Afghanistan's road to reconstruction depends critically on its ability to re-build its economy. Experts say the best way to do that is to develop new opportunities by creating mutually beneficial trade partnerships. To help that project along, an Afghan Business "Matchmaking" conference was held recently in Washington, D.C.
Business representatives from Afghanistan met with their American counterparts in Washington D.C. to discuss trade opportunities, develop new contacts and share ideas.
"Our aim is to encourage Afghan and U.S. businesses to invest in Afghanistan," said Afghanistan's Minister of Commerce, Mohammed Amin Farhang:
"We are here to explain the Afghan government's economic policies, specifically commerce, development, and private sector investment. We hope to change the thoughts of some people who became careful about Afghanistan after what recently has happened in Afghanistan."
The matchmaking conference is the opening event of the second annual Afghan business promotion "road show" across the U.S. and Canada. Attendees will travel to Iowa, in the farm belt, to talk about cooperative agricultural agreement. They will go to Los Angeles to discuss telecommunication and information-technology partnerships. And they will travel to New York to look at financial services and insurance sectors.
Azarakhsh Hafizi is Chairman of the Afghanistan International Chamber of Commerce. "Our goal in attending this conference is the economic development of Afghanistan, getting international capital for Afghanistan. Because no other country has achieved economic development without international investment," he said.
The conference and road show are indicators of a growing interest in Afghanistan as a place to do business. The Ford Motor Company has been looking for partners to help distribute its automobiles there, and Boeing has entered into a partnership with Afghanistan's national airline.
Earlier this year President Karzai himself was on hand for the opening of a new $25 million Coca-Cola bottling plant outside Kabul. It is the first large factory to open in Afghanistan since the Taliban were driven from power in 2001. The deal -- supported by the Afghan government -- will provide 350 well-paying jobs.
"We want to establish a long term policy plan for the development of the private sector in Afghanistan," said the commerce minister.
Many here believe trade promotion is the key to Afghanistan's long-term stability and future growth. They are working hard to build on that potential, one handshake at a time.