SEATTLE — As Afghanistan recovers from years of insurgent forces and armed conflicts, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) reflects on its five-year program in the region, Assistance in Building Afghanistan by Developing Enterprises (ABADE). The group began working within the private sector in October of 2012 and has strengthened productivity, domestic and foreign investment, as well as created viable growth and jobs.
ABADE also partners with Development Alternatives, Inc. (DAI), which subcontracts to International Executive Services Corps (IESC) and Volunteers for Economic Growth Alliance (VEGA). It operates by funding small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and public-private alliances (PPAs) to increase productivity, sale of Afghan goods and job creation. SMEs make up approximately 75 percent of the labor force and support more than 50 percent of Afghanistan’s gross domestic product. But Afghan-produced goods meet only a fraction of local demand, and export trade is inadequate.
Business owners struggle to obtain sufficient capital, management advice, equipment and technology to manage or grow their businesses. Women and youth are also greatly under-appreciated and could make greater contributions to the labor force, but are not given the same opportunities for economic participation.
In order to receive ABADE assistance, Afghan SMEs must invest twice that of USAID contributions in manufacturing. ABADE advises SMEs in accounting, marketing, financing, quality standards and equipment use, with a focus on women entrepreneurs and PPA partners.
ABADE also works with the Ministry of Commerce and Industries to assess regulatory and procedural barriers facing private enterprises. Businesses and governments create five-year plans of action, including priority initiatives–specifically within agribusiness, marble, gemstone and jewelry production, construction equipment, carpets and women-owned SMEs.
ABADE’s accomplishments in Afghanistan include funding 400 competitive SMEs and creating almost 18,000 jobs. USAID has provided Afghan firm investments with more than $40 million in capital equipment and machinery. ABADE formed more than 200 public-private alliances, with an average increase in sales of 109 percent. Of the SMEs ABADE worked with, nearly 200 have improved management practices and more than 270 have invested in better technology. More than 50 initiatives provided alternative workplace models for women, who were able to gain in-demand skills such as information and communication technology, business systems and advertising.
ABADE and USAID together are helping lead Afghanistan to a brighter future, where Afghan products and SMEs may satisfy domestic as well as international markets and the economy may receive broader support from investors and the government.
– Zar-Tashiya Khan