Fifteen years after the U.S.-led military intervention in Afghanistan began, it feels as if many of the same problems persist. Thousands of Afghans have been made jobless as military bases have closed across the country and development and foreign assistance programs have been reduced or have ended; the National Unity Government continues to be paralyzed by political infighting and rampant corruption; and a resurgent Taliban have threatened to overrun several provincial capitals and have orchestrated a number of terrorist attacks across the country, including in Kabul. Despite these worrying trends, the Afghan people have made significant progress since the overthrow of the Taliban regime in 2001. Basic services such as electricity and running water were unavailable even in Kabul during the years of Taliban rule, and have now spread throughout the country. Trips between cities that used to take days due to unpaved roads can now be completed in hours. Prior to October 2001, making an international call involved traveling across the border to Pakistan. Today, almost 85% of the population has mobile phone coverage, according to a 2012 USAID assessment.
Podcast guest Jenny Anderson (center) with hosts Julie Johnson and Ken Jaques
On the Democracy that Delivers podcast this week, CIPE Program Officer for South Asia Jennifer Anderson talks about the economy in Pakistan and holding the government accountable for delivering on its economic promises. Anderson discusses the crucial link between successful implementation of economic reforms and citizen support for the civilian government and democracy. She shares the view expressed by some in Pakistan that “entrepreneurship is dead” and why a number of aspiring Pakistani business people feel this way. Anderson also discusses the new registration process required for international and domestic NGOs to operate in the country. The show closes with Anderson sharing her story of how helping a friend cope with the tragedy of the Rwandan genocide changed her world view and got her started on her international development career.
Follow her on Twitter @JennyLAnderson_
CIPE Afghanistan Country Director Mohammed Nasib (left) with guest host Jenny Anderson.
As foreign forces pull back from Afghanistan, the country faces not only the threat of renewed violence but also deep economic challenges and corruption, which are deeply intertwined with the political instability.
Mohammed Nasib, Country Director for CIPE Afghanistan, and guest host Jenny Anderson, Program Officer for South Asia, discuss the country’s challenges and how CIPE is helping the Afghan private sector play a positive role in Afghanistan’s future.
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On April 27, the Kandahar branch of the Afghan Chamber of Commerce & Industries and 28 other major business and sectoral associations in Kandahar province, with CIPE’s support, released the Kandahar Provincial Business Agenda report at an official launch event in Kandahar City.
The PBA report lists the primary concerns of the private sector and impediments to commercial growth in Kandahar and other neighboring provinces, as well as a set of concrete policy recommendations intended to overcome these barriers. These policy recommendations include requests to simplify business registration procedures and documents, lowering tax rates, and improving public infrastructure, as well as recommendations more specific to Kandahar province, including taking steps to improve security conditions at the border crossing in Boldak, on the Pakistani border.
Podcast hosts Julie Johnson and Ken Jaques with Brenda Oppermann (left).
This week on Democracy That Delivers, Founder and Director of GameChangers 360 (Facebook, Twitter), Brenda Oppermann, talks about the importance of including women and youth in projects that assist countries transitioning from conflict to peace.
Oppermann, who has worked for more than 20 years in countries dealing with conflict, including Iraq and Afghanistan, shares best practices for involving women and youth in the rebuilding process.
Listen to past episodes of our show here.
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Presentation of the Herat PBA in Herat City. (Photo: CIPE Afghanistan)
In many respects, 2015 was the most significant year in Afghanistan since the beginning of the international military presence in 2001, as Afghan National Security Forces took full control of counterinsurgency operations, and the National Unity Government (NUG) of President Ashraf Ghani and CEO Abdullah Abdullah assumed power. However, the year ended on a bleak note, with civilian casualties reaching an all-time high, the Taliban regaining control of the most territory they have held since November 2001, and political infighting continuing to paralyze the NUG’s proposed economic reform program.
In November of last year, the Asia Foundation released its annual Survey of the Afghan People, which compiles the views of more than 75,000 Afghan men and women on major issues key to the country’s social, economic, and political development. The results reflect the immense levels of upheaval and change the country has gone through in the past year, with only 36.7 percent of respondents stating that they believed their country was moving in the right direction, the lowest level of optimism over the past decade.
While the increased levels of violence, and the resurgence of the Taliban and other armed opposition groups have certainly been a key contributing factor in this loss of confidence, the most frequently cited local problem among those surveyed was not insecurity, but unemployment and lack of economic opportunity.
Participants at the Nangarhar PBA launch event.
A year after the impasse over the 2014 presidential election was resolved, Afghanistan finds itself at a critical juncture in its economic development. Given the dramatic reduction in foreign military presence over the past several years and the decrease in development assistance from the international donor community, concerns are mounting that Afghanistan’s economy will be unable to sustain itself.
A recent study published by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) and the International Council of Swedish Industry (NIR) draws attention to the problem. “In its current state,” the report notes, “the Afghan private sector is not the engine of economic growth or instrument of social inclusion it has the potential to be. Popular dissatisfaction with unequal access to economic resources, flawed public services and goods, the adverse security situation, and predatory government activity undermine an effective and sustainable private sector.”
President Ashraf Ghani and the National Unity Government have laid out a wide range of proposals to kickstart economic development, but security conditions and political infighting have made it difficult to implement many of these reforms. Nevertheless, hope for progress and success remains. The Swedish report, while painting a grim picture of the current outlook, provides a concrete set of recommendations to Afghan government policymakers, the international donor community, and other key stakeholders, for incentivizing private sector growth and boosting economic development, thereby improving prospects for peace and stability.
Chief among these recommendations is the need for the Afghan private sector to play a greater role in the policy making process. On October 28, over a hundred leaders of the Afghan business community, civil society, and media, as well as prominent provincial and national government figures, convened in Jalalabad for the official launch of the report of the Nangarhar Provincial Business Agenda.