Thursday, 30 November 2017

A former employee of a U.S. government contractor in Afghanistan was sentenced to 21 months in prison for accepting over $250,000 in illegal kickbacks from an Afghan subcontractor in return for his assistance in obtaining subcontracts on U.S. government contracts
Former Employee of U.S. Government Contractor in Afghanistan 
Sentenced to Prison for Accepting $250,000 in Kickbacks from Subcontractor
A former employee of a U.S. government contractor in Afghanistan was sentenced today [Tuesday, November 28, 2017] to 21 months in prison for accepting over $250,000 in illegal kickbacks from an Afghan subcontractor in return for his assistance in obtaining subcontracts on U.S. government contracts.
Acting Assistant Attorney General John P. Cronan of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak of the Northern District of Georgia, Special Agent in Charge John Khin of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service’s (DCIS) Southeast Field Office- Atlanta Resident Agency, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) John F. Sopko and Director Frank Robey of the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command’s (CID) Major Procurement Fraud Unit (MPFU) made the announcement.
Nebraska McAlpine, 57, of Smyrna, Georgia, was sentenced in Atlanta by U.S. District Judge Mark H. Cohen of the Northern District of Georgia. McAlpine previously pleaded guilty to a one-count Information charging him with one count of accepting illegal kickbacks. The defendant’s prison sentence will be followed by three years of supervised release and 100 hours of community service.
As part of his guilty plea, McAlpine admitted that while he was employed as a project manager for an American defense contractor (the Prime Contractor) in Kabul, Afghanistan, he and an Afghan executive agreed that in exchange for illicit kickbacks, McAlpine would ensure that the Prime Contractor awarded lucrative subcontracts to the executive’s companies. McAlpine admitted that he repeatedly told his supervisors that these companies should be awarded “sole source” subcontracts, which allowed them to supply services to the Prime Contractor without having to competitively bid on them. As a result of the kickback scheme, the Prime Contractor paid over $1.6 million to the subcontractor to assist with maintaining the Afghanistan Ministry of the Interior Ultra-High Frequency radio communications system in Kabul, McAlpine admitted.
McAlpine further admitted that the executive agreed to pay kickbacks to McAlpine totaling approximately 15 percent of the value of the subcontracts, and that in 2015 and 2016, he accepted over $250,000 in kickbacks from the executive. McAlpine also admitted that he hid the kickbacks from his employer by storing the cash payments in his personal effects and by physically transporting the cash to the United States. McAlpine then deposited the majority of these funds into his bank accounts at bank branches in the Atlanta metropolitan area, he admitted.
DCIS, SIGAR and Army CID-MPFU investigated the case. Trial Attorney Daniel Butler of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas J. Krepp of the Northern District of Georgia prosecuted the case.

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

The President of Afghanistan assigned a team to work on ways that could help to enhance the exports of Afghan pine nuts

Pine nuts offer multiple health benefits and are grown in vast areas in eastern Afghanistan – a sector that provides many jobs to local residents. Presiding over a meeting of High Economic Council, the President of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani assigned a team to work on ways that could help to enhance the exports of Afghan pine nuts, a move which will have significant impacts on boosting local economies particularly in Afghanistan’s urban areas.
President Ghani thanked the Governor of Khost, Hukum Habibi, for his efforts to increase the trade of pine nuts in the province, saying government will provide equal opportunities to all provincial governors to boost the sector. In turn, the Khost Governor said his province is unique in terms of having fertile land for agriculture and that it has the right climate for pine nuts. He also said thousands of tons of dry fruit from Khost is exported to various countries every year. Khost is known for its moderate climate, forests, mines and pine nuts and walnuts. According to Habibi, Afghanistan exports 30,000 to 33,000 tons of pine nuts annually – a sector that also creates jobs for local people. The meeting was also attended by high level government officials including Naseer Ahmad Durani, acting minister of agriculture, irrigation and livestock; Humayoun Rasa, minister of commerce; Mustafa Mastoor, acting minister of economy and MP Obaidullah Ramin. The officials said government must ensure that the exports of Afghanistan’s pine nuts are carried out in a professional manner and under the name of Afghanistan. They also said revenue generated from the export of pine nuts must be tackled transparently and distributed fairly. Ghani said a joint team of officials from the ministries of agriculture, economy, finance, commerce and the office of the presidential advisor on banking affairs must work together to find ways to help boost the sector. Pine nut trees are mostly found in Afghanistan’s eastern provinces of Nangarhar, Laghman, Nuristan, Kunar, Paktia, Khost and Paktika provinces. Pine nuts also constitutes one of the major income sources for local people. A recent report Pine Nuts Global Report one of the major drivers for this market is the multiple health benefits associated with pine nuts. The report found that as consumers around the world become more health conscious, there has been an exponential increase in the consumption of natural food products. Consumers are becoming more conscious about their health and fitness and paying more attention to the nutritional content of the food that they consume. The health-conscious population demands foods that have lower calorie content but have the right combination of essential nutrients. Hence, healthy eating has increased the demand for pine nuts as they are unprocessed and contain vitamins, fibers, and naturally occurring minerals,” read the report.

Health Benefits of Pine Nuts
  • Pine nuts are one of the calorie-rich edible nuts. 100g of dry kernels provide 673 calories. Additionally, they comprise of numerous health promoting phytochemicals, vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals.
  • Their high caloric content chiefly comes from fats. Indeed, the nuts are especially rich in monounsaturated fatty acids like oleic acid that helps lower LDL or "bad cholesterol" and increases HDL or "good cholesterol" in the blood
  • Pine or cedar nuts contain essential fatty acid (the omega-6 fat), pinolenic acid. Recent research has shown its potential use in weight loss by curbing appetite. Pinolenic acid triggers the release of hunger-suppressant enzymes cholecystokinin and Glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) in the gut. Also, pinolenic acid has thought to have LDL-lowering properties by enhancing hepatic LDL uptake.
  • Likewise in almonds, pine nuts too are an excellent source of vitamin-E. Vitamin-E is a powerful lipid soluble antioxidant, required for maintaining the integrity of cell membrane of mucosa and skin by protecting it from harmful free oxygen radicals.
  • Pine nuts are one of the gluten-free tree nuts, and therefore, are a popular ingredient in the preparation of gluten-free food formulas. Such formula preparations can be a healthy alternative for people with wheat allergies and celiac disease.
  • Pine nuts are an excellent source of the B-complex group of vitamins such as thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine) and folates. These vitamins work as co-factors for enzymes in cellular substrate metabolism inside the human body.
  • Also, pine nuts contain healthy amounts of essential minerals like manganese, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc and selenium. Pine nuts are one of the richest sources of manganese. Manganese is an all-important co-factor for antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase. Therefore, consumption of pine kernels helps the human body develop resistance against infectious agents and scavenge harmful oxygen-free radicals.
An Afghan girl works on a pine nuts field in Jalalabad Province 
Afghanistan is known throughout the world for its fresh and dry fruits. But years of war and violence have hindered the country for taking full advantage of what its land and natural resources offer.

Lapis Lazuli nations to form three technical working groups

Monday, 27 November 2017

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) will give Afghanistan USD 233 million each year over the next five years

According to ADB officials, the aid will go towards improving agriculture, energy, infrastructure and natural resources in Afghanistan, and its plans aim to provide better living conditions for the people and raise the capacity of the government. 
The ADB said that in keeping with the bank's new policy, it will give Afghanistan $233 million each year over the next five years, and the bank's goal is to provide better life opportunities for the people. According to the officials, the bank also supports the private sector in Afghanistan in order to help boost economic growth. One senior official said: “We continue to work on infrastructure, energy, agriculture and natural resources and also on transport sector and the thing we want help the government and the people of Afghanistan to achieve is to provide men and women in Afghanistan with better opportunities.” Meanwhile, a number of economic analysts say the government needs to put in place effective economic solutions to attract more funds and implement large-scale development projects. “One of our issues is management - financial, human, physical and information resources. Managerial tasks must include planning, staffing and organizing to lead and control so we can reach our goals,” said Sayed Masoud, a lecturer at faculty of economics Kabul University.
>>>

A multi-million dollar solar power plant generating 20 megawatts will be built in Surobi district of the Afghan Capital Kabul

The project is estimated to cost $44 million which will be provided by the Asian Development Bank (ADB). 
The funding agreement was signed by Afghanistan’s Finance Minister Iklil Hakimi, ADB’s country director, Samuel Tumiwa, and Amanullah Ghalib, the CEO of Afghanistan’s national power utility Breshna, in the presidential palace. This is the largest solar power plant project in terms of capacity in Afghanistan, Wahidullah Tawhidi, a spokesman for Breshna, told reporters. The earlier involved a 10 MW solar power plant in southern Kandahar province. Tawhidi said that project is expected to be completed in 18 months after its construction contract is signed. He said that the plant will meet part of electricity needs in Kabul and eastern provinces of Nangarhar and Laghman.

The Afghanistan National Procurement Commission (NPC) approves 10 contracts worth 1.3 billion Afs

The 125th session of the National Procurement Commission (NPC) were held on Sunday, November 26, 2017, at presidential palace, presided by H.E Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

At this meeting in which the NPC members, ministries, officials of the procuring entities, national and international observers had also participated, 10 new projects with the total value of 1.3 billion Afs were approved, as following:

- The Contract for construction of the Cancer Treatment Center at Aliabad Hospital of the Kabul Medical University.
- The contract for construction of the Administration and Public Policy faculty of Kabul University.
- The contract for Construction of the Balkh University’s Medical Faculty.
- The construction contract of Bustan e Kabul road in 17th District of Kabul.
- The road construction contract with 10 km long in Shindand district of Herat.
- The contract for construction of 100 beds hospital at Jawzjan province.
- The rehabilitation contract of Shahid Sardar Mohammad Khan`s Hospital which was conditionally approval.
- The contract for procurement of 19 information technology items required by the MoI.
- The contract for procurement of two types of firewood required by military units of the National Army.
- The contract for procurement of a vehicle required by the Administrative Office of the President.

In addition, the National Procurement Commission (NPC) approved time extension for the construction of water supply network in Charikar city of Parwan province. The Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development informed regarding the contractor’s investment on pipe production required in this project, and ensured the realization of the NPC’s decision on prioritizing the domestic products in projects. H.E. the President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan appreciated the contractor’s initiative, but insisted on timely completion of this project, due to urgent need of Charikar residences to water.

On the other hand, the National Procurement commission rejected the Ministry of Public Health’s proposal for procuring 121 ambulance and emphasized that the government to government contract with the Uzbekistan shall be reconsidered, and in case if the companies would like to step in, it should have been open bidding method. Meanwhile, the Kabul Municipality’s proposal for procuring 22 vehicles returned for further assessment. The NPC also referred the Ministry of Public Health’s proposal for approval of Kandahar 350 bed hospital’s overtime to be scrutinized by the both Ministries of Finance and Economy in the light of budget guidance.


Sunday, 26 November 2017

Asian Development Bank approves about USD 45 million grant to develop Afghanistan’s first 20 megawatts on-grid solar photovoltaic plant

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a $44.76 million grant to develop Afghanistan’s first 20 megawatts (MW) on-grid solar photovoltaic plant and boost the country’s renewable energy generation and supply.
“The demand for power is rapidly growing across Afghanistan and economic development and income opportunities depend on sufficient energy supplies,” said Samuel Tumiwa, ADB Country Director for Afghanistan. “The new on-grid solar power generation project, which is the largest of its kind in Afghanistan, will not only provide access to a clean and reliable power supply, but also demonstrate the viability of future renewable energy investments through public-private partnerships.” Despite significant progress since 2002, Afghanistan still relies on energy imports from neighboring countries to meet its domestic demand. Only about 32% of the population has access to grid-connected electricity and the demand for electricity in major load centers is growing by 25% annually. Reliance on energy imports, lack of enough power generation capacity, small domestic market, and financing weaknesses leave energy security highly vulnerable. Afghanistan’s renewable energy resource potential is estimated to be over 300,000 MW, with over two-thirds of potential supply coming from solar, with the country benefitting from about 300 sunny days annually. The project will finance the construction of a 20 MW on-grid solar photovoltaic plant in Naghlu, located in the capital Kabul’s Surobi district. The project will generate at least 43,000 megawatt-hours of solar power and avoid at least 13,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in the first full year of operation. The project will partially fill the demand-supply gap and improve sustainability of the northeast grid covering Kabul, Nangarhar, and Laghman provinces. In addition, the project will provide power transformer and support facilities, upgrade the capacity of the existing substation, and operation and maintenance services for 3 years. The project will also prepare the site and substation to accommodate 10 MW of additional photovoltaic plant for future financing. The project may be expanded to 30 MW or 40 MW if additional financing from other development partners or the private sector is realized. Capacity building support will be also provided for the Ministry of Energy and Water, and government-owned energy utility Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat staff on solar photovoltaic plant design, technical evaluation, grid integration, and operation and maintenance. The project is in line with the targets of the National Energy Supply Program of the Government of Afghanistan and the Afghanistan Renewable Energy Policy. ADB is Afghanistan’s largest on-budget development partner in the energy sector. ADB has helped deliver electricity to more than 5 million people in Afghanistan. Over the coming years, ADB will support the increase in the country’s electrification rate from 30% to 83% and lift the share of domestic generation from 20% to 67% by 2030. ADB will also play a major role in power transmission both regionally and domestically, and promote clean energy, including through solar power.

EU International Cooperation & Development - Afghanistan is progressively recovering from more than three decades of conflict

Afghanistan is progressively recovering from more than three decades of conflict. 2014 was a year of complex transition process in Afghanistan with presidential elections and significant draw-down of international security forces that started the 'Decade of Transformation' (2015 to 2024).

Today's Afghanistan is in a much better position on its human development than it was in 2001.
  • Access to primary healthcare has increased from 9% of the population to more than 57%.
  • More than 8 million students are enrolled in schools, with 39% of girls.
  • New and rehabilitated highways and roads have cut travel times between the main regional centres by 75%.
  • However, 39% of the population still lives in poverty.
  • Only 26% of the population can read and write. Corruption continues to be a major problem, affecting the everyday life of Afghan citizens and undermining development.
The European Union has a long-term partnership with Afghanistan. Since 2002, the European Union has provided €3.66 billion in development and humanitarian aid, making it the fourth largest donor in support of the Afghan people. Afghanistan is also the largest beneficiary of EU development assistance; together with its Member States, the European Union contributes more than €1 billion in development assistance per year to Afghanistan. Co-hosting the Brussels Conference on Afghanistan on 4-5 October 2016 demonstrates our commitment to a close and long-term partnership.

In October 2014, the European Commission presented its Multiannual Indicative Programme for Afghanistan (MIP 2014-2020), outlining new development funding of €1.4 billion for the period 2014-2020, i.e. the €200 million per year.

The European Union focuses on agriculture and rural development, which are vital for employment and growth, health, security for citizens through the professionalisation of civilian policing and application of the rule of law, and State accountability through democratisation.

Gender mainstreaming is a crucial component of the EU's assistance: 53% of EU programmes have gender equality as a significant objective.

The government, while facing enormous challenges to assert control over security and development throughout the country, is committed to make progress on security, sustainable economic growth and domestic revenues, poverty reduction, protection of human rights, in order to build a functional democracy based on credible institutions and to hold transparent, inclusive and fair elections. The international community in turn, has committed to support Afghanistan in addressing sustainable socio-economic development and peace and stability in the country and in the region and maintain its levels of assistance 'at or near current levels' until 2020. The Afghan Government and the international community have established a framework for high-level political dialogue on their mutual commitments in the Self-Reliance, through Mutual Accountability Framework.

The European Union and Afghanistan are engaged in a constructive dialogue on migration, aimed at building a long-term partnership in this area in a spirit of solidarity. The EU provides international protection to many Afghans who have been forced to flee the country, while it is also working closely with the Afghan Government to develop cooperation on return and readmission of irregular migrants. There are many projects funded or under preparation by the EU in Afghanistan that contribute to addressing the root causes of migration from Afghanistan or to improving its management, thus contributing to the overall development of the country.

Saturday, 25 November 2017

The southern Afghan Province of Kandahar uses the power of technology to improve transparency and credibility of public offices

The use of technology in Afghanistan’s government offices is not yet the norm. However, in the Directorate of Ministry of Finance (Mostofiat) in Kandahar Province, a province associated more with insecurity than with technology, we have used the power of technology to improve transparency and credibility of government offices. 
Finance is the backbone of any country’s economy. Therefore, it is very important for it to be transparent and credible so that citizens as well as donors feel committed to the development process. With this in mind, we decided to implement the Afghanistan Financial Management Information System (AFMIS) and Standard Integrated Government Tax Administration System (SIGTAS), with the help of the Public Financial Management Reform (PFMR), a project implemented by the Ministry of Finance (MoF) with support from the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF). SIGTAS was also supported through the ARTF Incentive Program.
Since 2007, when we started using AFMIS, we have been able to manage and execute budget-related activities, collect revenue, and pay salaries on time. A computerized system, AFMIS enables multiple users to access financial information and records, whenever and wherever they want. This was not possible with manual records.
Given the success of AFMIS, we also implemented SIGTAS in our revenue office in 2016. This system has really helped us. Earlier, with manual entries, the revenue department used to struggle with incorrect entries and this would lead to reporting delays. I remember we used to have to deal with a huge number of disorganized documents from our archives even for simple things. It took up so much time to search for one document.
We had a database with the taxpayers’ registration number but every taxpayer had to pay taxes separately in each province because the database was not on a general server. All registered organizations and individuals needed to fill in two or three declaration forms for tax clearance and this created the potential for corruption or at least corruption charges.
I had heard about SIGTAS when I was in Kabul and in September 2016, when I became the Mustofi (head of finance directorate) in Kandahar, I decided to implement this software in Kandahar too. When we introduced the system, I used to sit with my team to provide them information. We also conducted training to equip the team with the skills to use the software.
Now, revenue collection has become standardized and efficient. This system has also established a high sense of trust in taxpayers. As Haji Mohammad Younos Momand, a businessman in Kandahar Province once said to me, “The revenue department is much better than in the past. As they have an electronic and computerized system, their work is more transparent and fast, which helps us to do our work efficiently and trust the authority much more.”
As a result, tax collection in the province has improved. For example, in 2016, our target was 1.230 billion afghanis (about $14.8 million) but for the first time in more than 10 years, we collected 1.233 billion afghanis, 3 million more than our target.
Photo credit: Taimani Films/World Bank
We have benefited from having met our target as the government is paying more attention to the province. For instance, the government has invested more than $10 million in solar power in the province, which will provide more opportunities for development and businesses to grow. Indeed, the tax administration systems have enabled progress toward a more efficient and transparent future.
Indeed, the tax administration systems have enabled progress toward a more efficient and transparent future.

Finally reaching Kabul, Afghanistan

German Government provides over USD 55 million funds to the Afghan State

The Afghan government and the German KfW Development Bank signed a financial agreement in recent days. As per the agreement Germany provides AFN 6.44 billion funds to the Afghan state. The budget will be allocated to the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF), administered by the World Bank. Since the fund’s creation in 2002, Germany has contributed almost AFN 47 billion. “Helping the Afghan people to overcome poverty and to strengthen their self-reliance is of genuine interest to German Cooperation. We are looking forward to a continuous collaboration with the ARTF to achieve these goals,” the Head of the German Cooperation at the German Embassy in Kabul, Uwe Gehlen said. Afghan Minister of Finance said Germany’s contribution to the ARTF help Afghanistan move towards self-sustainability and efficiency. The program seeks to assist with stabilizing lising the Afghan state and thereby contribute to reducing poverty. By providing financial support, it intends to help ensure the proper functioning of the civil service and thus guarantee basic social services and support the implementation of the Afghan Government’s development priorities. The intention is to enable the country to generate higher revenues by improving general economic conditions and the tax system and implementing a transparent system of governance under the rule of law. The long-term goal is for Afghanistan to finance its budget independently of external subsidies and deploy budgetary funding efficiently and with a focus on development. Additionally, the ARTF offers a platform for political dialogue between the international community and the Afghan Government. The Afghan government will use the budget for developing and implementing projects in the areas of good governance, agriculture, rural development, infrastructure, as well as human and social development. In 2016 alone, 9.3 million Afghans benefited from such projects. AFN 3.22 billion is set aside for the Citizens’ Charter Afghanistan Project (CCAP) that aims to reduce poverty and boost citizens’ confidence in the Afghan Government by improving public services for all Afghans. Community Development Councils are the linchpin of the CCAP. 8.5 million Afghans shall benefit from the program’s first phase. It also includes a component that focuses on refugees and internally displaced Afghans as well as the communities that receive and host them. An additional 1.5 million Afghans will benefit from this module. On behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the KfW manages the German contribution to the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF). The fund is administered by the World Bank and seeks to stabilize Afghanistan. The ARTF funds a wide range of development activities, carried out via the state budget and thus helps the Afghan government to implement development policies transparently, to fight poverty, to enable greater revenues and to improve economic and social conditions. Since 2002, more than 30 donor countries paid more than EUR 8.4 billion into the fund. Germany alone has contributed more than EUR 663 million.

Afghan Government collected more than 1.4 billion Afghanis (about USD 21,000,000) from 'Cigarette Tax'

Figures from Central Statistics Office show that Afghanistan imports cigarettes from 10 countries and exports part of it to Central Asian nations. The Ministry of Finance of Afghanistan says more than 1.4 billion AFs (over USD 20.7 million) has been collected from tobacco tax since the beginning of this fiscal year, December 2016 to December 2017. Figures from Central Statistics Office indicate that Afghan investors have spent more than USD 54 million on cigarette imports in the past six months while this amount was up to USD 50 million last year. “We had 963 million AFs – over USD 13.9 million (from tobacco tax) in 1395 (Persian year) but in the past 11 months, we have collected 1.430 billion AFs as the tobacco tax revenue. This is an income source for Afghan government,” said an official at the Ministry of Finance. Earlier this year, the Lower House of Afghan Parliament decided to increase the tobacco tax by 100%. However, the decision was rejected by Meshrano Jirga, the Upper House of Parliament. “First, it was not in the interest of the country and second, as I mentioned, there was no decree from president (Ashraf Ghani) or there was no letter from Ministry of Finance. It was the personal demand of a number of lawmakers to increase the cigarette tax; therefore, it was rejected by senators,” said the deputy secretary of Meshrano Jirga. According to Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industries, part of the imported cigarettes is sent to other countries in the region. “If the tariff increases by 100%, it will have many damages. First, it will grab employment from the people, second, it will pave the ground for smuggling and third, it will decrease government’s revenue from cigarette imports,”  said the spokesman of the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industries.

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Closed three years ago, a major Pakistan-Afghanistan trade route will be reopened next month, says a senior Pakistani military commander

The Ghulam Khan trade route in North Waziristan Agency was shut in 2014 when a major military offensive against insurgents was launched in the region.
The reopening of the border check-post would create jobs for area residents, hoped General Officer Commanding (GOC) Maj. Gen. Azhar Iqbal Abbasi. Speaking to Utmanzai Wazir tribe elders on Sunday, Abbasi said work on several reconstruction and development projects was underway in the region. He promised restoring peace in the area to ensure economic progress. People had immensely suffered due to militancy and lawlessness, the commander added.

The Afghanistan’s economic growth is projected to increase slightly to 2.6% in 2017 from 2.2% in 2016 as the Country’s deteriorating security situation weighs on the economy

The Afghanistan’s economic growth is projected to increase slightly to 2.6 percent in 2017 from 2.2 percent in 2016 as the country’s deteriorating security weighs on the economy, The World Bank (WB) says in the latest Afghanistan Development Update series released recent days. Security environment continued to deteriorate, with the increased crime and conflict holding back business and consumer confidence from recovering fully from the impact of the security transition in 2014 that saw large numbers of foreign troops left. Economic growth has increased moderately from 2014–2015, when growth was the lowest since 2003, the WB statement said. Proxy data for the first half of 2017, however, indicated that economic activity continued to languish, while business sentiment, gauged from the quarterly business perception surveys, has improved slightly between the first and second quarters of 2017, though it remained lower than in the second quarter of 2016. Because of government’s improved tax administration and better compliance, revenue collection was on track to reach the annual budgeted target. Revenue collection remained strong for the third year in a row, following the abrupt decline in 2014. In the first eight months of 2017, domestic revenues increased by almost 13 percent, year-on-year. Deterioration in the security environment has had a direct impact on government efforts to sustain and scale up growth and job opportunities, and deliver much needed public services,” said Shubham Chaudhuri, World Bank Country Director for Afghanistan. “We commend government’s determination to establish stability and peace across the country and sustaining these efforts will very much depend on progress in development. Improving local governance, deepening reforms, building public confidence and fighting corruption are key drivers of sustainable growth and prosperity.” Growth was projected to edge up to 3.2 percent in 2018, assuming no further deterioration in the security environment. While this constituted a moderate improvement compared to 2014 and 2015, it was still significantly below the 9.6 percent average annual rate recorded in the period from 2003 to 2012. Weaker domestic demand and subdued investment sentiment, in the context of the increased violence and political uncertainty since 2014, have resulted in the lower growth trajectory. However, anecdotal evidence indicates that overall confidence is moderately improving, as the uncertainty around the international troop presence in Afghanistan is likely to subside following the announcement of the U.S. strategy for Afghanistan and South Asia. If improvements in security materialize, and with political stability, steady progress on reforms, and with aid flows continuing, at least at current levels, growth is likely to strengthen modestly. Growth could be boosted further in the next two to three years with the right combination of fiscal and policy reforms, including improving budget execution, and reorienting budget expenditures towards labor-intensive and community-based programs that directly reach the population with the greatest needs and with the highest marginal propensity to consume.

The only Italian Consulting Engineering firm registered in Afghanistan, launches new corporate logo

A delegation of the European Union got impressed by the level of standard of certain sectors of the food industry in Iran

Members of a visiting delegation from the European Union said they were impressed by the level of standard of certain sectors of the food industry in Iran, hailing the country’s advances despite foreign sanctions.
A 70-strong delegation from the European Union, led by the EU’s Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Phil Hogan, travel to Iran to visit a number of agricultural and industrial sites and hold talks on the bilateral relations. After a visit to a cooking oil factory, some members of the EU delegation admitted that some of the sectors in Iran’s industry meet very high standards. Stressing the need for Iranian producers to look for export opportunities, the delegation likened the sanctions imposed on Iran to Europe’s economic situation in the 1970s, which they said resulted in EU development. Iran and the European Union members have signed several agricultural agreements since the removal of nuclear-related sanctions on Iran under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), a nuclear deal between Tehran and the Group 5+1 (Russia, China, the US, Britain, France and Germany). Iran announced also that it is going to host a EU Office as part of efforts to boost ties with the 28-nation bloc.

Monday, 20 November 2017

Irrigation networks being built in eight provinces of Afghanistan

Thirty-two modern irrigation networks are being established in eight provinces to cover about 7,000 hectares of land, officials said.
Eng. Nasir Ahmad Durani, the acting minister for agriculture, irrigation and livestock, signed contracts with 19 construction companies in Kabul for the 32 irrigation project worth 313 million Afghanis. The minister said the USAID-funded irrigation projects would be implemented in Balkh, Samangan, Baghlan, Parwan, Herat, Kunar and Laghman provinces and would be finished in the next nine months. He said the irrigation networks would benefit as many as 44,000 people. Durani said the networks construction would create job opportunities and their completion would prevent 40 percent of water from wasting and increase agriculture production by 20 percent. Aqa Mohammad, in-charge of a construction company in Baghlan, assured of high quality work on the irrigation networks, saying the facilities would be put into service ahead of the stipulated time of one year. Lal Mohammad, Irrigation council head in Safid Khan Village of Baghlan’s Dand-i-Ghor district, expressed happiness over the projects, asking the agriculture ministry to implement such programs for farmers across the country.

Diva of Afghan music, Aryana Sayed, won at DAF BAMA Music Awards 2017

The diva of Afghan music, Aryana Sayed won at the DAF BAMA Music Awards 2017 which was held in Hamburg, Germany on Nov 17.
Aryana Sayed received the Afghan Icon Award and the Best Afghan Female 2017 Award. 
The DAF BAMA MUSIC AWARDS is an international multicultural music award show presented by Daf Entertainment based in Hamburg, Germany. It has been created to honor artists from all over the world and at the same time unite the world with something as beautiful as music.

World Bank Group Youth Summit 2016 winners build two computer labs in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan

This time last year, more than 400 excited youth filled the Preston Auditorium for the World Bank Group Youth Summit 2016: Rethinking Education for the New Millennium. 
After receiving 875 submissions from young entrepreneurs, the Youth Summit Organizing Committee (YSOC) chose six finalists to pitch their ideas in front of a live audience and expert jury. ROYA Mentorship Program was one of two winners who received the grand prize to attend the International Council for Small Business 2017 World Conference in Argentina, funded by the World Bank’s Information and Technology Solutions (ITS)-Global Telecom unit. The yearly conference brings together the world’s foremost specialists and thought leaders in entrepreneurial research to support management education for small businesses. ROYA is a mentorship program that supports underprivileged Afghan students in learning the English language and basic computer skills. Students receive computer training by volunteer instructors. While in beautiful Buenos Aires, the ROYA team attended workshops and panel discussions about business model innovation, social entrepreneurship, start-up funding, visited Argentinian incubators, and learned from the mistakes of other entrepreneurs. ROYA gave elevator pitches promoting their program to tycoons and business officials. The team met with host project manager, Dr. Maria Fernanda Andrés, who is passionate about replicating their program for youth in rural Argentina. The team also leveraged the conference to gain supporters, teachers, and sponsors for their program. Following their big win at the Youth Summit and learning experience in Argentina, the ROYA team opened two new computer labs, one in Bamyan and another in Kabul, in January 2017. The World Bank’s ITS VPU, with funding by IFC Treasury, donated 15 laptop computers to each of Roya’s new labs. The team said the additional computers has allowed the program to establish permanent classes, and permit students to have more flexible computer access. Due to limited electricity in Afghanistan, classes occasionally must be cancelled. However in May, ROYA was able to purchase a satellite dish and wireless access points to enable students to connect computers to the internet, a simple task they were previously unable to do. For language learning, ROYA students follow an English program called American English File by Oxford University Press. The textbooks used in class come with a CD which includes videos, assignments, practice exercises, and assessment tools. Before receiving laptops from the World Bank, students were not able to benefit from the supplemental resources from the CDs. ROYA students practice dictation, listening, reading, and writing. Three days a week, students also learn typing skills and proficiency using Microsoft Word and Gmail. ROYA is working on a subsequent plan where teachers can begin training students on other practical software programs. The two new labs are named JZ’s Tech Zone, in honor of one of their volunteer mentors, Jamshid Zafar. Jamshid was killed one year ago, in a terrorist attack at the American University of Afghanistan. Jamshid’s father attended the Bamyan opening ceremony, and in Kabul, the opening ceremony was attended by the late mentor’s uncle. Jamshid’s former classmates in the U.S. created a memorial fund in his name and donated to ROYA Mentorship Program which funded the two new labs.

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Afghanistan - Helping women farmers in central Bamyan province

At least 150 greenhouses have been established for women farmers in central Bamyan province, an official says. Aimed at ensuring food security and strengthening livelihoods for famers, the greenhouses were built at a cost of 4,500,000 afghanis provided from the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL). Abdul Wahab Mohammadi, the agriculture director, hoped the conservatories in Bamyan city, the provincial capital, and Yakawlang district would help increase the growth of non-seasonal vegetables. He said the female growers also received production supplies and equipment and vegetable seeds. All farmers and beneficiaries of the initiative are women and their families. Governor Mohammad Tahir Zahir expressed happiness over the program, calling it useful for job creation as well as helping women. Salima, one of the beneficiaries, told Pajhwok Afghan News all women in Bamyan were unemployed and creating greenhouses would enable them to contribute to their families’ financial situation. Through this business we can at least earn money to make ends meet. And the important point is that such businesses are independent run by women,” she remarked.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Afghanistan Procurement Law

You can download Afghanistan Procurement Law English version, 
by clicking National Procurement Authority (NPA) website following link:

Afghanistan - Is the US really making a war on terror?

>>> ARTICLE by The Heart Of Asia:
Analysts: US aid to Pakistan means aiding supporter of terrorists
A number of political and military analysts describe the fresh US assistance to Pakistan as sponsorship of terrorism, believing that Washington’s warning to Islamabad is intended to deceive Afghan people and the world.
Contrary to what was expected, the US has not yet taken any action against Pakistan, they assert, adding that American officials make harsh statements against Pakistan from time to time in order to continue the game.
Lately, Gen. John W. Nicholson, the top commander of NATO-led troops in Afghanistan, has also said Pakistan has not changed its behavior even following the Trump’s announcement of the new US strategy; however, the US Congress approved $700 million for Pakistan last week, half of which will be given to Pakistan now.
The Voice of America (VoA) Deewa Radio has said in a report that the fund was approved after US Defense Secretary James Mattis confirmed to Congress that Pakistan had taken some steps against the Haqqani network.
Gen. Zalmay Wardak, a military expert, said Pakistan has not taken any action against the Haqqani network or any other terrorist group, and that the US has approved the new assistance for Pakistan for its double-faced game. "America still needs Pakistan to accomplish its goals, and it seems that Washington has still not found an alternative to Pakistan; therefore, it approved the new aid."
The US has been strengthening the supporters of terrorists in the region under the cover of the war on terror, through which it has also been pursuing its strategic ends.
Meanwhile, Wagma Safi, a female lawmaker, stressed that no country needed to explain where the terrorists were, and who trained them!
Talking to The Heart of Asia, she said the US president himself acknowledged that Pakistan has been a supporter of terrorism, so the US aid to Pakistan meant it was unwilling to fight terrorism.
"The US and Pakistan have things in common. It will take time until those common things change. Now, neither Pakistan is supposed to stop backing terrorism, nor will the US halt aid to Pakistan," he added.
Hussain Sajadi, an international relations expert, said the US tried to find an alternative to Pakistan, but either it did not succeed, or “no other country possessed the same capability Pakistan has to implement US projects”.
The conditionality of US aid to Pakistan also sent the message that if the US found another alternative in the region, it would simply desert Pakistan, he asserted.
“America is now compelled to provide assistance to Pakistan to prevent it from teaming up with Russia and China because it is a very experienced player,” he told The Heart of Asia.
According to Sajadi, Afghan government tried its best to encourage a shift in US policy towards Pakistan, but the attempts seemed to prove fruitless because Pakistan has so far maintained its previous status and role.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

In northern Afghanistan farmers learn to grow more crops

Balkh Province, North of Afghanistan - A gas lamp emits a dull glow in the otherwise dark, gray room. The room is humid and climate-controlled, heavy plastic bags hang from ropes dangling from the ceiling in neatly ordered, straight lines. Zakia, 24, wearing a special mask, is examining the bags and notices mushrooms sprouting in some of them. Carefully, she makes tiny holes in the plastic to take the mushrooms out. 
“This dark room has brought light to my life, it has given me the opportunity to earn a living,” Zakia says. She is one of thousands of beneficiaries of the kitchen gardening scheme under the National Horticulture and Livestock Project (NHLP). “I was without a job and dependent on others, but NHLP helped me and many other women in our village to become financially independent and self-sufficient,” says Zakia, who had recently established her mushroom production unit with NHLP support. Zakia, who supports her family of seven, lives in Ulmarab village, Nahr-e-Shahi district, in Balkh Province. She also maintains a kitchen garden in a micro-greenhouse, one of the other activities supported by NHLP, but that did not generate enough income to meet her financial needs. To set up the mushroom production unit, Zakia was given technical training as well as resources by the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL) under the NHLP. She has not only learnt the production process but has also mastered the art of developing and tapping the market. She sells mushrooms to her neighbors and nearby shops, and supplements these sales with vegetables from her kitchen garden, pitching herself as the one-stop supplier for garden produce. She is the only woman in her village to own and manage an independent production unit, and is hailed as an example of economic empowerment by her community. Her life has changed and her dreams have grown. “I want to expand my work in the future, in addition to encouraging more women to start production or small businesses of their own,” she says. Najia, 45, another beneficiary from Ulmarab village, received training on how to cultivate vegetables and was given resources to build a micro-greenhouse. “I was a housewife before the kitchen gardening scheme,” says the mother of six, “I never had enough money to buy vegetables and did not know how to cultivate them in my yard.” Supplemented with grants of seasonal vegetable seeds, Najia quickly ensured nutritional and economic self-sufficiency for her 10 family members. “I cultivate leek, onion, cress, celery, carrot, and other vegetables. I used to buy vegetables from the shopkeepers, but now I produce for myself and also sell to them,” she says.
Improving Production Practices - With a $190 million grant support from the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF), NHLP is working toward the overarching goal of increased productivity and overall production of horticultural products. It began national activities in April 2013 and its work will run through the end of 2020. NHLP activities have three components: horticultural production, animal production and health, and implementation management and technical assistance. The project aims to promote adoption of improved production practices by target farmers, with gradual rollout of farmer-centric agricultural services, systems, and investment support across the country. Its activities are currently implemented in 300 districts in 31 target provinces, numbers that may grow as conditions warrant. In Balkh, NHLP covers activities in horticulture, livestock management, and kitchen gardening. In 2016, NHLP established over 4,000 jeribs (800 hectares) of pomegranate, almond, grape, peach orchards, and 4,000 jeribs of pistachio orchards. The program also built 200 standardized raisin drying houses to help farmers dry grapes into raisins. Additionally, the program enhanced water supply to farmers by building 330 irrigation water pools, digging 21 water wells, and installing 21 solar water pumps.
Learning Livestock Management - NHLP trainings have gone a long way in enabling rural populations to have a better life. In addition to kitchen gardening, NHLP also supports livestock management. As a part of this scheme, farmers are given training on animal nutrition, animal husbandry as well as vaccination. “I participate in all NHLP trainings and have learnt a lot. I use this knowledge to bring changes in my farm,” says farmer Saifuddin, 22, a beneficiary of the livestock management scheme. Saifuddin has a small animal farm with 17 cows in Takhta Pul village in Dihdadi district. He produces 70 liters of milk daily, which he sells to local shopkeepers. “After the training, I reorganized my farm,” he says. “I now understand the value of hygiene, to keep the stable clean. I vaccinate the animals on the advice of the vet and now they are healthy.” NHLP has improved livelihoods, access to income, and health for over tens of thousands of families, including those most vulnerable and poverty stricken. Many poor families in Balkh Province were not able to buy vegetables and now they cultivate their own. “There were families who did not eat vegetables even once a week and many children were malnourished,” says Khalida Alakozai, the local officer in charge of the NHLP kitchen gardening scheme. “Our training and livelihood support have encouraged many poor families to start kitchen gardening and all these families now eat vegetables regularly, at least once a day.”

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Political and business leaders from over 40 countries to discuss economic development of Afghanistan in the Turkmen capital Ashghabat

Business and political leaders from Afghanistan in Ashgabat Tuesday reiterated their call to regional countries for help in attracting investment from private sector in order to rebuild the country after decades of violent conflict. The 7th Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan, also known as RECCA VII, began in the capital where delegations from more than 40 countries were participating to discuss economic cooperation and ways to attract private investment in Afghanistan. Cabinet of Ministers’ Deputy Chairman Orazmyrat Gurbannazarov launched the conference that was being held under the theme "Deepening Connectivity and Expanding Trade through Investment Infrastructure and Improving Synergy". Gurbannazarow said the completion of regional connectivity projects is important for all countries in the region. “The economic future of the region depends on trade, transit and the expansion of the energy sector and extraction of mineral deposits," he said. While ministers will meet Wednesday, the first day of the conference focused on the role of women and their contribution to economic development. Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani said her country aims to create a platform that would encourage and facilitate regional and inter-regional economic cooperation through the RECCA conference, which was launched in 2005. “This may have sounded as an ambitious and almost impossible goal at a time when the region was reeling under so many local conflicts and divisions,” she said. "But looking back at the shared history of all the countries involved in revisiting the golden age that spanned several hundred years from the 9th to 14th century, the idea of shared interests was not such a far-fetched one. “Our history, our cultural traditions, our collective memory are all intertwined." She acknowledged that women participation in the economies of the regions had a great impact on economic development. “In Afghanistan, the participation of women in the economy is slowly increasing.” The General Director of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Afghanistan: “We hope that the focus will help women-owned enterprises in the RECCA region to interact with each other and improve their access to regional and international markets, and to learn best practice in order to contribute job creation and economic growth in their economies.” Afghan Minister of Commerce and Industries said gender equality at the workplace would help lift people out of poverty and contribute to higher gross domestic product. “To further promote women’s involvement in business, the High Economic Council approved the proposal for establishment of Afghan Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industries,” the Minister of Commerce said. He said the goal of the Afghan government is to eliminate discrimination against women, develop their human capital and their leadership in order to guarantee their full and equal participation in all aspects of life. And invited regional investors to look into opportunities in Afghanistan. “I invite our RECCA partners to come and invest in Afghanistan, utilize the opportunities, facilities and available resources….produce goods and make a healthy profit,” he added.

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Former Afghan President Karzai says US colluded with ISIL in Afghanistan

Hamid Karzai, the former president of Afghanistan, has accused the US of working with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group in his country.
In an exclusive interview with Al Jazeera's UpFront aired on Friday, Karzai said the US government had allowed ISIL, also known as ISIS, to flourish inside Afghanistan.
"In my view under the full presence, surveillance, military, political, intelligence, Daesh [ISIL] has emerged," he said.
"And for two years the Afghan people came, cried loud about their suffering, of violations. Nothing was done."
Karzai said the US administration of President Donald Trump used ISIL as an excuse to drop a massive bomb on Afghanistan in April 2017.
"And the next day, Daesh takes the next district in Afghanistan," he said referring to the Arabic name of the armed group.
"That proves to us that there is a hand in it and that hand can be no one else but them [the US] in Afghanistan."
GBU-43, the largest non-nuclear bomb, the US used in combat was dropped in the Achin district of Nangarhar province, close to the border with Pakistan, reportedly killing at least 36 ISIL fighters and destroying tunnel complex of the armed group.
The US Central Command (CENTCOM) said the attack was designed to minimise the risk to Afghan and US forces conducting clearing operations in the area.
The explosive, also known as the "mother of all bombs" (MOAB), was equal to 11 tonnes of TNT with a blast radius of 1.6km.
Witnesses said they felt the ground shake after the explosion, while others described towering flames in the aftermath.
At that time, Karzai also condemned the attack as "inhuman and most brutal misuse" of Afghanistan as "testing ground for new and dangerous weapons".
'Potential war crimes'
Karzai also said he welcomed a recent call by the International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor to investigate war crimes in Afghanistan, including those committed during his tenure in office.
"She's right to launch such an investigation," Karzai told UpFront host Mehdi Hasan, referring to ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda's request to launch an investigation in Afghanistan.
Karzai also acknowledged that there were human rights violations during his government, and possibly on his watch.
"Definitely, there were violations by the Afghan security forces, by the US, and by others."
Karzai said he would help with any investigation, even into his own potential complicity.
"I have been asking for this so that they come to Afghanistan and investigate as to what has happened in this country."
During the interview, Karzai was also asked to respond to claims by human rights groups that he was warned while in office that human-rights abuses were taking place.
"They are wrong," he said. "They didn't tell me. I told them."
"I told the Western human rights bodies as to what was going on in Afghanistan. They were hiding it. The Western press was hiding it. I told them. I raised it."

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Pomegranates to be exported from Kandahar-Afghanistan to the UAE by air

Kandahar POMEGRANATES are considered the BEST QUALITY in the world
Afghan traders sent two tons of pomegranates to the UAE from Kandahar airport, a statement from the Presidential Economic Advisory Office said. The statement added that the number of cargo flights from Kandahar City to Dubai International Airport will increase to three in a week. This comes after Afghanistan sent off its 33rd flight, carrying 20 tons of goods, to India last week. India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Foreign Minister of Afghanistan Salahuddin Rabbani and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif flagged off the first shipment from Afghanistan to India through the Chabahar port on Oct 29, 2017. This was the first shipment going to Afghanistan though the Chabahar port, bypassing Pakistan, after a trilateral agreement on Establishment of International Transport and Transit Corridor was signed between India, Afghanistan and Iran in May 2016. This development operationalized the Chabahar port, which serves as an alternative trade route for India to connect to Afghanistan. Pakistan has repeatedly refused to allow India access to Afghanistan via its territory. The Chabahar port will enhance trade and transit between Afghanistan, India and Iran and the wider region.

Any contribution at any time is a big contribution for human dignity and human prosperity. The printing and distribution of the textbooks is a major contribution and support for Afghanistan: NGU CE Dr. Abdullah Abdullah

U.S. Embassy Special Chargé d’Affaires Ambassador Hugo Llorens and Chief Executive Officer Abdullah, launched the Second Textbook Printing and Distribution Project, a statement from the U.S. diplomatic mission said. The project is a United States Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded program for the Afghan Ministry of Education (MoE). USAID will provide $75 million to the MoE to print and distribute 135 million approved textbooks and teacher’s guides for grades 1-12 to all public schools in Afghanistan, says the statement. This new effort is a follow-on to the Textbook Printing and Distribution Project from 2011-2016, when USAID partnered with the Afghan government and other donors to procure and distribute appropriate MoE-approved textbooks in Pashto, Dari, and English for the primary and lower secondary levels. “This is indeed an extremely important partnership between the United States and the Government of Afghanistan,” said Ambassador Llorens. “Our teams will be working hand-in-hand to ensure that this ambitious effort will be a success for the benefit of all Afghan children,” he added. USAID’s Textbook Printing and Distribution Projects support the MoE in expanding access to and improving the quality of basic education for Afghanistan’s school-aged children. “Any contribution at any time is a big contribution for human dignity and human prosperity. The printing and distribution of the textbooks is a major contribution and support for Afghanistan,” said CEO Abdullah. Since 2002, USAID has supported the Afghan government in delivering quality education throughout Afghanistan by training teachers, producing and distributing millions of textbooks, helping Afghan girls attend community-based education classes, and expanding higher education opportunities.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

🗓️09/11/17 in a street of , the 5th fastest growing City in the World.

Afghanistan has become Iran’s fifth largest trade market for Iranian goods

The Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) has said that given the ease of trade with Iran, the trade volume between Afghanistan and its neighbor continues to increase. The Deputy Director of ACCI Khanjan Alkozai, said it is possible that in future Iran could become Afghanistan's largest trading partner - especially once Chabahar port is fully operational. According to officials, Afghanistan has in the past seven months become Iran’s fifth largest trade market for Iranian goods. Officials at the ACCI said that currently, due to problems along Pakistan's roads, most Afghan businessmen are trying to reroute imports and exports through Iran and India. “Our business with Iran is expanding, with the facilities that exist, and also with the Chabahar seaport on the verge of opening to Afghanistan's commercial and transit goods most of the businessmen are trying to boost their business through Chabahar port,” Alkozai said. Similarly, officials from the Iranian customs department have told Iranian media that in the past seven months they have exported $1.5 billion USD worth of goods to Afghanistan, which is an increase of 11 percent against last year. The Afghan Ministry of Commerce and Industry says trade with regional countries is now based on government’s new strategy. Officials said a number of Afghanistan’s neighbors have increased their trade volume with the country in these past few months. “The Afghan government is working to expand its trade relations with all neighboring countries, especially with countries that are honest in this relationship,” said Musafer Qoqandi, spokesman for the Ministry of Commerce and Industries. The ACCI is meanwhile optimistic about Chabahar port opening up for Afghan exports and said once this port is fully operational, trade volume between Iran and India will further increase.

Afghanistan - Bamyan Cultural Center to open next summer

The Cultural Center of Bamyan-Afghanistan is scheduled to open in the summer of 2018, three years after its design was approved.

At the beginning of 2015, an Argentina-based Team of Architects was selected among hundreds firms and architects from more than 100 countries for designing the Bamyan Cultural Center.

Led by Carlos Nahuel Recabarren alongside Manuel Alberto Martinez Catalan and Franco Morero, the selected scheme is entitled Descriptive Memory: The Eternal Presence of Absence.

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Afghanistan Dari News.07.11.2017 خبرهای افغانستان

Kabul New City - Real Estate’s Next BIG THING

Kabul New City (KNC) will resolve population density in the Afghan capital by developing approx. 600,000 units for 3 Million People.

Why a billionaire tech entrepreneur invested in an Afghan saffron start-up

Mark Cuban is a Dallas-based tech entrepreneur who is obsessed with basketball, so a Chicago-based start-up selling saffron produced in Afghanistan may seem outside his investment sweet spot. 
Yet the billionaire made a deal with precisely that on a "Shark Tank" episode that aired recently. And, he did so despite some pretty aggressive criticism of from other Shark investors. Rumi Spice appeared on "Shark Tank" seeking a $250,000 investment for five percent equity. The three co-founders — Emily Miller, Kim Jung and Keith Alaniz — all served in the military in Afghanistan. They learned that the war-torn country is covered with the purple flowers that make saffron, one of the most expensive spices in the world. They also learned that Afghani saffron is some of the best quality saffron in the world. To bring more business and more money to the farmers in Afghanistan, Rumi Spice built an infrastructure to sell saffron harvested in Afghanistan to consumers in the United States. Rumi Spice sells one gram of saffron for $18, one ounce for $140. "It's so expensive because there is no automation, it all has to be hand processed," says Jung, who, along with Miller, is both a West Point and Harvard Business School graduate. Small bottles of the spice retail for $35 and cost $8.30 to make.
At the time the show was taped, Rumi Space had $400,000 in sales and projected $750,000 for the year. Daymond John, however, objected to the price. He argued the products are too expensive to be appealing to a wide consumer market. The market for saffron in the United States is $60 million, which Jung admitted is "not big" but as she explained, selling saffron as a spice is only one piece of the business plan. "We are not really in the spice industry here. We are talking about building a brand around saffron and doing other saffon related products," Jung said, and Cuban nodded in approval. The plan is to launch and sell other saffron products, like saffron butter and saffron tea. Cuban also wanted to know what the geopolitical risk is in building a company based on product from Afghanistan. "I don't think there is a political risk because we are operating with the farmers, we are giving them incentive to produce and we are giving them an incentive to protect their investment," said Alaniz. Again, Cuban nodded in approval. Kevin O'Leary then drilled into the Rumi Spice team, looking for gross margin numbers. The team faltered answering the question, fumbled to produce exact margin projections, and "Mr. Wonderful" appeared unapologetic in his disapproval. Jung owned up to the mistake. "Yes we are Harvard grads, but we are not perfect. I was just a Harvard grad last year. Most of my education has been what we have been doing this past year," she said. Cuban chuckles approvingly at her mea culpa. Then, Cuban offered the entrepreneurs a $250,000 investment for 15 percent equity, more than three times what the founders were hoping to give away of their company for the cash. However, he insisted there is no room for negotiation. Cuban gave two reasons for making the deal, despite the problems other sharks see in the young company: He respects their work to empower Afghani farmers and he likes to work with veterans. "Okay guys. I think your mission is good. I think it is going to be impactful beyond just your product. I have invested in a lot of military companies. Combat flip-flops does a lot in Afghanistan," he said. The entrepreneurs accepted the deal. "Congratulations guys, you are doing great stuff," Cuban said. "Striking a deal with Mark Cuban is a game changer, for the women in Afghanistan who work for us, for the farmers in Afghanistan," Miller said. "Now we are going to have the ability to scale and bring our brand to all the consumers in America. This is huge. This is huge for us."

Taking a walk on the streets of Kabul, Afghanistan in the 1970s

After decades of conflicts and wars, Afghanistan continues to face a severe infrastructure deficit that holds back economic growth

Creating jobs, enabling private sector investment, and building a self-reliant country are among Afghanistan’s central development objectives. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is committed to supporting each of these goals. After decades of conflict, Afghanistan continues to face a severe infrastructure deficit that holds back economic growth. Only about 32% of the population has access to grid-connected electricity. More than 70% of the interprovincial and interdistrict roads are in a poor state. Only 10% of irrigated land has formal irrigation systems. The poverty rate is close to 40%. Afghanistan and ADB recently agreed a country partnership strategy for 2017-2021. ADB is expected to provide $887 million in grants to Afghanistan through 2020 with a focus on energy, transport, and agriculture and natural resources. To date, ADB has provided over $4.9 billion in grants and loans to the country. But Samuel Tumiwa, ADB Country Director for Afghanistan, says ADB’s support is about much more than money.
What are Afghanistan’s development priorities?
Afghanistan’s vision for its development is really about making itself more self-reliant. It’s about creating jobs for the people. It’s about opening up the private sector for greater investment. And it’s about making itself much more resilient. And we propose to support that. We have been a development partner in Afghanistan since the very beginning; when ADB opened in 1966 Afghanistan was a member country. Since our reengagement in 2001 we have been investing mainly in infrastructure. The government has asked us to focus on infrastructure and so we work in energy, we work in transport, and we work in agriculture and natural resources.
How will ADB help Afghanistan achieve its development goals?
One of the things that people think about when they talk about ADB is that it’s all about the money, it’s all about the lending. But, in actuality, lending is the third thing we do. The most important thing we do is engage with the government in a real dialogue about a sector. We talk to the government about the sustainability of the sector. We talk to the government about where the sector needs to be in 10 years and how to do the things that need to be done, or how to make the investments needed to get the sector to where it needs to be. And then we do a lot of capacity building, we do a lot of training and skills development so the government can do these things. Then only after those two steps do we make the investments. So, the investments are really the third thing we do. Now, often the investments are the most tangible things you see: you see the road, you see the airport, you see the power lines, you see that people now have electricity, it’s much easier for them to travel. But these are really the outcome of the whole package of things that we do in Afghanistan.
What are the key features of the Afghanistan-ADB partnership?
Our new country partnership strategy covers 2017 to 2021 and is directly in line with the government’s national development framework, which covers the same period. Our focus is really about creating opportunities for women and men. Creating jobs, creating ways for them to improve their livelihoods, improve their welfare. That’s number one. Number two, we also want to help the government in training its staff, in building the capacity of the institutions so that ministries and agencies are strong enough to carry out the development work themselves. And I think one of the areas where we can add a lot of value is to help Afghanistan be much more resilient to climate change. Afghanistan is very dependent on agriculture and with climate change and change in rainfall patterns, the country really needs a lot of help with that. We also want to help Afghanistan be much more resilient to disasters: to flooding, to earthquakes.
How does experience inform ADB’s work in Afghanistan?
We have been working in Afghanistan a long time. I have worked there since 2003. And Afghanistan is an interesting case because it is a country that’s still in conflict. You can’t do business as usual there. So, we have put in a new strategy over the past two years on how we need to do our projects a little differently. We can’t do projects in Afghanistan the same way we do it in India or in Indonesia or in Viet Nam. It has to be different. We have very strict guidelines on procurement. But within these guidelines we have some flexibility. We looked at big projects. We thought that big contractors would be better able to manage the security situation. We learned that wasn’t the case. We went the other way and we tried smaller contracts; perhaps the smaller, local contractors could manage better. That wasn’t the case either. What we learned is that it is all on a case-by-case basis. Different parts of the country need different approaches. It was similar for security management—how do you manage the security of a project? In the past we have had a large security presence. But then some communities didn’t want to have the military or the police in their community. They said they would self-police the project and they would make sure that the contractors were safe. It’s a negotiated process with every community. We have to show flexibility. The other thing we’ve learned is that we need to have a bigger presence in Afghanistan. We’ve added procurement staff in the resident mission. We’ve added more staff to work with the government agencies to help them do their work and develop their skills. We are much more hands on in working with our counterparts than we are in other countries.
Afghanistan’s needs are large. How can ADB help mobilize more funds?
We are focused on energy, agriculture and natural resources, and transport. We have been asked by the government to focus on infrastructure. But, yes, our funding availability is limited and the investment requirements are significantly large. We administer, on behalf of the Government of Afghanistan, the Afghanistan Infrastructure Trust Fund, which is a fund where other development partners and cofinanciers can put in money to finance specific projects. ADB has a very good track record of managing projects and has a very good track record of project implementation. And so, other donors trust ADB to work with the government to implement projects. The Afghanistan Infrastructure Trust Fund has been the largest conduit for development partner assistance to the infrastructure sector. But we need to grow it. We need to improve our performance. We need to continue to improve the performance of the Fund. And we need to go out and do a lot more fundraising to help Afghanistan meet its financing needs.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

“Women Weekend Market“ in Kabul, Afghanistan

The “Women Weekend Market“, a three-day business exhibition for women, has kicked off in Kabul University. Organized and funded by the Afghan-German Cooperation’s program for Sustainable Economic Development and Employment Promotion (SEDEP), the show provides a platform to more than 40 women to sell their products and to do business in Afghanistan.
The event also aims at connecting academics and professionals. Ten female students of Kabul University’s Faculty of Economics mentor the businesswomen to help to improve their sales. When opening the exhibition, the Deputy Minister of Commerce and Industries Feroz Khan Masjidi said: “We want to increase the connection between the academic sector and governmental organizations to improve coordination between both.” Meanwhile, Director of Kabul University Farooqi added: “The Women Bazar at Kabul University will provide a great opportunity for students to learn about the market and products sales.” Women-owned businesses are less present at local markets, and many women cannot afford to rent a shop in malls. Often, markets or malls do not offer a safe environment for women. Besides challenges when it comes to low productivity, weak marketing skills and low income, women are not protected from harassment, robbery and public threats. Therefore, women weekend bazaars offer a unique opportunity for them to work in a safe environment to boost their business. In 2016, the Afghan-German Cooperation’s program SEDEP financially supported the first women weekend market lasting three days, assisted by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. The event was a success with 50 attending businesswomen selling products worth almost AFN 900,000 and finding many new contracts. As a result, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry organized two more women markets in Kabul in 2017.
The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH implements the programme Sustainable Economic Development and Employment Promotion (SEDEP) on behalf of the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). The programme aims at creating new jobs and income opportunities for all Afghans. Activities focus on five value chains, including nuts, dairy, poultry, wheat and vegetables. Between 2014 and 2016, SEDEP has organized agricultural training courses for almost 23,000 Afghans, covering cattle management, controlled breeding and seed production. In addition, from 2015 to 2016, more than 6,700 long-term and more than 6,000 seasonal jobs have been created and incomes of employees have increased by 30 per cent, including 43 per cent women.

Afghan women attending university in Kabul - 1967

The rate of delivering quality health services for most of the organizations that implement the SEHAT program in Afghanistan is satisfactory

KANDAHAR CITY, Kandahar Province – The doctor gently places the diaphragm of his stethoscope on the child’s chest. The little girl looks at the stethoscope curiously but says nothing, while her mother, Sharifa, 50, holds her arm so that the doctor can easily examine her. 
He completes the check-up and writes a prescription, telling Sharifa to administer the medication periodically to lower her daughter’s fever. “Until recently, we did not visit a medical doctor and had always used home remedies,” says Sharifa. “But we switched to coming to the clinic when we learned that the doctors are from our community and their medications are good quality.” The doctor, Sayed Massoom Nabizada, is the director of Dr. Adam’s Clinic in the ninth district of Kandahar city, the capital of Kandahar Province. Along with 17 colleagues, Dr. Nabizada provides daily health care services in the clinic from 8 am to 4 pm, seven days a week. The clinic serves a local population of 32,000 people, offering general check-ups, gynecology and obstetrics services, laboratory facilities, vaccination, malnutrition treatment, and a pharmacy. An average of 200 patients visit the clinic every day. Dr. Adam’s Clinic is among a group of health centers that has come under the supervision of the Bu Ali Rehabilitation and Aid Network (BARAN) since July 1, 2015. BARAN provides health care services and monitoring oversight for 51 health centers in the 17 districts of Kandahar Province. It is a non-governmental organization (NGO) that works in Kandahar to provide a basic package of health services, contracted by the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) under the System Enhancement for Health Action in Transition (SEHAT) Program. The services are implemented through a performance-based partnership agreement between MoPH and BARAN. SEHAT aims to expand the scope, quality, and coverage of health services provided to the population, particularly for the poor and is supported by the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank Group’s fund for the poorest countries, and the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF), in partnership with multiple donors. Under SEHAT, a package of basic health services and of essential hospital services have been made available across the country by contracting NGOs, like BARAN, to deliver the services defined in the package. The procurement and contract management for NGO services are carried out by the MoPH Service Procurement and Contract Management Directorate, and service provision is monitored through the regular health management information system and through facility and community surveys carried out by a third party. “The rate of delivering quality health services for most of the organizations that implement the SEHAT program in the 34 provinces of Afghanistan is satisfactory and on-track. This would not have been possible without close coordination,” says Dr. Khwaja Mir Islam Saeed, Head of MoPH Grant and Services Contract Management Unit. “We can see that coordination at work in Kandahar too.”

Training Brings Benefits
As part of the SEHAT program, BARAN has provided training, supplied medications, paid staff salaries, and provided various other resources to Dr. Adam’s Clinic. Overall, BARAN has been conducting short-term training workshops for staff members in all 51 health centers in Kandahar Province. These trainings cover various topics, such as malnutrition management, vaccination, and tuberculosis prevention. “Training always brings benefits,” says Dr. Nabizada. “Holding training workshops help doctors, nurses, and midwives learn about topics that they are less informed about.” Some of the training that is held in BARAN’s office in Kandahar city also enables peer-learning and sharing of best practices among health workers in different clinics. A total of 28 women from Kandahar Province are currently undergoing training in the Community Midwifery Education (CME) program while 22 women are in the Community Health Nursing Education (CHNE) program. They will graduate by November 2017 and join the SEHAT program as professional midwives and nurses in Kandahar. “Recruiting midwives and nurses from the province will increase people’s trust in a health center,” says Dr. Miraz Khan Basharmal, head of the SEHAT program for BARAN in Kandahar. “It will also provide employment opportunities for women. Since the midwives and nurses will be from the area, they will be easily accessible as well.” Graduates from these education programs will help meet the need in many clinics in the province, where women often have to travel long distances for health care and delivery. “Before 2016, there was no midwife during the night in the health center and people had to travel more than 100 kilometers to reach a hospital in Kandahar city,” says Marzia, 28, a midwife in Haidera Comprehensive Health Center in Haidera village in Arghandab district. Haidera village was one of the more conservative villages, where it was not common for women to work at night. However, people rallied support around the SEHAT program and BARAN hired a midwife for the night shift. “Since BARAN hired one more midwife in the health center, the midwifery section is open during the night too and the number of women who come here for childbirth has increased,” Marzia says. After having achieved good coverage of health services, the focus will now be on improving the quality, according to Dr. Basharmal. “Now that we have scored good achievements in the coverage of health services, our focus in the coming years will be on improving the quality of health care services,” he says.