Friday, October 11, 2019

Invest in Pakistan Summit: Can Pakistan Benefit From US-China Tech War?

About 200 Pakistani-American and other American investors met at Invest in Pakistan Summit in Silicon Valley on October 3, 2019 at San Jose Sheraton. It was hosted by the Pakistan Embassy in Washington DC. One of the sessions I found interesting dealt with the opportunities presented to Pakistan by US-China technology war sparked by US President Trump's actions against Chinese technology giants Huawei and ZTE.  In response to the US threat to restrict access to American core technology, China is aiming to develop and produce 40% of the semiconductors it uses by 2020 and 70% by 2025, according to Washington-based CSIS report. It is estimated that China needs about 500,000 engineers to achieve this goal. Can Pakistan, a reliable Chinese ally, train and provide some of these engineers?



US-China Tech War:

The technology war between the United States and China has been going on with the roll-out of the 5G next generation broadband wireless technology.  China has developed its 5G technology in an attempt to become independent of the technology developed and controlled by companies in the United States and other western nations.  US has been actively trying to stop adoption of Chinese company Huawei's 5G technology in Europe, East Asia, Australia and New Zealand. So far, the US has had limited success while China's Huawei is continuing to win customers around the world.




Tech Supply Chain Bifurcation:

President Trump has also attempted to block Chinese companies' access to semiconductor components and software developed and sold by US companies. Both Huawei and ZTE have been riding a roller coaster with President Trump's daily tweets on this issue. It has affected reliable access to communication chips, Android operating systems and Google apps store.

The net result of it is that the Chinese have lost faith in US companies' reliability. They are now seeking to to create their own supply chain free of companies from US and its close allies in Europe, East Asia and elsewhere.




China's Plans:

China is currently a net importer of technology. The country wants to move “up the value chain” from final product assembly using imported components to creating advanced technology in China itself, but imports of chips and technology will be the norm for many years to come, according to a report by James Lewis of Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) based in Washington DC.

As of now, only 16% of the semiconductors used in China are produced domestically, and only half of these are made by Chinese firms. It is dependent on foreign suppliers for advanced chips. China aims to produce 40% of the semiconductors it uses by 2020 and 70% by 2025, according to the CSIS report.



Opportunity For Pakistan:

China will need 500,000 engineers trained in chip development over the next 5 years to meet its goal of producing 70% of semiconductors within the country, according to Pakistani-American entrepreneur Dr. Naveed Sherwani who presented at the Invest in Pakistan Summit in Silicon Valley.

Naveed and his wife Sabahat Rafiq see this as an opportunity to train a significant number Pakistani engineers in semiconductor chip development to meet China's needs. This will help develop Pakistan's tech-oriented human capital and open up the possibility for Pakistan to build its own chip design and development industry.

Sabahat said she is already training some engineers at an institute in Lahore for this purpose.  She is hoping to expand it to accommodate more trainees in near future.

Naveed currently heads SiFive, a Silicon Valley startup specializing in RISC V microprocessor cores for customized systems on chip (SoC) development.  RISC V is an open source chip architecture developed at UC Berkeley. It is the hardware equivalent of open source Linux OS software.  Naveed is promoting SiFive in both China and Pakistan for "low-power embedded microcontrollers (as small as 13.5k gates) to multi-core applications processors".

Cloud Design:

Naveed talked about the availability of cloud-based advanced chip design tools that Pakistani chip designers can take advantage of. Among the top vendors offering such tools is  Amazon Web Services (AWS).

AWS says it "offers a secure, agile, and scalable platform with a comprehensive set of services and solutions for high performance design, verification, and smart manufacturing, supporting electronic design automation (EDA) and rapid semiconductor innovation in the cloud. Semiconductor companies, including fabless and integrated device manufacturers, and their IP and foundry partners can benefit from the massive scale of AWS infrastructure to design next gen connected products".

Here's how AWS describes its cloud-based chip design tools offering:

"Semiconductor design simulation, verification, lithography, metrology, yield analysis, and many other workloads benefit from the scalability and performance of the AWS Cloud. For example, compute performance for these applications is enhanced by latest generation EC2 instance types, including the z1d. Run more jobs per core with z1d, the fastest single thread performance of any cloud instance delivering 4GHz sustained CPU, 16 GiB RAM per core, and local NVMe storage. Our virtually unlimited cloud storage and high performance computing (HPC) capability enable you to innovate faster, rapidly design and verify new products, and scale seamlessly to meet increasing demand".

Summary:

US-China technology war has recently been triggered by US President Trump's actions against Chinese technology giants Huawei and ZTE.  In response to the US threat to restrict access to American core technology, China is aiming to develop and produce 40% of the semiconductors it uses by 2020 and 70% by 2025, according to the CSIS report. China needs about 500,000 engineers to achieve this goal. Can Pakistan, a reliable ally, train and provide some of these engineers? Pakistani-American entrepreneur Dr. Naveed Sherwani and his wife Sabahat Rafiq believe the answer is an emphatic Yes. This will help develop Pakistan's tech-oriented human capital and open up the possibility for Pakistan to build its own chip design and development industry.


Related Links:

Haq's Musings

South Asia Investor Review

Pakistanis in China

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OPEN Silicon Valley Forum 2017: Pakistani Entrepreneurs Conference

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23 comments:

Riaz Haq said...

#China enables #Pakistan to become a #defense exporter. #Technology transfers from China have enabled Pakistan to begin producing #military hardware on its own. It's true with the fighter jet that now forms the backbone of #Islamabad's defense strategy.
https://asia.nikkei.com/Politics/International-relations/China-enables-Pakistan-to-become-a-defense-exporter

When Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan began a high-profile trip to Beijing on Tuesday, he was closely shadowed by influential army chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa. But while Khan met with senior Chinese leaders and businessmen, Bajwa was being received by senior army generals, an indication of the close defense ties between the countries.

Those ties are so close, in fact, that China is helping Pakistan become a defense exporter that sells arms to countries like Myanmar and Nigeria.

Pakistan has relied on Chinese military hardware for more than five decades, though Islamabad has used every opportunity to also gain access to Western defense equipment, notably from the U.S.

Pakistan's leaders have long lamented their country's lukewarm ties with the U.S., which have sometimes resulted in reduced arms supplies. This contrasts to the situation with China, which has gradually but consistently nurtured Pakistan as a close ally.

Technology transfers from China have enabled Pakistan to begin producing military hardware on its own. This is true with the fighter jet that now forms the backbone of Islamabad's defense strategy. Pakistan is also increasingly foraying into the production of tanks and other equipment for land forces thanks to technology transfers from China.

Similarly, Chinese hardware is allowing Pakistan to expand its navy.

According to senior government officials who spoke to the Nikkei Asian Review, in the past year Pakistan has redoubled its push to sell batches of JF-17 Thunder fighters that it has built with Chinese assistance. Pakistani government officials said the JF-17 Block III, a version of the JF-17 that will be rolled out in 2020, will include more advanced radar, additional weaponry and other new technologies.

Officials in Islamabad say China has repeatedly helped Pakistan create a more commercially feasible defense industry so that purchasing expensive hardware does not cripple the country's already weak economy.

-------------
"Affordability and high quality are the main selling points of the JF-17," said retired Air Marshal Shahid Latif, a former Pakistan Air Force general previously involved with the JF-17 production project. Encouraged by the publicity given to Myanmar's purchase, Pakistan in the past year has discussed future sales to Malaysia and Azerbaijan as well as sales of additional fighters to Nigeria, which now has three JF-17s.

In the coming years, Pakistan's reliance on Chinese military hardware will grow. China has signed a contract to supply eight new submarines to Pakistan's navy, the largest defense deal ever between the countries. Although neither party has revealed the value of the contract, Western defense analysts say it could be worth from $4 billion to $5 billion depending on weapon systems and other add-ons.

Riaz Haq said...

A More Peaceful #Pakistan Puts On An IT Charm Offensive In #SiliconValley. #Technology #Investment via @forbes https://www.forbes.com/sites/dbloom/2019/10/14/a-more-peaceful-pakistan-puts-on-an-it-charm-offensive-in-silicon-valley/#3dd803901841

Pakistan is pushing its IT sector to U.S. companies and investors, hoping international deals will translate to a bottom-line boost for the country’s struggling economy.

The most visible part of this charm offensive came earlier this month with a day-long Silicon Valley conference in San Jose, Calif., backed by the Pakistani government.

“If I were to look at our overall economic performance, the IT sector comes out as one that has performed the best,” said Asad Majeed Khan, the Pakistani ambassador to the United States and one of the conference speakers. “The whole idea of doing the tech summit was to inform the companies in the Silicon Valley about what is our potential and what is it we can do together. ”

More than 200 attendees heard pitches from 14 Pakistani startups seeking venture capital, along with panels on microelectronics, software development, artificial intelligence, gaming, medical innovation, and venture capital funding.

“Over the years, the government has not done as much as it should have in terms of focusing on expanding the IT sector,” Ambassador Khan. “In past two or three years, though, we’ve seen some phenomenal growth.”

In part that’s because the country’s charismatic new prime minister, former international cricket star Imran Khan, has made the economy his top priority.

“The economy is his primary and principal focus,” Ambassador Khan said. “The manner in which he’s approaching foreign policy is rooted in his desire to turn around the economy and provide jobs for the people.”

As part of a broader set of initiatives, the country is trying to grow its already substantial tech sector and attract international investment, especially from the United States and neighboring China, which already has built a vast deep-sea harbor and naval port in Gwadar, on the Arabian Sea, as part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

Pakistan already generates at least $4 billion a year in IT exports, though the ambassador said the number is likely higher because some IT-related payments get lumped in with international remittances. The biggest areas of operation are software development, Business Processing Offices and call centers. Now, the country hopes to move into more high-end sectors such as AI, gaming and visual effects. One potential opportunity discussed at the San Jose conference is moving into RISC-V microchip fabrication and export.

“Our IT success story is not as widely known and as widely shared as it should be,” Ambassador Khan said. “If you were to only compare the numbers, the actual potential, then Pakistan has really come a long way in terms of harnessing the IT potential.”

Riaz Haq said...

Can a Negative Decision at the #FATF Bolster Hardliners in #Pakistan? The country has taken verifiable actions against militant groups, including the Lashkar-e-Taiba (Let) and implemented tough laws to curtail #terror financing. #India
@Diplomat_APAC https://thediplomat.com/2019/10/can-a-negative-decision-at-the-fatf-bolster-hardliners-in-pakistan/

Later this week, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is set to release its findings concerning Pakistan’s case at the forum. Early reports from the ongoing meeting in Paris suggest that the country may evade blacklisting by the forum. However, it’s still expected that Islamabad will come under a lot of pressure as the majority of the recommendations by the FATF have only been implemented partially.

The case’s outcome will have significant implications not only for Pakistan, but also for the region. A critical outcome may prove to be a blow to the country’s moderate voices within the national security establishment and civilian elite that are working to push against the hardliner’s support base within various institutions.

From Islamabad’s perspective, the worst outcome would emerge in the form of the country being placed on the blacklist, which can virtually choke Pakistan’s struggling economy in the coming months. Policymakers in Islamabad believe that they have done enough in the time given to the country and that moving forward, there is a strategy in place to work on the remaining recommendations. Predictably, Pakistan is expecting an appreciation for the country’s compliance with the FATF’s recommendations and other efforts to contain terror financing and militant groups.

Temporarily, the country’s government has been able to contain groups whose politics are tied to the issue of Kashmir. However, it’s unclear what happens in the coming months if Pakistan’s case gets knocked down at the forum. It’s important to note that the current government in Pakistan is trying to implement the FATF’s plan at a time when religious hardliners in the country have everything to gain from what’s happening in the neighborhood, particularly in Jammu and Kashmir.

Over the last year, Pakistan has taken verifiable actions against militant groups, including the Lashkar-e-Taiba (Let) and implemented tough laws to curtail terror financing. All of this has not been verifiable in the past. Moreover, the emerging narrative within Pakistan’s policymaking circles is one that focuses on discouraging and delegitimizing the so-called Afghan or Kashmir focused jihadi groups and their politics. Prime Minister Imran Khan’s recent statements that anyone trying to enter Jammu and Kashmir will be an enemy of Pakistan and Kashmiris are unprecedented and point toward the change that the world has demanded from Islamabad over the last couple of decades.

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Moreover, it is unprecedented that there has not been a single major street protest calling for jihad in the wake of New Delhi’s decision to abrogate Article 370/35A of the Indian constitution – a decision that put Khan in a very tough position domestically. Arguably, even if Pakistan is taking all these actions due to the looming pressure from the FATF, it’s something that is encouraging and shows that such pressure can produce sustainable results.

In the context of these developments, the international community invested in seeing a nuclear Pakistan becoming a democratic and politically stable state, should ensure that Islamabad stays away from the blacklist. The acknowledgment of the country’s efforts will assist in undermining hardliners among the ruling elite and the extremist groups that want to go back to its previous policy of using militants as a tool of foreign policy.

The prospect of Pakistan’s blacklisting may end up reviving far-right religious groups that have called for the revival of the state’s jihad Policy in the region, particularly in Kashmir.

Riaz Haq said...

Atoms, shoe #ecommerce #startup founded by #Pakistani husband-wife team of Waqas Ali and Sidra Qasim, nabs $8.1M investment for sneakers you can buy in quarter sizes for each foot. Investors include Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian and Kleiner-Perkin. https://techcrunch.com/2019/08/30/atoms-nabs-8-1m-for-shoes-you-can-buy-in-quarter-sizes-and-separate-left-right-measurements/

Atoms, makers of sleek sneakers that are minimalist in style — “We will make only one shoe design a year, but we want to make that really well,” said co-founder Sidra Qasim — but not in substance — carefully crafted with comfort and durability in mind, sizes come in quarter increments and you can buy different measurements for each foot if your feet are among the millions that are not exactly the same size — has raised $8.1 million.

The company plans to use the funding to invest in further development of its shoes, and to expand its retail and marketing presence. To date, the company has been selling directly to consumers in the U.S. via its website — which at one point had a waiting list of nearly 40,000 people — and the idea will be to fold in other experiences, including selling in physical spaces in the future.

This Series A speaks to a number of interesting investors flocking to the company.

It is being led by Initialized Capital, the investment firm started by Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian and Garry Tan (both had first encountered Atoms and its co-founders, Qasim and CEO Waqas Ali — as mentors when the Pakistani husband and wife team were going through Y Combinator with their previous high-end shoe startup, Markhor); with other backers including Kleiner Perkins, Dollar Shave Club CEO Michael Dubin, Acumen founder and CEO Jacqueline Novogratz, LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner, TED curator Chris Anderson, the rapper Chamillionaire and previous backers Aatif Awan and Shrug Capital.

Investors have come to the company by way of being customers. “The thing that I love about Atoms is that it isn’t just a different look, it’s a different feel,” said Ohanian in a statement. “When I put on a pair for the first time, it was a totally unique experience. Atoms are more comfortable by an order of magnitude than any other shoe I’ve tried, and they quickly became the go-to shoe in my rotation whenever I was stepping out. That wouldn’t mean anything if the shoes didn’t look great. Luckily, that’s not a problem, I wear my Atoms all the time and even my fashion designer wife is a fan.”

Even before today’s achievement of closing a Series A, the startup has come a long way on a relative shoestring: with just around $560,000 in seed funding and some of the founders’ own savings, Atoms built a supply chain of companies that would make the materials and shoes that it wanted, and developed a gradual but strong marketing pipeline with influential people in tech, fashion and design. (That success no doubt played a big role in securing the Series A to double down and continue to build the company.)

Within the bigger trend of direct-to-consumer retail — where smaller brands are leveraging advances in e-commerce, social media and wider internet usage to build vertically integrated businesses that bypass traditional retailers and bigger e-commerce storefronts to source their customers and sales more directly — there has been a secondary trend disrupting the very products that are being sold by using technology and advances in manufacturing. Third Love is another example in this category: The company has built a huge business selling bras and other undergarments to women by completely rethinking how they are sized, and specifically by focusing on creating as wide a range of sizes as possible.

So while companies like Allbirds — which itself is very well capitalised — may look like direct competitors to Atoms, the company currently stands apart from the pack because of its own very distinctive approach to building a mass-market business, but one that aims to make its product as individualised as possible.

Riaz Haq said...

Unprecedented #cash flow into #Pakistan #bonds as rates hit 13%. Global #investors plowed $642.5 million into local-currency bonds this month alone, more than what they invested in the debt in the past 4 years. https://gn24.ae/9021dbcb1ebf000


Interest in the nation’s bonds has surged this year as the State Bank of Pakistan more than doubled its policy rate to 13.25 per cent — the highest in Asia — over 10 meetings to help stabilise the economy. That, along with government efforts to improve public finances with support from the International Monetary Fund, has boosted the allure of the notes as the world’s pool of negative-yielding debt deepened.

Pakistan “stands out” in a low-yield global environment “following the recent rate hikes and currency adjustment — and more broadly, the reform momentum under the IMF,” said Bilal Khan, senior economist at Standard Chartered Plc in Dubai.

Foreign flows in November have all gone into Treasury bills — which have a maximum holding period of 1 year — with 55 per cent of them coming from the UK and 44 per cent from the US, the central bank data showed.


The nation’s local-debt market has not traditionally been a magnet for portfolio flows like other emerging markets and wasn’t attractive for years, said Khan, who visited fund managers in Europe last month inquiring about Pakistan.


Riaz Haq said...

Foreign #investors push into #Pakistan’s rupee bonds. One senior official at the central bank said this had contributed to #capital #inflows of about $1 billion, with more likely to arrive in the coming months. https://www.ft.com/content/e2fb378a-1103-11ea-a7e6-62bf4f9e548a via @financialtimes


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https://www.ft.com/content/e2fb378a-1103-11ea-a7e6-62bf4f9e548a

Pakistan is enjoying an unprecedented rush of foreign investment just months after the country secured an IMF bailout package, as fund managers are lured by high interest rates and promises of economic reform.

Benchmark interest rates have stood at 13.25 per cent since the last rise in July. One senior official at the central bank said this had contributed to inflows of about $1bn, with more likely to arrive in the coming months.

Analysts at Karachi-based broker Topline Securities expect inflows to reach a record $3bn by the end of the fiscal year to June 2020.

The central bank has been “pitching the Pakistani bond market directly” to foreign investors, said Saad Bin Ahmed, equity head at brokerage Arif Habib. “There are concerns that this is hot money, and at a single click this money will go out, possibly when the central bank cuts the policy rate. But my expectation, considering the state of the economy, is that they may not even cut the rates until July 2020.”

Stocks have also pushed higher. The main Karachi stock index is up 13 per cent over the past month, making it the best-performing bourse of 94 tracked by Bloomberg. This year, the government in Islamabad reduced withholding taxes for foreign investors, giving a further boost to sentiment.

The inflows come at a time when the central bank is seeking to build up its foreign-exchange reserves. In July, the IMF formally approved a $6bn bailout package to help Pakistan confront a worsening balance-of-payments deficit. Saudi Arabia’s promise in May to defer annual oil payments from Pakistan of up to $3bn for the next three years has helped to ease pressure on its reserves.

Charles Robertson, chief economist at Renaissance Capital, said the case for buying Pakistan’s bonds was straightforward. “Where else can you get double-digit yield on an undervalued currency?”

Mr Robertson noted that the rupee was at its lowest level in 25 years, measured by its real effective exchange rate, meaning foreigners could earn outsized returns on local- currency bonds. This is “the first new emerging market reform story since Egypt in 2016”, he added.

Fidelity International portfolio manager Paul Greer said that despite Pakistan’s large fiscal and current-account deficits, “the economic reform trajectory in the country has been improving of late and the imbalances are now moving in the right direction”.

He added that the country’s relationship with the IMF was “strong at present and the recent programme review illustrated the impressive progress being made”.

But the president of a privately owned Pakistani bank warned that high interest rates were having a “crippling effect” on investment by domestic companies. These rates would need to be brought down to encourage businesses to borrow, he added.

“The problem is that if you bring down interest rates, that may discourage the inflow of foreign money. It’s going to be a very delicate balancing act.”

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan #exports up by 9.6% in Nov, #imports cut by 17.53%. #Trade #deficit at 34.4% or $4.983 billion in first 5 months of FY 2019-20. Pakistan's current account deficit in FY19-20 stands at $12.75 billion, a 36% reduction from $19.9 billion in FY18-19. https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/577221-pak-exports-up-by-9-6pc-in-nov-imports-cut-by-17-53pc

This increase in exports and cut in imports would improve the trade balance position and ultimately the current account deficit (CAD) that has recently turned into surplus. Economists believe that with the increase in the surpluses in CAD, the country's foreign exchange reserves also get improve.

Meanwhile, Adviser to Prime Minister on Commerce, Textile, Industry & Investment Razzak Dawood said on his twitter account, "Alhamdolillah! Pakistan's exports in November 2019 have once again crossed the USD 2 billion mark. Hats off to our experts and the team at the Ministry of Commerce. Exports have increased by 9.6% as compared to last year." He further said, "As a result of the same policies of the government, the increasing exports are contributing to improvement in our balance of payment position and stabilisation of the economy."

It is worth mentioning that for the first time, in the last four years, the country's current account turned into surplus and was recorded at net positive current account balance of $99 million in October 2019. In September, it was current account was recorded in deficit of $284 million and $1.28 billion in Oct 2018.

Pakistan's current account deficit in FY19 stood at $12.75 bn, a 36 percent reduction from $19.9 bn in FY18.

Besides, the second phase of China-Pakistan Free Trade Agreement (CPFTA) has also come into the effect from Sunday (Dec 1) allowing export of around 313 new Pakistani products on zero duty to the Chinese market. Pakistan is already enjoying zero duty on export of 724 products to China under the first FTA signed between the two countries in 2006. After the implementation of the second FTA, Pakistan has been allowed to export a total of 1047 products to China on zero duty.

The new facility will particularly benefit the textile sector to enhance its export to China as textile exports to China will virtually be duty-free.

There are a number of other items particularly leather and agriculture products as well as confectionery and biscuits, etc, which Pakistani manufacturers can export to China.

Reportedly, with the implementation of the second phase of the trade agreement, Pakistan can now increase its export around $1 billion in the short term while the export of these items are likely to touch $4-5 billion in the medium term after setting up new industry in the special economic zones being constructed in Pakistan under China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) flagship project.

After this agreement, Pakistan can enhance its exports to China up to $10 billion in the next few years as the volume of the Chinese import market is around $64 billion. The State Bank of Pakistan has also increased fund limits for traders and manufacturers under export refinance scheme which will help increase the exports.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan’s central bank chief wants to boost #exports via cheap credit to help end a chronic boom-and-bust cycle. Says “Countries that have sustainably raised their living standards, emerging markets particularly, have relied on exports,” #economy #IMF https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-12-05/ending-pakistan-s-boom-bust-cycle-is-central-bank-s-new-plan


Pakistan’s central bank wants to boost exports to help end a chronic boom-and-bust cycle now that the economy is showing signs of stability.


In an interview in Karachi, Governor Reza Baqir said he’s encouraged by early indications of an improvement in the economy and authorities want to ensure they can keep the growth momentum going by adopting export-focused strategies.

The State Bank of Pakistan is considering giving cheap credit to new industries with export potential and wants commercial lenders to boost their share of loans to small and medium enterprises by more than double to 17% of total private sector credit by 2023, officials said. The markup on loans to exporters is less than half of the regular loans, which are currently priced at more than 13%.

“Countries that have sustainably raised their living standards, emerging markets particularly, have relied on exports,” Baqir said on Wednesday from his office in Karachi. “In our view, a very key shift that has to occur in our thinking is to shift ourselves from being an inward-oriented economy to an outward-oriented economy.”

Pakistan holds rate for two meetings after rate doubles
After 18 years in various roles at the International Monetary Fund, Baqir was brought in to the central bank in May to help stabilize an economy weighed down by high debt, low foreign currency reserves and weak growth. Pakistan was forced to turn to the IMF for a bailout again this year, its 13th since the late 1980s, with the central bank raising interest rates and freeing up the currency, and the government required to boost revenue to meet conditions of the loans.

“The measures that are in this program are all measures that we think are going to lay the foundations for sustainable growth and to end the boom-and-bust cycles that have historically plagued us,” said Baqir. “The start is encouraging, it’s very good but we have to keep our eye on the goal post.”

The economy has posted early successes so far. The fiscal deficit dropped by half to 0.7% of gross domestic product in the three months through September compared with the same period last year, according to government data. The current account turned into a surplus for the first time in four years in October.

Investors are following suit. Foreigners invested about $1.2 billion into Pakistan Treasury bills since July after virtually zero inflows in the past two years. Moody’s Investors Service raised Pakistan’s credit rating outlook to stable from negative this week.

Read: From Zero to Hero: Pakistan Bonds Evoke Egypt’s Success Tale

“People sometimes take things for granted but you know, all we need to do is to look back four, five months and the sentiment was very different,” said Baqir. “The fact that the sentiment has turned around is, for us, an important part of the stabilization.”


The economy has fallen into a pattern of fast growth followed by a slump in recent years. Pakistan is reliant on capital imports, so rapid growth pushes up demand for overseas goods. That’s what happened about two years ago, with imports rising to a record to exceed exports by three times. The current-account deficit came under pressure and foreign reserves dwindled, prompting the central bank to devalue the currency by almost half and double interest rates to 13.25%.

Baqir said there’s room for optimism that “the turnaround in the real economy may also be coming close.” Looking at government “expenditure on development projects, we have something that is quite striking,” he said.

Activity Starter
Pakistan government doubles release for public development spending

Riaz Haq said...

#startups ecosystem in #Pakistan is taking shape with 24 incubators and accelerators, 20 formal funders and #investors and 80 co-working spaces across the country. The domains vary from #edtech, #health, #fintech and #ecommerce to on-demand. #technology https://aurora.dawn.com/news/1143578


The last three years have seen a significant rise in venture financing and investments. The most recent are Airlift, TelloTalk and SastaTicket.pk (which raised $1.5 million in Series A funding by Gobi Partners). Airlift, a decentralised mass transit system, has raised $12 million Series A funding, the largest by any start-up from Pakistan and one of the largest in the South Asian region this year. The funding round was led by Round Capital, a US-based VC that has previously invested in start-ups including Uber and Square. Earlier this year, Airlift secured seed financing amount of $2.2 million from Indus Valley Capital and Fatima Gobi Ventures and TelloTalk, a local instant messaging application, raised $1.6 million from i2i Ventures.

This brings us to the other side of the table – investors. i2i is a Pakistan-based early-stage investment fund with Kalsoom Lakhani and Misbah Naqvi as partners. Other examples are Sarmayacar and Fatima Gobi Ventures. Zamindar Capital has also made investments via Idea Croron Ka, a business reality TV show that over a series of four seasons has connected 100+ start-ups with 25 potential investors, resulting in Rs 510 million committed investments. Oman Technology Fund has invested in six start-ups – including $100,000 each in Smartchoice, a financial comparison platform, and Queno, an edtech offering ERP solutions for schools – in a short span of 18 months. Most recently, SparkLabs Global Ventures, the world’s third-biggest early-stage investment firm, has announced the launch of SparkLabs Pakistan in this year.

Sarmayacar, for example, has been set up with an initial $30 million and will invest $100,000 to two million into companies in technology and technology-enabled sectors. So far it has made investments in Bykea, with a funding amount of $5.7 million that was co-led by investors from South Asia. (Bykea, Zameen.com and PakWheels are set to be unicorns from Pakistan.) Bykea is scalable, local yet replicable and has a forward-looking team of co-founders. Add Jonas Eichhorst’s experience on the board, and you will not find an element stopping them from growing as a million dollar unicorn.

Muneeb Maayr, founder and CEO of Bykea, was previously a co-founder at Rocket Internet’s Daraz, the largest e-commerce setup in Pakistan and the largest in South Asia after the Indian market. The acquisition of Daraz by Ali Baba presents multiple facets; firstly, the entrance of an e-commerce giant in the local market is promising and a positive sign for other large companies and start-ups to enter and secondly, setting the scene for other, early stage start-ups by showing a possible trajectory.

There is another perspective too. Atoms, a New York based footwear brand, traces itself to Markhor and HomeTown of 2011-2012. Atom’s journey was not easy – it required passion, dedication and self-belief. Sidra Qasim and Waqas Ali, the co-founders, have all three. Persistence has been key and multiple pivots later, they landed a position at Y-Combinator, one of the top business accelerators in the world. Atoms have successfully raised $8.1 million in Series A rounds led by Initialized Capital, along with other investors including Acumen CEO Jacqueline Novograts, LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner and TED curator Chris Anderson. A completely home-grown startup has set an overarching way for others to acquire global exposure and rebase internationally.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan: The next big Asian market for #tech #startups? McKinsey report says 720 startups have been created in Pakistan since 2010 — 67% of which are still in operation — with 100 successfully raising funding. #ecosystem #VentureCapital #technology https://www.dw.com/en/pakistan-the-next-big-asian-market-for-tech-startups/a-52183841

Pakistan's young and tech-savvy population, market of over 220 million people and increasing levels of local capital are creating opportunities for tech entrepreneurs, as Miriam Partington reports.

"Pakistan's tech ecosystem has been slowly gaining momentum in the last few years," says Hena Husain, founder of London-based communications startup The Content Architects. "It's home to a strong tech talent base and it's still competitively affordable, which makes it ideal for early-stage founders like myself."

Hena's company works with a development team based in Karachi, Pakistan's business center and best-known tech hub. It was here that transportation startup Careem — acquired by Uber for $3.1 billion (€2.8 billion) in March 2019 — wrote its first lines of code and where a cluster of software engineers has formed gradually over the years.

Hena says that the growth in Karachi's tech market is "accelerating" by the day, which reflects a broader trend across Pakistan.

The country was named one of the fastest-growing economies in Asia in McKinsey & Co's latest report on the Pakistani ecosystem. The same report revealed that 720 startups had been created since 2010 — 67% of which are still in operation — with 100 successfully raising funding.

Unprecedented growth

For many familiar with Pakistan's startup scene, it's hard to pinpoint exactly what triggered its growth.

According to Iskander Pataudi, a Pakistani-born tech professional working in Berlin, the tech scene emerged organically. Tech is booming around the world, and Pakistan is an untapped market. It was only a matter of time before investors started to take notice.

"A few Pakistani tech startups have raised huge funding rounds at a time where our economy is just keeping its head above water," he says. "This makes sense, considering we have a huge market of young, digitally-savvy consumers and increased 3G and 4G connectivity."

Iskander adds that May 2018 marked one of the "first and only exits Pakistan has seen so far" when e-commerce platform Daraz was acquired by China's Alibaba Group for an estimated $200 million. This was an early indicator that "something was about to happen."

Since then, Airlift, an app-based bus service founded just 11 months ago, raised a Series A funding round of $12 million in August 2019, led by US-based venture capital (VC) firm First Round Capital. This round marked the firm's first investment in Asia in more than a decade.

'An unlocking of capital'

According to Rabeel Warraich, founder of Pakistan-based venture capital fund Sarmayacar, the string of startup success stories — combined with a more stable political landscape under President Imran Khan and decreasing levels of corruption nationwide — has increased "investors' confidence that Pakistan holds huge potential for exiting businesses."

"Tech startups that were once considered risky investments are more commonly looked upon by venture capitalists as 'high-yield opportunities,'" he adds.

This newfound confidence has led to an increase in the availability of local capital. While Pakistan's startup scene and VC market is still nascent, the number of funds — such as i2i Ventures and Fatima Gobi Ventures — and active angel investors have increased significantly since 2018.

Riaz Haq said...

China’s Digital Silk Road after the Coronavirus
April 13, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic will be a history-altering event. But where will it take us? In “On the Horizon,” a new CSIS series, our scholars offer their insights into the fundamental changes we might anticipate for our future social and economic world.


https://www.csis.org/analysis/chinas-digital-silk-road-after-coronavirus

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Just a few months ago, China’s technology ambitions appeared imperiled by Covid-19, then raging through the center of the country, bringing its economy to a standstill, and wreaking havoc to global supply chains. But the pandemic is already providing new opportunities for China’s rise as a technology power and global provider of digital infrastructure. Indeed, in the months and years ahead, China’s Digital Silk Road will only accelerate and expand.

Consider the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which Chinese officials have touted as the BRI’s flagship. Since CPEC was announced five years ago, over 60 percent of its projects have been transportation and energy, and many have been bogged down with delays. While proposed pipeline and railway connections between China and Pakistan remain pipedreams, Huawei was able to lay a fiber-optic cable across their border and deep into Pakistan in under two years. Stretching 820 kilometers, the project cost just $44 million—less than it costs to build only four kilometers of railway in Pakistan. Given Pakistan’s mounting debt, the second phase of CPEC, much like the future of the BRI, will place a greater emphasis on smaller, higher-tech projects.

The less visible nature of digital infrastructure also fits more easily into the geopolitical environment that Chinese firms will face as the Covid-19 crisis abates. Prior to the crisis, China’s approach to delivering large projects in foreign countries, which relies heavily on its own companies and workers, stoked resentment among local communities. In recent years, Chinese workers have been attacked in Bangladesh, Kazakhstan, and Kenya, among other stops along the BRI. Given the source of the outbreak, Chinese workers are more likely to face discrimination abroad. Digital infrastructure projects are typically less visible, and less disruptive, to local communities than large transport and energy projects.

Chinese tech companies also see an opening to pitch their products as part of responding to the current outbreak and preventing future pandemics. Hikvision, Dahua, and other leading surveillance companies have introduced thermal imaging systems to detect fevers. Alipay and Tencent have developed health apps that generate QR codes indicating a user’s health status. Naturally, these companies are looking to sell these products overseas. Alibaba is already offering its cloud services to model regional outbreaks and connect health professionals. These offerings are not unique to Chinese companies, but they often come with fewer privacy protections than their Western counterparts.

Riaz Haq said...

China’s largest chipmaker to raise $2.8 billion in listing to boost capabilities amid #trade war. SMIC is part of #China’s push for self-reliance in #semiconductors, a field in which the world’s second-largest economy is seen as far behind #UnitedStates. https://www.cnbc.com/2020/06/02/china-chipmaker-smic-to-raise-2point8-billion-in-shanghai-listing-amid-trade-war.html?__source=sharebar|twitter&par=sharebar

China’s largest contract chipmaker, Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC), has filed for a listing in Shanghai that will raise 20 billion yuan ($2.8 billion).
The move comes as the company looks to bolster investment in its technology amid the escalating trade tensions between the U.S. and China, which could force SMIC to take on more production.
SMIC is part of China’s broader push for self-reliance when it comes to semiconductors, a field in which the world’s second-largest economy is seen as far behind the U.S.

China’s largest contract chipmaker, Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation (SMIC), has filed for a listing in Shanghai that will raise 20 billion yuan ($2.8 billion).

The move comes as the company looks to bolster investment in its technology amid the escalating trade tensions between the U.S. and China, which could force SMIC to take on more production.

SMIC, which is already listed in Hong Kong, has been looking to raise cash to do that. It got a $2.2 billion investment from state investors last month.

The company is part of China’s broader push for self-reliance when it comes to semiconductors, a field in which the world’s second-largest economy is seen as far behind the U.S. But China’s efforts have been given greater impetus as Washington continues its technology war with Beijing.

Huawei has been one of China’s companies targeted by U.S. sanctions. Last year, it was put on a U.S. blacklist called the Entity List which restricted its access to American technology. In May, the Trump administration introduced a rule which requires foreign manufacturers using U.S. chipmaking equipment to get a license before being able to sell semiconductors to Huawei.

That rule is likely to affect Taiwan’s TSMC, which makes most of the chips Huawei designs for devices such as smartphones. If Huawei cannot get hold of semiconductors from TSMC, it may have to look for alternatives such as SMIC. But experts have previously told CNBC that SMIC’s technology is far behind TSMC.

The recent cash injection, therefore, could be a boost for the company as it looks to rapidly expand its capabilities.

In its listing prospectus, SMIC said that the U.S.-China trade frictions and Washington’s latest rules on semiconductors could be headwinds for the company.

Riaz Haq said...

#US Congress Push to Invest Billions in #Semiconductor Industry to Counter #China. The future of the #computer #communications #chip industry is particularly significant because it is a foundational #technology that can give nations an edge in innovation https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/11/business/economy/semiconductors-chips-congress-china.html?smid=tw-share

China’s technological ambitions are eliciting rare bipartisan agreement in Washington, with lawmakers considering investing tens of billions of dollars in America’s semiconductor industry over the next five to 10 years to help the United States retain an edge over Beijing.

A bipartisan measure introduced this week is one of several proposals that would provide substantial funding for the semiconductor industry, which manufactures chips that serve as the tiny brains or memory of electronic devices from smartphones to fitness trackers.

The efforts reflect a shifting consensus in Washington, as lawmakers look to more expansive government intervention in private markets to help American firms compete. That includes Republicans, who have long criticized government-led industrial plans as inefficient and redolent of communism but have watched with dismay as such efforts in China have allowed it to dominate industries from steel and solar panels to shipbuilding.

The future of the semiconductor industry is viewed as particularly significant because it is a foundational technology that can give nations an edge in innovation. China has been shoveling billions into developing its own chip industry, which has long been dominated by the United States and has helped propel a boom in 5G technology, artificial intelligence and robotics.

Semiconductors are still one of America’s largest exports, and American companies that design and sell chips still account for nearly half of global revenue in the sector, the greatest share of any country. But the United States only accounts for around 12 percent of global semiconductor production capacity. Decades ago, domestic designers began turning to foundries in places like Taiwan and South Korea to manufacture their chips.

While past government subsidies have largely focused on chip research, the latest bill puts a heavy emphasis on domestic manufacturing. A centerpiece, which would put more than $22.8 billion toward the industry, is a new trust fund for federal grants to match state subsidies to encourage new factories. As much as $10 billion a year could be placed in the fund, with the money to come from the import tariffs the administration has placed on China, rather than a congressional appropriation.

The legislation is co-sponsored by Senators John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, and Mark Warner, Democrat of Virginia, and Representatives Michael McCaul, Republican of Texas, and Doris Matsui, Democrat of California. It could be rolled into the next economic stimulus package or a defense bill that may be considered this summer.

The measure follows a bill introduced in late May by Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the minority leader, and Senator Todd Young, Republican of Indiana, that would expand the National Science Foundation and increase funding by $100 billion over five years in areas like artificial intelligence, robotics and advanced manufacturing. Senator Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas, is also working on a bill to fund the chip industry.

Riaz Haq said...

Congress Has Supported Moves To Revive Domestic Semiconductor Manufacturing, Here’s What Needs To Happen Next

https://www.forbes.com/sites/willyshih/2020/07/26/congress-has-supported-moves-to-revive-domestic-semiconductor-manufacturing-heres-what-needs-to-happen-next/#44e4bd184a94

Last week the Senate voted overwhelmingly (96-4) to include an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that provided support to the American semiconductor industry. The amendment combined the earlier American Foundries Act and the Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors (CHIPS) for America Act. A nearly identical proposal was included in the House NDAA, so that bodes well as the bill goes into the Conference Committee. But the vote does not authorize or appropriate funding for these policies, it only creates the policy framework.

The pandemic and worsening trade tensions have shined a light on worrisome issues with the supply chains that American industry and consumers depend on. Semiconductors are an area where the U.S. is heavily dependent on Asia. While the U.S. still has most of the leading design companies, we have comparatively few of the leading manufacturing facilities. In that critical sector we trail Taiwan, an island claimed by China that is one quarter the size of the state of Florida, and then South Korea, Japan, and China. The U.S. has gone from being first in manufacturing at the dawn of the industry to fifth, and companies in those countries who are ahead of us are investing aggressively. American makers of the production tools used in semiconductor factories have been moving their manufacturing to Asia as well, because that’s where their customers are.
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If Congress needs any additional impetus, it only needs to look to Intel’s recent announcement that it will delay the launch of its next generation chips, and that it was considering contracting out more of its manufacturing to make up for the delays. This should ring alarm bells for a number of reasons:

Intel has lost ground to AMD in the x86 microprocessor chip market because AMD has well designed products that are manufactured by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC). Don’t forget – a decade ago when AMD fell behind in manufacturing, it spun off its fabs (which became the foundation for GlobalFoundries) and turned to TSMC to produce its chips. TSMC is able to make AMD’s chips with its most advanced processes which are now even further ahead of Intel. The only place Intel can go to catch up with AMD is TSMC, so the pressure on them to outsource to there (Intel already is an important customer) will be intense.
Apple AAPL -0.2% recently announced that it will shift away from using Intel microprocessors in its Mac computers to chips of its own design that will be fabricated at TSMC. One could argue that Apple was only a small share of Intel’s volume, but don’t forget – the last time Apple shifted its Mac chip supplier – from PowerPC chips made by IBM IBM -1.2% and Motorola/Freescale to Intel – that marked a significant turning point in IBM’s decline and eventual exit from semiconductor manufacturing.
TSMC’s proposed fab in Arizona is only a token investment with insufficient capacity to support even a small fraction of the needs of Apple, Qualcomm QCOM -0.9%, Nvidia NVDA +0.6%, Intel, Amazon AMZN +0.7%, Google GOOGL -0.6%, and other American design shops. The proposed fab has a capacity of 20,000 wafer starts a month, a drop in the bucket compared to ~250,000 wafer starts per month at a single one of TSMC’s Gigafabs in Taiwan. And TSMC has three Gigafabs going on four spread over three science parks on the island.


Riaz Haq said...

Inside Intel: A Look At The Mega Chipmaker

https://www.investopedia.com/articles/markets/100214/inside-intel-look-mega-chipmaker.asp

Never has a corporation done so much with something so little. Founded in 1968, Intel Corp. (INTC) has been the world’s leading manufacturer of microprocessors and chipsets almost since its inception. Today Intel is easily the largest semiconductor company in the world, about half again as large as closest competitor, Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd., and more than triple the size of the next-largest domestic producer, Qualcomm Inc. (QCOM).


What separates Intel from most other semiconductor companies is that it fabricates its products in-house. The bulk of semiconductor “manufacturers” farm the actual work of creating the products out to foundries in China. Intel even fabricates chips for other companies, for the most part ones too small to be considered true competitors. Is that a conflict of interest? Not really. Fabrication plants can cost several billion dollars to build, and it makes sense for Intel to keep its busy. (For more, see: The Semiconductor Industry Handbook.)


Intel does indeed assemble chipsets in China, but at Intel-owned facilities. It is received wisdom among some American doomsayers that low labor costs make China the default base of manufacturing operations for U.S. corporations that want to save a few pennies per unit and “ship jobs overseas.” That claim is more accusatory than it is true. At the end of 2016 Intel had a multitudinous workforce of 106,000, approximately half of whom were employed in the United States. Almost half of Intel’s chipsets and microprocessors are manufactured at home, at facilities in the suburbs of Phoenix, Albuquerque, N.M., and Portland, Ore. Outside of China, most of the remaining Intel products are developed in Israel. (For more, see: A Primer for Investing in the Tech Industry.)


The Incestuous World of Chip-sourcing

Even given that Intel fabricates other companies’ chips at its facilities, the business of developing internal computer hardware, selling it, and branding it is more incestuous than you might think. For instance, as of 2007 Apple Inc. (AAPL) began using Intel chips exclusively in its Macs, supplanting the PowerPC CPUs that Apple itself helped develop as part of a consortium. In 2018, it was reported that Apple may use Intel chips exclusively in its new iPhones. By comparison, smaller companies subcontracting to Intel isn’t even that big of a deal.

Moore's Law


Intel’s surviving cofounder, Gordon Moore, lends his name to the most famous observation in all of technology. Formulated in 1965, Moore’s Law states that transistor density doubles every two years. Not only has the observation held ever since, but Intel has officially incorporated the law into its company strategy. The company is behind the development of 450mm wafers, the widest in existence, yet still less than a millimeter thick. Once in production, they should allow the exponential progress of Moore’s Law to continue for at least another generation.

So who’s buying all these Intel chips? In 2008, the answer was unambiguous. Hewlett-Packard Co. (HPQ), Dell and International Business Machines Corp. (IBM), not coincidentally the three-biggest computer manufacturers at the turn of the century, were together responsible for $3 of every $4 Intel took in. A mere six years later, with bulky personal computers no longer the devices of choice for a global clientele that values portability and speed, Intel now has eight major customers that are responsible for 75% of its revenues. In 2016, Intel's three largest customers were responsible for 31% of the firm's accounts receivable. Intel might obey Moore’s Law, but the Pareto Principle (a.k.a the 80/20 rule) is a different story.

Riaz Haq said...

Instead of #AI, #Pentagon Is Clinging to old #tech. #US #politics of killing off old weapons systems is so forbidding — often because it involves closing factories or bases, and endangers military jobs in congressional districts — that the efforts falter.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/29/us/politics/military-cyberweapons-artificial-intelligence.html

A bipartisan House panel said on Tuesday that artificial intelligence, quantum computing, space and biotechnology were “making traditional battlefields and boundaries increasingly irrelevant” — but that the Pentagon was clinging to aging weapons systems meant for a past era.

The panel’s report, called the “Future of Defense Task Force,” is one of many underway in Congress to grapple with the speed at which the Pentagon is adopting new technologies, often using the rising competition with China in an effort to spur the pace of change.

Most reach a similar conclusion: For all the talk of embracing new technologies, the politics of killing off old weapons systems is so forbidding — often because it involves closing factories or bases, and endangers military jobs in congressional districts — that the efforts falter.

The task force said it was concentrating on the next 30 to 50 years, and concluded that the Defense Department and Congress should be “focused on the needs of the future and not on the political and military-industrial loyalties of the past.”

“We are totally out of time, and here is a bipartisan group — in this environment — saying that this is a race we have to win and that we are currently losing,” said Representative Seth Moulton, Democrat of Massachusetts, who served with the Marine Corps in Iraq and was a co-chairman of the task force. “There is a misalignment of priorities, and diminishing time to make dramatic changes.”

The report calls for the United States to undertake an artificial intelligence effort that uses “the Manhattan Project as a model,” citing the drive in World War II to assemble the nation’s best minds in nuclear physics and weapons to develop the atomic bomb. The task force found that although the Pentagon had been experimenting with artificial intelligence, machine learning and even semiautonomous weapons systems for years, “cultural resistance to its wider adoption remains.”

It recommended that every major military acquisition program “evaluate at least one A.I. or autonomous alternative” before it is funded. It also called for the United States to “lead in the formulation and ratification of a global treaty on artificial intelligence in the vein of the Geneva Conventions,” a step the Trump administration has resisted for cyberweaponry and the broader use of artificial intelligence.

But questions persist about whether such a treaty would prove useful. While nuclear and chemical weapons were largely in the hands of nations, cyberweapons — and artificial intelligence techniques — are in the hands of criminal groups, terrorist groups and teenagers.

Nonetheless, the report’s focus on working with allies and developing global codes of ethics and privacy runs counter to the instincts of the Trump administration, making it more surprising that the Republican members of the task force signed on.

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“The Pentagon knows how to acquire large programs,” like “fighter jets or aircraft carries, but it is less adept at purchasing at scale the types of emerging technologies that will be required for future conflict,” it said.

Defense Department officials have sought to address that problem. But the task force found that while those efforts sometimes succeeded, they were too small, and “the Pentagon has so far only been able to tap into a fraction of the innovation being developed in the United States.”

Riaz Haq said...

With Money, and Waste, China Fights for Chip Independence
Beijing’s drive to free itself from reliance on imported semiconductors has lifted start-ups and big firms alike. Some have flamed out. But there has been progress.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/24/technology/china-semiconductors.html

Liu Fengfeng had more than a decade under his belt at one of the world’s most prominent technology companies before he realized where the real gold rush in China was taking place.

Computer chips are the brains and souls of all the electronics the country’s factories crank out. Yet they are mostly designed and produced overseas. China’s government is lavishing money upon anyone who can help change that.

So last year Mr. Liu, 40, left his corporate job at Foxconn, the Taiwanese giant that assembles iPhones in China for Apple. He found a niche — high-end films and adhesives for chip products — and quickly raised $5 million. Today his start-up has 36 employees, most of them in the tech hub of Shenzhen, and is aiming to start mass production next year.

“Before, you might have had to beg Grandpa and call on Grandma for money,” Mr. Liu said. “Now, you just have a few conversations and everyone is hoping projects get started as soon as possible.”

China is in the midst of a mass mobilization for chip mastery, a quest whose aims can seem just as harebrained and impossible — at least until they are achieved — as sending rovers to the moon or dominating Olympic gold medals. In every corner of the country, investors, entrepreneurs and local officials are in a frenzy to build up semiconductor abilities, responding to a call from the country’s leader, Xi Jinping, to rely less on the outside world in key technologies.


Their efforts are starting to pay off. China remains far from hosting real rivals to American chip giants like Intel and Nvidia, and its semiconductor manufacturers are at least four years behind the leading edge in Taiwan. Still, local companies are expanding their ability to meet the country’s needs, particularly for products, such as smart appliances and electric vehicles, that have more modest requirements than supercomputers and high-end smartphones.

The turbocharged chip push could prove one of the most enduring legacies of President Trump’s pugilistic trade policies toward China. By turning the country’s dependence on foreign chips into a cudgel for attacking companies like Huawei, the administration made Chinese business and political leaders resolve never to be caught out that way again.


ImageLiu Fengfeng, Tsinghon’s chief and founder. “Before, you might have had to beg Grandpa and call on Grandma for money,” he said. Now, investors are eager to get involved.
Liu Fengfeng, Tsinghon’s chief and founder. “Before, you might have had to beg Grandpa and call on Grandma for money,” he said. Now, investors are eager to get involved.Credit...Gilles SabriĆ© for The New York Times
But as Beijing broadens its ambitions in semiconductors, it is also setting itself up for larger potential failures — and dialing up the amount of money it might lose in the process. Several chip projects have run aground recently because of frozen funding and mismanagement. A state-backed chip conglomerate, Tsinghua Unigroup, warned this month that it was in danger of defaulting on nearly $2.5 billion in international bonds.

Riaz Haq said...

#Superpower status will depend on #semiconductor chips. #TSMC building world's largest $20 billion fab in #Taiwan to manufacture chips at dimensions of just 3 nanometers that'll power everything from latest iPhones to medical equipment to F-35 fighters. https://www.ft.com/content/44e28cad-55b7-4995-a5c5-6de6f9733747


This vast capital expenditure highlights the near-insatiable demand for computer chips, the dominance of Taiwanese chipmakers and the sophistication of modern manufacturing. TSMC’s chips power everything from Apple’s latest iPhones to medical equipment to F-35 warplanes, accounting for about 55 per cent of global semiconductor sales.

But the manufacture of semiconductors is becoming a geopolitical imperative, too. As part of its squeeze on China’s tech industry, the US has pressured TSMC to stop supplying Huawei, previously one of its biggest customers. China, which spends more on importing computer chips than oil, is developing a semiconductor industry to reduce dependence on overseas suppliers.

Sensing their own vulnerability, the US, Japan and the EU are also stepping up their efforts to develop indigenous semiconductor industries, as their carmakers and computer games companies wail about the lack of supply. Computer chips currently vie with vaccines as must-have resources for any nation state.

If military capability in previous centuries was built on breech-loading rifles, warships or atomic bombs, it may well depend in the 21st century on the smartest use of advanced chips. The centrality of TSMC to the global semiconductor industry is sometimes given as a reason why mainland China might yet invade Taiwan. But far bigger military and political considerations will determine Beijing’s course of action.

By any measure, TSMC is an extraordinary company which is reaping the benefits of out-investing its rivals. It has just announced that its capital spending will further increase to between $25bn and $28bn this year as it struggles to add capacity fast enough to match demand. During an earnings call last month, CC Wei, TSMC’s chief executive, said that surging sales of smartphones and high-performance computers and the adoption of 5G mobile technology were fuelling demand for the company’s leading-edge logic chips. “We believe that 5G is a multiyear megatrend that will enable a world where digital computation is increasingly ubiquitous,” he said.

Most other semiconductor companies have dropped out of the race to manufacture 3nm chips due to the stratospheric costs. It will now be hard for any rival to catch up with TSMC because of its vast capital spending, its technological expertise, its network of suppliers and its support from the Taiwanese government. Only Samsung of South Korea is visible in its rear-view mirror.

“What separates TSMC from other foundries is its appetite to take risks and its ability to execute. It is an incredible business model,” says Brett Simpson, a tech analyst at Arete, an independent research firm. “The market is heading for one dominant player and one subscale player that is hanging in there and executing very well.”

The bigger concern for TSMC is the geopolitical tension between the US and China. With two fabrication plants in China, one in the US state of Washington and another planned in Arizona, TSMC has been hedging its bets. But like many other companies in a fast-polarising world, it is being forced to choose.

Shelley Rigger, a professor at Davidson College in North Carolina and author of Why Taiwan Matters, says that US pressure on China is only reinforcing Beijing’s determination to become self-sufficient in semiconductor manufacturing: “China has infinite money to throw at a problem like this and no scruples about doing what needs to be done.”

Taiwan has long feared that the world could divide into Chinese-dominated red supply chains and US-focused blue supply chains, jeopardising relations with either its biggest trading partner or its main strategic ally. The island’s room for manoeuvre is becoming as thin as TSMC’s wafers.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan #Punjab government budgets Rs41.75 million to establish #computer chip design centers at 8 universities, including UET Lahore, the UET Taxila, the ITU Lahore, and the Islamia University Bahawalpur. #semiconductor #technology #Silicon https://www.dawn.com/news/1629534

MNS UET Multan, the KF UEIT Rahim Yar Khan, the University of Gujrat, and the University of Chakwal next year.

Integrated Circuits (ICs), commonly known as chips, have radically altered the industry and nanotechnology has greatly contributed to major advances in computing and electronics, leading to faster, smaller, and more portable systems that can process, manage, and store larger and larger amounts of information.

Chip design technology is one of the most important and significant technologies globally in the electronics industry. With the Covid-19 crisis disrupting supply chains and geopolitical tensions increasing, semiconductor companies have become more interested in achieving end-to-end design and manufacturing capabilities for leading edge technologies.

Local universities in Pakistan are not extensively teaching the skills which are flourishing quite rapidly all over the world such as micro and nano-electronics IC design because of a lack of highly-trained faculty and academic resources in these domains.

Punjab Minister for Higher Education Raja Yasir Hamayun took an initiative of skills development in micro and nanoelectronics design technologies in the universities of the province. He constituted a committee led by UET VC Prof Dr Syed Mansoor Sarwar.

The minister says they can’t afford to wait anymore since leading players are already years ahead in technology development. He says the future of the semiconductor industry belongs to advancements in nanoelectronics chip design technologies. He says a project was approved for the provision of software and hardware facilities for Microelectronic Design and Development in eight universities to promote R&D culture and train faculty in the universities.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan's #tech ecosystem is finally taking off. In 2021, Pakistani #startups are on track to raise more money than the previous 5 years combined. This capital is coming from investors from #Asia, #MiddleEast & top #SiliconValley VCs.
https://tcrn.ch/2TEwRR0 via @techcrunch

https://twitter.com/haqsmusings/status/1412922307438268416?s=20


Pakistan, the world’s fifth most populous country, has been slow to adapt to the internet economy. Unlike other emerging economies such as China, India and Indonesia, which have embraced digitization and technology, Pakistan has trailed the region in the adoption of technology and startup formation.

Despite this, investors have dreamed for years of the huge opportunities in unlocking Pakistan’s potential as a digital economy. As a country of 220 million people, almost two-thirds of whom are under the age of 30, Pakistan draws natural comparisons to Indonesia — which has rapidly emerged as one of the most vibrant technology ecosystems outside the U.S. and China.

After years of lagging behind, over the course of the past 18 months, Pakistan’s technology ecosystem has come to life in unprecedented fashion. In 2021, Pakistani startups are on track to raise more money than the previous five years combined. Even more excitingly, a large portion of this capital is coming from international investors from across Asia, the Middle East and even famed investors from Silicon Valley.

The rapid emergence of Pakistan’s technology ecosystem on the international stage has been no accident — it’s the result of a confluence of changing facts on the ground and shifting dynamics in the startup and investing world as a result of the pandemic.


The sudden emergence of Pakistan’s tech ecosystem on the international stage has been driven by three major factors: an improving security situation, quickly growing mobile connectivity, and critical legal changes and deregulation.

As a frontline state and coalition partner in the United States’ invasion of Afghanistan, Pakistan saw fatalities from terrorist violence soar from 295 in 2001 to a peak of over 11,000 in 2009. This climate of instability and violence scared away international business and investors from Pakistan for much of the first two decades of the 21st century.

Riaz Haq said...

How the West Can Win a Global Power Struggle
In an economic Cold War pitting China and Russia against the U.S. and its allies, one side holds most of the advantages. It just has to use them.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-the-west-can-win-a-global-power-struggle-11647615557?mod=Searchresults_pos1&page=1

Of course the East plays a central role in the global economy. As recent market turmoil illustrates, Russia is a key supplier of not just oil and gas but metals such as palladium, used in catalytic converters, and nickel. China dominates manufacturing of countless goods whose value became abundantly clear during the pandemic, when demand for some, such as protective personal equipment, skyrocketed.

To a great extent these strengths reflect Russia’s comparative advantage in geology and China’s in factory labor. The West’s comparative advantage is in knowledge. That’s why Russia and China court Western investment. For example, to develop a complex liquefied natural gas (LNG) project in the Arctic, Russia relied on Norwegian, French and Italian contractors for essential expertise, research firm Rystad Energy notes.

Catching up with the West is no easy task, as semiconductors illustrate. Western companies dominate all the key steps in this critical and highly complex industry, from chip design (led by U.S.-based Nvidia, Intel, Qualcomm and AMD and Britain’s ARM) to the fabrication of advanced chips (led by Intel, Taiwan’s TSMC and South Korea’s Samsung ) and the sophisticated machines that etch chip designs onto wafers (produced by Applied Materials and Lam Research in the U.S., the Netherlands’ ASML Holding and Japan’s Tokyo Electron ).

Russia and China have made efforts to reduce this dependence. Russia developed locally designed microprocessors called Elbrus and Baikal to run data centers, cybersecurity operations and other applications. Though neither has achieved significant market share, they “represent the pinnacle of local design capability,” said Kostas Tigkos, principal at Jane’s, a defense intelligence provider. Russia hoped that they would eventually displace chips made by Intel and AMD, he said. “This would not only have been the foundation for diversifying their installed base, but a stepping stone for exports of those processors to other friendly nations.” But without manufacturers like TSMC to make the chips, Russia is facing “the complete disintegration of their aspirations to develop their own industry.”

China has a much bigger semiconductor industry than Russia, and its partly state-owned national champion, Semiconductor Manufacturing International Co. (SMIC), could in theory make Russia’s chips, but that would take at least a year, Mr. Tigkos said. Moreover, its efforts to catch up to its Taiwanese competitor have been set back by sanctions. In 2020 the U.S. required companies using American technology to obtain a license to sell to SMIC. This effectively limited its ability to acquire advanced equipment from Netherlands’ ASML, which is critical for “any country that wants to have a competitive semiconductor industry,” Mr. Tigkos said.

Why does all this matter to the outcome of the geopolitical contest? Over time economic weight, strength and vitality are what allow countries to sustain military capability, achieve and maintain technological superiority, and remain attractive partners for other countries.

Yet GDP does not automatically equate to strategic influence. To win a Cold War, it’s not enough for the West to hold the best economic cards, it has to know how to play them. Economic statecraft, as this is called, does not come naturally to the West: Its institutions are built on the assumption that companies are private enterprises, not instruments of the state. They do business wherever it’s profitable, regardless of their home countries’ strategic interests.

Riaz Haq said...

Chip Sanctions Challenge Russia’s Tech Ambitions
Losing access to some top-end chips from Asia over the invasion of Ukraine undercuts efforts to develop advanced weaponry, AI, robotics

https://www.wsj.com/articles/chip-sanctions-challenge-russias-tech-ambitions-11647682202

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., the world’s biggest contract chip maker, said it is committed to complying with the new export-control rules. South Korea’s Samsung Electronics Co., a leading memory-chip maker and an electronics producer, said this month it has suspended shipment of all its products to Russia because of geopolitical developments and is monitoring the situation to determine its next steps.

Russia’s chip-building technology lags behind that of industry leader TSMC by more than 15 years, said Western semiconductor-industry executives who have studied the state of Russia’s industry. The country’s leading chip maker, Mikron Group, has said it is the only local company capable of mass producing semiconductors with 65-nanometer circuitries—a technology introduced to the industry for mass production around 2006. Mikron didn’t respond to a request for comment.

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An international tech blockade threatens to deprive Russia of sophisticated semiconductors needed to power advanced weaponry and cutting-edge technologies like 5G, artificial intelligence and robotics, experts say.

In late February, the U.S. imposed a ban on selling high-tech products including semiconductors and telecommunications systems used by the defense, aerospace and maritime industries to Russia and its ally Belarus, days after Russia invaded Ukraine. The ban also extended to certain foreign items produced with U.S. equipment, software or blueprints.

South Korea and Taiwan, which dominate in high-end chips, and Japan, strong in chip-making materials and tools, have also banned exports of the items that the U.S. has put on its export-control list. Their moves cut off Russia’s access to many top-end chips, and materials and components needed to re-create production of such items locally.

For Russia, the impact from the coordinated sanctions will be significant, said Tom Rafferty, Asia regional director at the Economist Intelligence Unit. “The big export bans are going to be on semiconductors and high-end semiconductors in particular, for which Korea and Taiwan almost monopolize production. So there won’t be supply of that anywhere that Russia can lean on.”

While the sanctions would appear to limit Russia’s access to chip supplies, the actual impact couldn’t fully be determined. Russia’s Ministry of Industry and Trade, and the Ministry of Economic Development didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Russia continues to largely rely on foreign technology to design chips and has limited chip-production capabilities of its own. In 2020, Russia imported roughly $440 million worth of semiconductor devices, including components like diodes and transistors, and around $1.25 billion worth of electronic integrated circuits, or “chips,” built by incorporating various components, according to the United Nations Comtrade database.

While the majority of these imports come from Asian countries that aren’t imposing sanctions, Russia would still be left in the dark on high-end chips or homegrown chips. Taiwan produces most of the world’s cutting-edge semiconductors, with the rest produced in South Korea, data from Washington, D.C.-based trade group Semiconductor Industry Association showed. South Korea also dominates in memory chips, while Japan is a stronghold of semiconductor materials and manufacturing tools, both crucial for chip building.

Riaz Haq said...

India Semiconductor Ambitions Are a Heavy Lift
Governments everywhere see both a threat and an opportunity from the current chip shortage. India is no exception.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/india-semiconductor-ambitions-are-a-heavy-lift-11652269561?mod=business_major_pos11


Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi isn’t known for keeping his head down and working silently on a goal. Fanfare and zealous speeches are more on brand. The latest case in point: his speech at the Semicon India 2022 conference in late April, pitching India as a potential semiconductor manufacturing hub.

This goal, however, may require some humility and patience, particularly when leading economies like the U.S., Germany and Japan have already attracted large investments from top chip makers. And unlike manufacturing powerhouse China, which is also vying to be a serious global chip-making player, India lacks a robust domestic market for chips.

So far, the country has received proposals worth $20.5 billion from five companies. These include Indian oil-and-gas major Vedanta in joint venture with Foxconn, Singapore-based IGSS Ventures Pte, and the ISMC—a joint venture between Abu Dhabi-based Next Orbit Ventures and Israel’s Tower Semiconductor. Noticeably absent are many of the top global chip makers such as Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. and Samsung —although Intel is in the process of acquiring Tower Semiconductor.

India has proven itself in smartphone assembly and is now the second-largest smartphone assembler after China. It understandably wants to move up the value chain—but cheap labor won’t be nearly enough. Chip making is a technology- and capital-intensive industry and needs, at a minimum, reliable access to power and water, things that Indian governments have often struggled to supply in the past.

Mr. Modi’s grandiloquence aside, getting on the map in the next 10 years and partly supplying India’s own domestic requirements looks like a reasonable goal to shoot for—in addition to focusing on the chip design and assembling, testing, and packaging aspects of the value chain. It isn’t surprising that the Indian government wants to seize the moment. But here, the adage about walking before running seems apt.