Case Study: Afghanistan National Business Agenda and Provincial Business Agendas

04.17.2019 | Case Studies

A national business agenda (NBA) is a vital tool for the business community to encourage investment and stimulate business activity and economic growth. Developing an agenda mobilizes the business community to use its skills to effect public policy reform by setting legislative and regulatory priorities and clearly communicating them to policymakers. CIPE actively participates in helping business organizations develop their own national business agendas. CIPE’s NBA Guidebook highlights several case studies that serve as representative examples of this work. During those NBA processes, CIPE experts equipped and empowered local organizations to mobilize stakeholders, lead working groups and roundtables, and engage in public-private dialogue. This case study serves as addendum to the NBA Guidebook.


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Under the Taliban’s rule prior to 2001, the business community in Afghanistan was particularly repressed. All associations and chambers of commerce were disbanded, with the exception of one shell organization run to the government’s orders. After the Taliban were ousted from power, Afghan businesses slowly began to regain their footing. However, there were almost no organizations existing at that time to unite and amplify the voice of the business community. In an effort to unify the private sector and give businesses a voice in policymaking, the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) worked with the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) to develop a 2011 National Business Agenda (NBA) and subsequent Provincial Business Agendas, which included specific policy recommendations to improve the business climate, promote transparency, and create new jobs.

One of the measures of a strong democracy is the quality of policy discussion taking place between the government and its citizens. In Afghanistan, which has struggled to build democratic institutions, the concept of public-private dialogue was relatively new when CIPE began to work in the country. As a result, the country did not have the institutions in place to bring forward the essence of democracy –governance with input from citizens. CIPE’s goal in Afghanistan has been to foster an enabling business environment capable of fueling Afghanistan’s democracy.

Prior to the NBA process, CIPE had supported Afghanistan’s democracy-building efforts through the Tashabos program that educated high school youth. Beginning in 2005, Tashabos helped legitimize, increase awareness of, and provide opportunity within a burgeoning private sector and cultivate the sense of citizenship among youth. The goal was to expand the private sector, provide employment opportunities, and empower young people to become active in their communities. This prior experience helped inform the NBA efforts that began in 2011. In tandem, CIPE worked with the country’s newly elected members of parliament (MPs) and provincial council members (PCs) to help them gain better understandings of market economics and democratic development to allow for the emergence of successful platforms for dialogue between the private sector and the public sector.

Following the withdrawal of foreign troops from provinces in late 2014 and subsequent reduction of development spending by the international donor community, many provinces outside of Kabul began to experience economic hardships such as business closings, increased unemployment and a reduction in commerce and investment. After consulting with key Afghan business association leaders, CIPE and its local partners decided to focus attention on improving the business climate of Afghanistan’s major economic hubs outside of Kabul, adapting the NBA to the provincial level to develop private sector coalitions and Provincial Business Agendas (PBAs). CIPE efforts focused in four provinces – Balkh, Herat, Nangarhar, and Kandahar – that were the country’s hubs for economic and business development. The NBA coalition organizations reached down to their provincial level chapters and affiliates to ensure similar diversity of interest and voice at the local level. The PBAs would become a pillar of CIPE programs in Afghanistan to counteract national-level gridlock, build sustainable democratic dialogue, and produce tangible results for local communities.