Mr. Wille Eerola has been working for over a decade to help the world see the real Pakistan and his efforts have culminated into closer business ties, higher trade activity and collaborations between the Nordic regions (Finland in particular) and Pakistan.
Earlier this year, he was nominated as the Honorary Consul General of Pakistan for Finland in recognition of his efforts for promoting Pakistani businesses in Finland.
We got a chance to sit down with Mr. Eerola and talk about business, education, energy and much more.
Q. What potential do you see for Pakistani businessmen in Nordic region especially in Finland?
Wille Eerola: Most Pakistani businesses focus on China, the UK and major European countries like France and Germany and they aren’t aware of the opportunities offered by the Nordic region. Take all of the Nordic countries and the 30 million that live within them and multiply it by the GDP per head which is around $40-45,000 per year. There’s your potential. You also have to keep in mind that Nordic countries have higher purchasing power.
So there is ample potential to be tapped and while there are hundreds of Pakistani companies working in the Nordic region right now, much more can be done and the IT industry in particular has to drive that.
Q. Let’s pivot to energy, which is one of most pressing issues facing Pakistan. How can Finland help?
Wille Eerola: Pakistan could be among the first developing countries to be powered by 100% renewable energy. If I were in a position of power here, I would hire a team of experts from the Scandinavian countries and ask them to make a plan with milestones dictating what needs to happen in 5 years, 10 years and so on in terms of sustainable energy. Another factor is upgrading the grid. Right now if you suddenly fulfill the energy deficit, your transmission grid wouldn’t be able to handle it.The energy experts to do this sort of planning are available in Scandanavian countries but it’s all a matter of intent.
Hydro-power is particularly interesting in Pakistan since some of the biggest rivers in the world flow through this country. With some clever thinking, northern Pakistan could become the Norway of sustainable energy in this region. This is not overly complicated stuff. Again, it comes down to intent.
Recently, a Finnish company alongside NUST completed a project for mapping the potential of bioenergy in Pakistan so some work is being done along these lines.
Q. Do you think that the government has been receptive enough to these ideas?
Wille Eerola: They could always be more open. One of the problems I see in developing countries is that they don’t see the long term potential of an investment. So for example, if I bring in a proposal for hybrid or solar power plant, they’ve already decided on what they’ll pay for that electricity. And if it’s being generated cheaper via a clearly unsustainable coal plant, they’ll go with that even if the hybrid plant pays itself off in two decades. Unless you plan for the long term, sustainable energy will have trouble gaining traction.
In a lot of countries like Pakistan, the energy becomes a political issue and that’ll happen in 2018 as well. Unfortunately, that directly affects how receptive the people in power are to such proposals.