LAHORE - The US government and the government of Pakistan hosted about 200 Pakistani, American, and Emirati companies at the “US-Pakistan Business Opportunities Conference” in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The main goal of the conference was to help Pakistani and American companies and investors to identify new business opportunities together.

According to a press release that reached here on Wednesday, Minister of Finance Ishaq Dar led the Pakistani delegation and was joined by Science and Technology Minister Khurram Dastigir, Water and Power Minister Khawaja Asif, Adviser on Foreign Affairs Javed Malik, and Secretary of Commerce Munir Qureshi. USAID Administrator Dr Rajiv Shah led the US delegation. He was joined by Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Dan Feldman, Senior Advisor to the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Ambassador Robin Raphel, and US Ambassador Richard Olson. Representatives from the State Department, the Department of Commerce, the United States Trade Representative, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), and USAID also attended. Corporate executives from major American and Pakistani companies attended as well, including The Gillette Company, Citibank, GE, Procter & Gamble, Abraaj, Big Bird Group, Coca-Cola, Conoco Phillips, Engro, Estee Lauder, Goldman Sachs, IBM, Monsanto, Nishat Group, and the Saif Group.

Over the course of two days, participants attended speeches, panel discussions, and networking events to discuss a wide range of US-Pakistan business opportunities, including in agri-business, energy, and education, as well as opportunities in entrepreneurship, access to the US market, consumer goods and franchising opportunities, venture capital, information technology, and the new government of Pakistan’s economic and investment policies.

Participants welcomed reports about American companies already successfully doing business in Pakistan. They heard about the many US government initiatives to expand US-Pakistan trade and investment. They learned how to utilize existing US government programs to overcome hurdles to doing business in Pakistan. Everyone expanded their network of business contacts and increased their awareness of potential business opportunities.

A highlight of the conference was when USAID Administrator Dr Rajiv Shah announced the Pakistan Private Investment Initiative. The Pakistan Private Investment Initiative will launch two new private equity funds focused solely on Pakistan’s dynamic and fast-growing small-and medium-sized businesses. USAID will provide a seed investment to capitalize the funds and Abraaj Group and JS Private Equity Management have committed to match or exceed these seed funds with investments of their own, as well as private funds raised from other limited investors.

"We are seeding individual funds with $24 million each. The Abraaj Group and JSPE will match or exceed our commitment. We fully expect them to exceed that contribution,” said Dr Rajiv Shah. “Pooled funds will initially be $100 million which we expect will grow many fold into hundreds of millions of dollars in investment for small and medium businesses."

By investing in Pakistani private businesses, the United States is supporting private-sector growth and job creation – and Pakistan’s role as a robust and fast-growing economic partner among its neighbors and within the global economy.

The announcement came at the end of the first day of a US government-sponsored Business Opportunities Conference. “By partnering with Abraaj and JS Private Equity Management, USAID capitalizes on these companies’ expertise to make smart investment decisions that will grow the Pakistani economy, create jobs, and generate profits for investors who seize the economic opportunities that Pakistan presents,” Administrator Shah said.

“As one of the most experienced investors in growth markets, we are pleased to partner with USAID on this initiative and help bring greater opportunities to small- and mid-cap businesses in Pakistan,” said Arif Naqvi, Founder and Group CEO of The Abraaj Group.

Ali Siddiqui, the Chairman and CIO of JS Private Equity Management said, “We are excited to partner with USAID in this new effort to invest in our country’s dynamic enterprise sector where our joint efforts will create many jobs and expand incomes.”

Speaking at the conference, US Ambassador Richard Olson said, “The United States is one of the largest investors in Pakistan, and the U.S. government supports Pakistani business leaders by offering access to finance, facilitating business deals, and strengthening business education.