People visit Pakistan Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai.
Inayat-ur-Rahman, Business Editor
The UAE has long held the distinction of being Pakistan’s largest trading partner in the Middle East. In fact, Pakistan’s relations with the UAE are robust and marching ahead. Pakistan has put on a marvelous show, with its pavilion at the Expo. Titled "Unearth Hidden Opportunities in Tourism and Investment," the pavilion juxtaposes Pakistan’s culture, heritage, and industry with immersive art.
Inaugurating the pavilion, Pakistan President Dr Arif Alvi emphasised trade, commerce, and investments as the nation’s primary objectives behind the Expo participation. “The World Expo 2020 Dubai is an excellent opportunity for Pakistan to demonstrate its incredible potential. That’s why we’ve chosen the Opportunity District of Expo 2020 to reveal our ‘Hidden Treasures’,” said Abdul Razak Dawood, the Adviser for Commerce and Investment to Prime Minister Imran Khan. It is the latter’s vision of a progressive Pakistan that is fuelling ambitious initiatives like the Billion-Tree Project, and the newly-ratified Special Technology Zones Authority (STZA) bill.
Visitors at the Expo 2020 Dubai. Kamal Kassim, Gulf Today.
Pakistan is, undoubtedly, one of Asia’s best kept secrets! home to one of the world’s earliest civilisations, a culture of boundless hospitality, riveting geographic wonders, and an upcoming investment destination of choice.
Pakistan’s Pavilion, located in the Opportunity District, will unearth the hidden opportunities that the country has to offer. The pavilion has an immersive and hybrid art installation inviting visitors to the land of colours. Through a walkthrough visitors will experience Pakistan; a country of every known landscape that boasts of unparalleled nature and adventure.
The 35,000 sqft pavilion is divided into nine sections allowing visitors to rediscover Pakistan’s culture of hospitality, based on historical and religious traditions. The outer facade has been enhanced through thousands of coloured and unique aluminum panels, that will give an impression of changing colours as visitors walk across them. Through a visual display the pavilion will showcase tourism sites, trade and investment opportunities, music and crafts and its culinary varieties. Pavilion also includes a café named "Dhaba," and a gift shop that will further enhance the experience of visitors.
In addition to the walk through experience inside the Pakistan Pavilion, several events are being planned outside the pavilion at various Expo sites. These events will be related to the nine thematic weeks proposed by the Expo authorities. The events will focus on several areas including Tourism, Climate change, Investment opportunities in Pakistan, Culture/music, sports and special occasions. Pakistan will also contribute to the events organised by Expo authorities. Moreover, several seminars/ talks by speakers from Pakistan have also been planned to project the achievements of Pakistan at this global show.
PM Imran Khan has been consistently underscoring the importance of the real estate and technology sectors as drivers of economic growth, development, and modernisation in Pakistan. So, following the opening of the Expo, and the coinciding ratification of the STZA bill, leading tech companies in the UAE are turning towards Pakistan. In one such development, Vision Tech Solutions DMCC — a leading tech solutions provider based in Dubai — has announced its plan(3) to invest big in the Pakistan real estate sector.
As per the announcement, Vision Tech will be launching a cutting-edge online platform, named Shaariq.com, to bridge the digital divide in real estate. The company’s full-stack, end-to-end model will digitalise the process of buying, selling, renting, and managing a property; in addition to offering new, unique services, including property registration and online rental agreements. Vision Tech’s decision to invest in Pakistan draws upon Prime Minister Imran Khan’s focus on both the real estate and technology sectors. This move could drive transparency in the real estate ecosystem, boding well for buyers, sellers, brokers, and municipalities alike, in line with the growth vision of the Prime Minister.
Artificial price inflation and scams, including the sales of a single property to multiple buyers, have hampered the rationalization of the real estate market in Pakistan. Vision Tech has said that it will only list verified/vetted properties and facilitate agents who have been trained and issued a unique registration number, on Shaariq.com — a move that will increase trust between all transacting parties. The company is also in talks to tie up with municipalities, in order to reduce reliance on excessive paperwork and enhance transparency. “Shaariq.com will bring much-needed digitalisation to an extremely fractured industry,” said Rajab Virani, CEO, Vision Tech. “Real estate stakeholders have largely operated in a non-transparent, low-trust ecosystem that left much to be desired.”
“Vision Tech hopes to leverage its expertise in an organised market like the UAE to unlock the Pakistan real estate sector’s massive untapped potential. Pakistan’s rapid population growth, high internet penetration, tech-savvy young generation, and government-helmed initiatives have inspired Vision Tech’s big bet,” he added.
In addition to the demographic and other advantages offered by the Pakistani real estate market, Rajab’s optimism can also be attributed to the recent ratification of the STZA bill.
STZA is entrusted with the development of Special Technology Zones (STZs) across Pakistan, to build knowledge ecosystems that will harness Pakistan’s IT potential and set the country on a sustainable growth trajectory. As part of the STZ framework(4), the government is offering a host of exemptions – including on property tax for ten years, custom duties and taxes on capital goods, general sales tax (GST), taxes on dividend income, and long-term capital gains for VCs, among other first-of-its-kind subsidies. In addition, STZA will facilitate guaranteed high-speed, reliable internet, a single-window system, and subsidized land and utilities, to complement the fiscal reforms that are underway in Pakistan.
Vision Tech’s Shaariq.com is expected to launch within the Special Technology Zones (STZ) framework, which has a strong real estate focus. Mr. Rajab Ali Virani, CEO of Vision Tech, attended the STZA investors event in Dubai, where President Alvi also endorsed greater blockchain adoption and urged the developer community to get involved. “President Alvi’s advocacy is consistent with Vision Tech’s near-future plans to utilize its expertise in blockchain to supercharge Pakistan’s digitalisation. Currently, through Shaariq.com, we are gearing up to train 50,000 real estate agents in line with global standards, and register them.