation.

Some of the Africa-specific efforts which can be cited are for instance as follows.

In 2006, a Presidential visit to Algeria included efforts to enhance cultural, trade, industrial, social and economic ties between the two countries.

In 2003, the Eritrean government opened a resident Mission in Islamabad to strengthen ties between the two nations.

Kenya and Pakistan have signed various protocols on the advancement of Information Technology, educational and cultural exchanges and trade. The ties between the two countries are further strengthened by the fact that many people of Pakistani extraction live in Kenya who act as a cultural bridge between the two countries.

Tanzania has a large Pakistani-descent population. There exists a genuine need to expand trade, cultural, educational, economic and diplomatic ties with this country. Tanzania was once a formidable front-line state against apartheid. Who can forget the illustrious leadership of the late  Julius Nyerere in the non-aligned movement and his contribution to the liberation struggle of Namibia and South Africa? He also made self-reliance a clarion call for third world countries and brought a civic culture to Tanzania which left an enviable legacy of tolerance in a pluralistic society. Despite its 61 tribes, Tanzania stands out as a shining example of an African country with almost no ethnic strife not to mention the highest rate of literacy in East Africa.

In July 2003 King Mohammad VI of the Kingdom of Morocco conferred upon the President of Pakistan, General Pervez Musharraf the highest civil award: “The Order of Wissam Al Mohammadi.”  Both countries agreed to expand cooperation in the fields of environment, science and technology, and finding solutions for important international issues like Kashmir, Western Sahara, Indo-Pakistan relations and conflict in the Middle East.

Nigeria has enjoyed fraternal relations in trade, culture, education, medicine, technology and military exchanges. Nigeria shares an unfortunate legacy of terrorism with Pakistan in that it has suffered from terrorism by Boko Haram. Pakistan and Nigeria must cooperate on counter terrorism methods.

Pakistan was a once a leading country that vehemently opposed apartheid. During that period all Pakistani passports had a stamp which read “every country in the world except apartheid South Africa.” Pakistan rejoiced the freedom of the Republic of South Africa with the rest of the world. Nelson Mandela paid a state visit to Pakistan in 1993. His visit was a very emotional experience for Pakistani people. Even today Pakistanis appreciate late Mr. Mandela’s official statements condemning US war in Afghanistan and Iraq. The most interesting dimension that has emerged in the relations between Pakistan and South Africa is “cricket diplomacy.”  Children in remote parts of this country are familiar with the names of the South African cricket team members. Another source of enhanced ties between the two countries is the emerging cooperation in the field of wildlife conservation. South African wildlife conservationists, biologists and wardens from Kruger National Park have been involved in conserving Pakistani wetlands, building national parks, protecting wildlife and biodiversity in the Northern areas of this country.

Source: Nadeem Farooq Paracha

It must be mentioned here that Pakistan has the singular honor of being the highest contributor to the blue berets” for the UN peacekeeping forces in Africa. Pakistani blue berets have been serving in Rwanda, Burundi, Liberia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Sudan and Sierra Leone.

In addition to the above, over the last 20 years, 47 African countries have sent 1500 students to study under Pakistan’s Special Training for Africa Program (STAP). These are just a few countries that have been mentioned briefly with whom Pakistan has collaborated pro-actively.

Pakistan-Africa Relations

Pakistan’s relations with many African countries date back to their respective independence movements. Pakistan supported both morally and materially countries such as Algeria, Kenya, Sudan, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Tanzania, Namibia, Morocco, Libya, Egypt and Nigeria. Pakistan has resident missions in 13 African countries while others are covered through concurrent accreditation.

African Studies in Pakistan: A common man’s view

To an average Pakistani, Africa means a far away continent, a land of spectacular beauty, game parks, safaris and forests sometimes convulsed by wars, or famine, or natural disasters. The Pakistani press in general, gives little coverage to Africa except when a coup d’etat or a political upheaval makes it “newsworthy”. All such stereotypes are not only removed from objective reality but are also an impediment in the true appreciation of the continent.

Africa: The Scholar’s View

Pakistani scholars of African Studies who are few and far between, complain frequently about the indifference of the public, the media and the politicians and a lack of international awareness about the African continent in general.      

In the 60s when the world was fast de-colonizing, African Studies became drastically re-defined. Africa now exhibited political, economic, and social processes which made it the normal domain of political scientists, economists and anthropologists. There was concurrently a drastic shift in the composition of Africa scholars. A field that was previously composed exclusively of “white” citizens of colonial powers now has been transformed by a staggering configuration of different geographical groups of scholars which include:

–        African scholars of Africa

–        American and European scholars of Africa

–        Scandinavian scholars of Africa

–        And to small degree Asian scholars of Africa.

Source: AFP


Four fundamental questions that concern these African Studies scholars are:

–  What is the cultural and intellectual mission of African Studies?

–   What political, social, professional and intellectual commitments are implied by this mission especially with reference to solving problems particular to the African condition?

–  How should Africa be interpreted and who should be the interpreter?

–  What is the role of a non-African scholar in Africa?

In the wake of a rising challenge of globalization, the Africanist scholars have a primary obligation:

(a)   To assess, evaluate and maybe even define their respective government’s foreign policy interests in Africa.

(b)  Gauge and assess research priorities and scholarly work that enhances and promotes understanding between third world nations.

(c)   Furthering African Studies could increase our country’s understanding of African societies and their problems.

(d)   One obligation and justification of African Studies is to contribute to the conceptual sophistication of established academic disciplines. Majority of such disciplines have been in the social sciences like anthropology, sociology and political science.

(e)   African studies should assist in the formulation, independent implementation, and evaluation of policies concerned with increasing standards of living and expanded opportunities in African and Third World countries.

(f)    Africans scholars should articulate, defend and promote interest groups suffering oppression, injustice and deprivation in Africa

(g)  Research in Africa provides the social scientists with the opportunity to test theories based on other social context and to, gain fresh perspective in the discovery of new societies.

Needless to mention that Pakistan shares with Africa many cultural, political and religious leaders. Islam in Africa has served as an historical anti-imperialist force. Africa has produced countless figures who are shared heroes of developing countries. To name a few would be Nelson Mandela, Julius Nyerere, Joe Slovo, Ruth First, Bram Fisher, Chris Hani, Desmond Tutu, Walter Sisulu, Jomo Kenyatta, Kwameh Nkrumah, Aime’ Cesaire, Leopold Senghor, Amilcar Cabral, Patrice Lumumba, Samora Machel, Nndabi Azikwe, Ken Saro-Wiwa, Chinua Achebe, N’gugi Wa Thiongo, Mahdi-al-Sudani, Omar Mukhtar of Cyrenacia, Ahmed-ben-Bella, Houari Boumeddiene and Gamal Abdel Nasser.

South Africa alone, the beautiful rainbow country has produced 9 Nobel laureates. Who can forget the green belt movement led by Dr. Wangari Maathai of Kenya who received the Nobel Prize for environment? Another one includes the illustrious novelists Nadine Gordimer, and  J M Coetzee both winners of Nobel prize in literature or another son of Africa, Wole Soyinka of Nigeria.

Any talk of third world solidarity without Africa is absurd because Africa’s contribution to liberation struggles, truth and reconciliation, non-aligned movement, Third World literature, art, poetry and music is truly staggering.

Pakistan must continue its efforts in the field of African Studies. To shake us out of this indifference the following suggestions are offered:

Courses on Africa should be offered in all Pakistani universities and training institutes.  Afro-Asian studies and Third World Studies should be encouraged.

  1. The Institute of Modern Languages could initiate instruction in African languages.
  2. There are ample funds for Technical Assistance to Africa Program in MFA and E.A.D. It could be requested from both Ministries that some funds ought to be earmarked for academic research and scholastic improvement in the field.
  3. Linkage programmes with African universities could promote faculty-student exchange as well as improve understanding of each other.
  4. HEC could encourage grants and funding for attending Africa-related conferences and research fellowships.
  5. Joint publishing in the field of African studies with western, African as well as Pakistani publishers should be encouraged.
  6. Pakistani libraries ought to be encouraged to subscribe to African Studies journals published all over the world.

It is appropriate to conclude this piece with Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s Urdu poem celebrating African anti colonial revolutions.

Arrive, Africa! Come, I have heard the ecstasy of your drum

Arrive, the beating of my blood has become mad

Arrive, Africa!  I have lifted my forehead from the dust

I have scrapped from my eyes the skin of grief

I have released my arm from pain

I have clawed through the snare of helplessness

Arrive Africa.

      (English translation by Victor Kiernan)

Dr. Rukhsana A. Siddiqui teaches at Quaid i Azam University now only as an adjunct where she taught for 30 years as permanent faculty. She is Pakistan’s leading scholar on east and southern Africa.