Pakistan: The Next Electronics Manufacturing Hub?

Soaring demand for consumer electronics and low labor costs are attracting major global smartphone manufacturers like Samsung to Pakistan. In 2021, local manufacturers produced 25 million handsets, up a whopping 88% increase from 13 million produced in 2020. A key factor credited for this rapid production ramp-up is the new Mobile Device Manufacturing Policy announced and implemented by former Prime Minister Imran Khan's government in 2020. It imposes high tariffs on the import of mobile phone sets and offers tax rebates for local manufacturing. The policy set a 49% localization target by June 2023, including 10% localization of components on the motherboard and 10% localization of batteries.  Pakistan is forecast to be the world's 7th largest consumer market by 2030. The key to attracting more manufacturing in Pakistan lies in continuation of pro-investment policies and a measure of political stability. 

Pakistan Going From Imports to Exports of Mobile Handsets. Source: ...

The local manufacturing plants have assembled 14.08 million mobile phone handsets in the first six months (January-June) of 2022, while imports declined to 1.14 million handsets, according to the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA). Implementation of Device Identification Registration and Blocking System (DIRBS) and conducive government policies including the Mobile Device Manufacturing Policy 2020 have created a favorable environment for mobile device manufacturing in Pakistan.

Pakistan Mobile Phone Market. Source: PIDE

In addition to Samsung, a number of Chinese mobile handset manufacturers are investing in Pakistan to ramp up local production. Itel has manufactured 3.91 million mobile devices followed by VGO Tel's 2.97 million, Infinix 2.65 million, Vivo 2.45 million, Techno 1.87 million, QQMEE 0.86 million and Oppo 0.67 million. After the export of the first lot of 4G smartphones to the UAE in 2022, Pakistan has now set $1 billion target for mobile phone exports for the current fiscal year. 

Pakistan Telecom Indicators. Source: PTA

Pakistan wants to emulate Vietnam which has emerged as one of the leading countries in the assembly and export of smartphones and other consumer electronics devices in the past decade. Apple has recently moved part of its iPad manufacturing to Vietnam from China, where Covid lockdowns have disrupted supply chains.  TRT World has recently quoted Quentin D’Silva, the head of Lucky's smartphone division in Pakistan, as saying, “It’s only in the last five to seven years that the smartphone business has mushroomed in developing countries like ours". 

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