Private sector, exports engines for Afghanistan’s growth and stability

Creative CEO, Afghan business leaders hold roundtable to discuss prosperity

November 16, 2018

KABUL—Private sector-driven growth and exports in particular are essential to ensuring Afghanistan’s economic recovery and the much needed job creation for its growing young population, Creative Associates International President and CEO Leland Kruvant said at a meeting with more than 50 top business representatives.

“Creative firmly believes that strategic relationships and collaborations with the private sector to promote the country’s micro, small and medium-sized enterprises are among the best ways to lift their competitiveness and increase their export potential,” Kruvant said on Nov. 12.

During a business roundtable organized with Afghanistan Exporters Club (AEC), Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industries (ACCI) and the Afghanistan Women Chamber of Commerce Industries (AWCCI), Creative hosted and facilitated an engaging dialogue to review the state of exports within Afghanistan’s priority value chains.

At the roundtable of representatives from prominent businesses and key export industries such as rugs, marble, gem stones and dried fruit, successful entrepreneurs shared their vision for private sector-led economic growth and stability.

Leland Kruvant (left), President and CEO of Creative, Sayed Abbas, Owner of the Afghanistan Rug and Carpet Center (ARCC) and Chair of the Afghanistan Exporters Club, and Diljam Manan Qassimy of Qassimy Brothers Carpets tour a rug factory in Kabul. Photo by Hedayatullah Amid.

Sayed Abbas, Owner of the Afghanistan Rugs and Carpets Center (ARCC) and Chairperson of the Afghanistan Exporters Club, highlighted the economic importance of his sector—particularly for women.

“Carpets are Afghanistan’s national treasure and the world’s luxury product,” he told the roundtable. “Women constitute more than 90 percent of the workforce in this value chain. Afghanistan’s carpets, for the first time, are weaved, washed, cut, labeled, branded and exported to the world under the Afghan brand and from Afghanistan. Thanks to the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Afghan government and Creative for their continued support to the promotion of the exports of Afghan carpets and rugs.”

Hasina Syed, Founder and CEO of Sayed Group of Companies, told her peers that building sustainable jobs is a key to the country’s stability and economic development.

“The biggest challenge the Afghan economy faces is youth unemployment,” Syed said. “Every year, more than 400,000 young Afghans join the workforce. It’s the country’s biggest problem. If youth are employed, violence will decrease.”

Syed highlighted the need for export promotion, better access to international markets and investment in high priority value chains.

Coming off a week of meetings with Ministry officials and other business leaders, Kruvant reaffirmed the development organization’s commitment to working with these micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to secure stability, competitiveness and growth.

Creative has more than 15 years of working with the private sector, government, multilateral donors and individuals on projects ranging from the USAID-supported Afghanistan Workforce Development Program to the U.S.-funded Afghan Children Read.

Afghanistan Rug & Carpet Center, Kabul from Creative on Vimeo.

Building on progress

Afghanistan’s economy has achieved notable gains in recent years. Since the fall of the Taliban in 2001 and 2002, the country’s gross domestic product has grown fivefold, according to the World Bank. Its per capita GDP is up 64 percent.

Kruvant commended this impressive growth and the industries and leaders behind it.

“By any measure, these are groundbreaking accomplishments that you should be proud of,” he said. “The reforms instituted by the Government of Afghanistan combined with your commitment and that of other leaders in Afghanistan’s private sector have been driving forces behind Afghanistan’s economic resurgence.”

The Afghan government’s recently launched National Export Strategy— “Peace through Prosperity, Prosperity through Trade”— noted that part of the country’s advancement depends on cultivating clients around the world.

The strategy identifies six priority sectors with high potential for export growth, employment generation and innovation. They are: dried fruits and nuts; fresh fruits and vegetables; saffron; marble and granite; carpets; and precious stones/jewelry.

For each of the six, it sets out policy reforms and institutional investments to tackle bottlenecks that are currently preventing Afghan MSMEs from realizing their full export potential.

Business owners from each of these sectors were present at the roundtable discussion organized by Creative, Afghanistan Exporters Club, Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industries and the Afghanistan Women Chamber of Commerce Industries.

Kruvant reaffirmed that Creative, with its expertise in growth, workforce development and conflict-affected economies and experience in the country, will continue to serve as committed partner in the process.

Takdana Dry & Fresh Fruit Processing Co. from Creative on Vimeo.

Proven success in Afghanistan

Creative’s commitment to business and growth in the country is backed up by a track record of collaboration and success.

Through the recently concluded Afghanistan Workforce Development Program, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, Creative bridged the gap between employers and workforce training providers, equipping job seekers and mid-level employees with market-based skills and linking exporters with global markets.

The program placed 28,790 mid-career and semi-professionals in new jobs or helped them to secure a promotion with their new in-demand skills. More than 3,500 private sector enterprises worked with the program, of which 1,900 formed formal partnerships with training institutions.

To accelerate growth in trade, the Afghanistan Workforce Development Program provided technical training to 113 exporters, the majority of whom participated in the Passage to Prosperity Afghan-Indian Trade Show.

As new opportunities for collaboration arise, Kruvant says Creative will seek to strengthen and expand its partnerships with the Afghan government and the nation’s businesses to support greater growth and prosperity.

“Creative looks forward to continuing to broaden and deepen our commitment to Afghanistan by working in partnership with the private sector with support of the Afghan government and USAID to provide economic opportunities, especially for the country’s growing population of young men and women,” he said.

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