More than 400 business leaders, including 30 women, met in in Karzai Hall in Jalalabad, Afghanistan on June 4 to discuss ways of improving the business environment Nangarhar Province. Organized by CIPE and led by the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry‘s Nangarhar chapter and a coalition of 12 local business associations, the participants discussed the barriers and challenges to doing business in the province and identified policy solutions to support business growth.
The event is part of a CIPE supported Provincial Business Agenda (PBA) program. The PBA is a grassroots effort to bring the local business community together to develop a list of policy priorities to improve the business climate in the province.
Since 2005, CIPE has been working with the business community in Afghanistan to build their capacity to work with the government to improve the business environment in Afghanistan. CIPE has helped business associations identify the challenges and barriers to business, develop practical policy solutions, and effectively communicate the policies to government officials.
A major step for the business community was the launch of the CIPE-supported Afghanistan National Business Agenda (NBA) in 2011. The NBA is a grassroots program to build consensus among the business community of the most urgent policy priorities. The Afghan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) led a coalition of 11 business associations in conducting public forums in five major cities with over 1,300 business people to gather input on improving the business environment. Based on the input from these forums, the coalition produced a report outlining the business community’s reform agenda.
Since the launch of the NBA in 2011, CIPE has supported the NBA coalition in advocating for the implementation of the policy reforms. The advocacy campaigns have been highly successful, increasing land and infrastructure for businesses, reducing and simplifying taxes and licenses, reducing corruption, and improving government services.
The 2014 Afghanistan presidential elections presented a great opportunity for a renewed efforts by the business community to advance their reform priorities. ACCI, in partnership with Harakat, organized a National Business Forum on February 27 to once again bring the business community together to unify behind a common agenda.
To improve local governance in Afghanistan, CIPE conducts training seminars for the Provincial Councils in Afghanistan on democratic governance and market economics, including topics like advocacy, corruption, and the informal economy. Using the knowledge gained from the seminars, many of the Provincial Councils have taken on issues affecting their communities.
CIPE recently discussed the efforts of the Kunar Provincial Council with Chairperson Haji Mia Hassan. After discussing corruption issues with local government officials, the Kunar Provincial Council filed corruption cases against several officials with the prosecutor’s office, including the director of the Customs Department and the Director of Haj and Endowments.
CIPE is launching a new website focused on its programs in Afghanistan. Through its office in Kabul, CIPE strengthens democracy by building an understanding of market economics and encouraging public dialogue on economic reform. CIPE’s programs provide assist to stakeholders including members of the National Assembly and the Provincial Councils, business leaders and associations, and youth.
The website includes details of these ongoing programs. In conducting these programs, CIPE has translated a number of its publications and resources into Dari and Pashtu which are available on the website. The publications focus on topics including democratic governance and economic reform and building effective business associations. You can also download a copy of the Afghanistan National Business Agenda and CIPE’s survey on Afghan Business Attitudes on the Economy, Government, and Business Organizations.
The website will also feature the latest news on CIPE’s activities and announcements for upcoming events. You can find all of this at www.cipe-af.org.
Tim Wallace is Assistant Program Officer for South Asia at CIPE.
Although exact data is difficult to come by, it is estimated that women control as little as 2 percent of the land in Bangladesh. According to a survey of selected countries by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), this leaves Bangladesh tied with Mali in second to last place out of 12 countries, ahead of only Saudi Arabia. I used the FAO’s data to compare Bangladesh to some of its neighbors and found land ownership by women at 11 percent in India and the Philippines, 9 percent in Indonesia, and 8 percent in Nepal (data is not available for all countries).
This is surprising given the central role of women in Bangladesh’s economy. According to the World Bank, 90 percent of the 2.5 million workers in the garment industry are women. And the garment industry is the lifeblood of Bangladesh; it has been the only sector showing significant growth. At $20 billion, the garment industry now accounts for more than 75 percent of exports.
The role of women in Bangladesh extends far beyond the garment industry. Since 1991, two women have held the office of prime minister and 19 women have been elected to parliament beyond the 50 required by law. Despite these important contributions, women remain under-represented at all levels of society, and gender equality is still sorely lacking in many areas.
Women’s land ownership might not immediately seem to be the most important of issues. Although land ownership provides wide-ranging benefits to women, as well as their families and the economy as a whole, gender equality is a goal that needs no other justification. Nonetheless, it is worth reviewing the specific benefits of increasing the proportion of land owned by women.
Decades of war have had dramatic effects on Afghan society; disrupting the social, political, and economic institutions that hold a nation together. Youth in Afghanistan were especially affected, as educational opportunities vanished and economic prospects were bleak.
However, since the fall of the Taliban, opportunities for youth are increasing. Rapidly expanding educational opportunities and a growing economy have provided youth with new possibilities. But as this New York Times article discusses, these changes challenge the ideas and beliefs of youth, who struggle with reconciling traditional, tribal, Islamic, Western, and modern values.
If youth are to embrace Afghanistan’s democratic government, the government must ensure that youth have the knowledge and skills to participate in a democratic society and the economic opportunities to support themselves. To help ensure Afghan youth have the skills to succeed in the economy, CIPE launched a high school business and entrepreneurship course, called Tashabos, in 2005. With the support of the Ministry of Education, Tashabos has been expanded to a three-year curriculum and is now taught to more than 40,000 students in 44 high schools.
In their latest Economic Reform Feature Service article, CIPE Pakistan Country Director Moin Fudda and Deputy Country Director Hammad Siddiqui look back at the impact of CIPE’s program in Pakistan from the opening of a CIPE field office in 2006. At that time, business associations were ineffective organizations dominated by politics and personal interests. CIPE’s first step was to work with the government in updating it laws concerning associations. The new law, the Trade Organizations Ordinance, brought modern, democratic principles to govern associations.
Following up on the new law, CIPE began working with chambers and associations throughout Pakistan to comply with the new rules and to meet modern professional standards. CIPE helped the boards and management understand their roles and responsibilities in running an association. In addition, CIPE helped build the capacity of associations to work with their members to identify their reform priorities, and to advocate for those reforms to government officials. From CIPE’s assistance, business associations in Pakistan are able to drive real reforms that improve the business climate in Paksitan. Read the rest of this article.
Article at a glance
- Years of political upheaval and the lack of freedom of association in Pakistan has left business associations and chambers of commerce unable to influence economic policy decisions.
- CIPE worked with chambers of commerce and business associations in order to strengthen their ability to advocate on behalf of private sector priorities.
- Although work remains, this program has made a positive increase in the capacity of non-executive staff members and women’s chambers, and in policy reform efforts.