Afghan-American Chamber of Commerce Members
Sulaiman Lutfi, Chairman; Jeffrey Grieco, President & CEO
Update on New Delhi “Afghanistan Trade and Investment Show”
October 4, 2017
Greetings AACC Members, Colleagues and Friends: We have just returned from the New Delhi Trade and Investment Show on Afghanistan (September 27-30, 2017) entitled “Passage 2 Prosperity.” The event was sponsored by the USAID/Afghanistan Mission and implemented through their Afghanistan Trade and Revenue (ATAR) project. The conference was attended by over 1,000 delegates amongst them: Afghanistan private sector representatives; GIRoA officials (including the National Unity Government (NUG) Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, along with the Ministers of Commerce and Industry, Energy and Water, and Civil Aviation); Indian private sector representatives; senior Indian government officials (including the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Commerce, and the Minister for Civil Aviation); U.S. private sector representatives; and, U.S. Government officials from U.S. Missions in India and Afghanistan (both the US Charge d’Affairs and USAID Country Directors) as well as representatives from USAID/Washington. The measure of success for this event can be narrowed down to three primary outcomes:
- $200 Million in New Trade Orders with India: The USAID Office of Economic Growth stated on Saturday that the show had finalized over $200 million in new orders for Afghanistan private sector partners from Indian companies. This is significant because while this number reflects commitments made through Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) on purchase orders for fruit, saffron, spices, marble, carpets, gemstones, etc…. the USAID Mission’s prior experience had led them to estimate a max of $50 million in new orders from this event. Clearly, the result far exceeded everyone’s expectations.
- Note: The Mission reportedly spent about $1.5-$2.0 million on this event including paying for travel and lodging for Afghanistan private sector representatives through the ATAR project (the prime implementing partner being Chemonics International). Spending that amount with a return of $200 million in new orders seems not only reasonable but also proof that these programs work. The key measure downstream will be how much of the $200 million is actualized.
- High-Level Leadership Presence from Afghanistan, India and U.S.: Indian Government and private sector participation was of the highest order with Indian Ministers of Finance, Commerce and Civil Aviation participating including major Indian multinationals such as Mahindra and Tata. This Indian Government high-level commitment is a significant development. This demonstration of diplomatic and commercial good will was followed up with bilateral business commitments. It also demonstrated a mutual bilateral business complementarity that should yield further trade and investments in Afghanistan in the near future. We expect that this event will be repeated annually by the USAID mission and so we should also plan for AACC participation in this event as well.
- Note: Although the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry and American Chamber of Commerce in India were both co-partners in planning the event, neither organization was seen by the USG as delivering anything significant to the event. These organizations did not attend the event themselves or participate on panel discussions as far as we observed.
- AACC Leadership Receives Unprecedented High-Level Access and Interaction: The AACC was provided an unprecedented amount of visibility, thought leadership access and strategic input at the event. The AACC was invited by the U.S. Government to speak on multiple sector panels, met with a large number of senior Afghan Government and private sector leaders and was invited to a series of strategic discussions with USAID Mission leadership about private sector program priorities. In all of these meetings and discussions, the AACC leadership stressed the critical need and importance for greater private sector development in Afghanistan.
- Note: These AACC thought leadership interventions included private meetings with GIRoA CEO Dr. Abdullah (who came one day late due to the Kabul Airport attack), Minister of Commerce and Industries Rasaw, Minister of Energy and Water Osmani, New CEO of DABs Aman Ghalib, Deputy Minister of Mines and Petroleum Javid, and Director General for Civil Aviation Habibi, as well as other GIRoA officials. AACC offered support and ideas to assist the Afghan private sector in the year ahead.
In New Delhi, the AACC provided a number of strategic briefings to senior leaders about the opportunities presented by the U.S. President’s recent decision on a “New Afghanistan Strategy” and the surge of U.S. Special Forces into Afghanistan to help combat terrorism and return key regions of the nation to Afghanistan Government control. The AACC continues to believe that over the next 12-18 months, U.S. forces working in close partnership with Afghan and Allied forces will create the momentum and stability needed to launch an aggressive private sector-led, private sector-focused development plan for Afghanistan.
As you will recall from last month’s “AACC Flash Report,” in preparation for this Delhi trade and investment event, AACC leadership met with senior officials from the U.S. Government including the National Security Council, Department of State, USAID, Department of Commerce, OPIC as well as senior Afghanistan Government officials and senior representatives from the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank. These discussions focused on a path forward for the “Non-Military Component” to the U.S. Administration’s “New Afghanistan Strategy”. The AACC’s focus has been on prioritizing private sector development within the “New Afghanistan Strategy” and developing a private sector-led strategy for sustainable economic growth going forward.
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