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Afghan Businesses Look to Expand, Despite 2014 Worries

  • Bethany Matta

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan in 2014, some businesses and aid groups are looking to curb their investments in the country. But others are planning to expand, despite the uncertainty. Bethany Matta reports from Kabul.
Even for those Afghans who are not anxious about the security situation when foreign troops withdraw, 2014 still creates anxiety when it comes to businesses and the economy.
Afghanistan's economy grew around 11 percent last year, but the expected decline in military and civilian aid and uncertain security situation makes some investors wary.
Abass, a local store owner, said “When people say 2014 is going to be a dangerous year, in my view, nothing will happen. But, as far as 2014 goes for business, it (will) have an impact on trade and business.”
Despite worries about the security situation and the capability of the government, many businesses are planning to expand - such as Coca Cola, with its line of Minute Maid juices.
The company wants to invest millions more to increase capacity, but land is a problem. The factory and parking lot are already used for storage.
East Horizon also faces its own difficulties, but land is not one of them. They've taken their investment to the skies.
The airline, opening just four months ago, already has seven routes.
Flights to Bamiyan, where it is hard to travel the road because of insecurity, are usually full. In another month the airline will be adding two more planes and additional routes.
East Horizon's chief executive and captain, Jahed Azimi, says Afghanistan needs flights to remote provinces to create business opportunities and development.
"We see that there will be some potential, of course the road is not that easy. But, our board of directors and myself we decided that Afghans should stand on their feet and do their job by themselves," he said.
More than a decade of foreign assistance has a mixed track record in Afghanistan, where basic security remains the biggest concern.
But advertising consultant Mustafa Mirza says there is rich and growing market for some consumer goods that did not even exist several years ago.
“I don't think anything will happen in the private sector, like if you go out in Kabul you've got super stores like 'Finest' and 'Spinneys,' you can get cat food for example. There was no concept of cat food two or three years ago, but now its like the shelves are full and there is a big inventory of quality food products," he said.
Cat food, energy drinks , 3G Internet … all products Afghans have been exposed to the last decade are not likely to go away when the troops leave. This year's strong harvest season means consumers should have more money to spend in the months ahead.
So, although some companies and organizations cut back or cut out altogether, others are taking risks on an Afghan-led economy.

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