The Government of Afghanistan yesterday (10 June) launched a new policy strategy aimed at spurring growth and job creation by boosting the export capacities of the country’s private sector and stepping up trade with regional and global markets. The National Export Strategy (NES), titled ‘Peace through Prosperity, Prosperity through Trade’ is the product of multiple rounds of consultations with businesses and other stakeholders across the country led by the Ministry of Industry and Commerce together with the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industries.
At the launch ceremony in Kabul, Chief Executive Dr. Abdullah Abdullah lauded the European Union and its implementing partner, the International Trade Centre (ITC), for the financial and technical support they provided to the development of the strategy. The NES is a central component of the Advancing Afghan Trade project, funded by the European Union and implemented by ITC in support of the Afghan Ministry of Industry and Commerce.
The NES is designed to function as a compass for Afghanistan’s government; private sector and development partners in their joint efforts to help the country’s micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) lift their competitiveness and increase their export potential. It will guide Afghanistan's efforts to improve the business environment and use trade to generate sustainable employment opportunities and sustainable growth.
The NES identifies six priority sectors with high potential for export growth, employment generation and innovation: dried fruits and nuts; fresh fruits and vegetables; saffron; marble and granite; carpets; and precious stones/jewellery. 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.
The strategy also targets six cross-sector functions for improvement: trade facilitation; quality management; skills development; professional business and services, access to finance, and trade information and promotion. This is to ensure that all sectors, not just the six priority ones, see a boost in trade competitiveness.
Announcing the strategy Afghanistan’s Chief Executive, Abdullah Abdullah said: "The NES comes at an opportune time as Afghanistan seeks to boost economic growth and strengthen the productive base of its economy. Improving the country’s export performance will be crucial to driving wider and more sustainable economic growth." He further stated that the government of Afghanistan is committed to implement the recommendations detailed in the NES documents as an engine for job and wealth creation for Afghans.
"The NES fits perfectly with Afghanistan's development objectives of the transformation decade (2015-24). The EU, which opens its single market of 500 million consumers to Afghan products "duty free and quota free", is proud to be associated to this initiative. Now that the NES is officially launched, it needs to be fully appropriated by the whole Afghan business community, including those segments of the private sector which are primarily import-driven. I hope the strategy will encourage a growing number of Afghan entrepreneurs to consider exports as an integral part of their business model." said the European Union Ambassador to Afghanistan Pierre Mayaudon.
"This National Export Strategy is a home-grown blueprint for Afghan export development and business competitiveness. Today’s launch is the culmination of a year-long process with Afghanistan’s public and private sectors, but the real challenge lies ahead: implementing the strategy’s recommendations to turn this country’s export potential into jobs and inclusive growth for Afghans" said ITC Executive Director Arancha Gonzalez.
Welcoming the strategy Minister of Industry and Commerce, Humayoon Rasaw: said “The NES is an important policy tool for the government working in partnership with the private sector to enhance the performance of Afghanistan exports. It will contribute to the sustainable development of the Afghanistan economy and strengthen it to meet the challenges of the global economy as well as assisting in the reduction of unemployment and poverty in Afghanistan."
During the year-long consultative process that shaped the content of the NES, over 500 Afghan industry leaders, small business owners and public sector officials provided inputs on how they viewed Afghanistan’s trade and competitiveness challenges. The NES was endorsed in April by Afghanistan’s High Economic Council, following earlier approvals by the Council of Ministers and the Executive Committee on Private Sector Development (PRISEC).
To learn more about Afghanistan’s journey towards developing a NES watch the film ‘Peace through Prosperity, Prosperity through Trade’.