ITC Executive Director speech at the launch of Afghanistan’s National Export Strategy (en)
10 Jun. 2018
Kabul - Afghanistan
It is a pleasure to be here in Kabul with you for the launch of Afghanistan’s National Export Strategy.
This strategy is a symbol. A symbol of the commitment of the Afghan government, businesses, and civil society to using trade as a tool to create economic opportunities for a young and growing population. To using trade as a mans to achieve the sustainable economic growth that will help continue and consolidate Afghanistan’s recovery from nearly four decades of armed conflict.
There is a good reason the government has summed up this strategy’s vision as ‘Peace through Prosperity, Prosperity through Trade.’
I would like at the outset to thank, on behalf of the International Trade Centre, each and every one of the more than 500 stakeholders from the public and private sectors, civil society groups, and international development partners, who contributed to the content of this National Export Strategy. I would like to extend our particular gratitude to H.E. Chief Executive Dr Abdullah Abdullah, and Minister of Industry and Commerce Humayoon Rasaw for their commitment and leadership from day one. And I would like to thank the European Union for their support to the Advancing Afghan Trade project.
No country has risen to prosperity through development assistance alone. Market-driven growth, led by an activeprivate sector and enabled by an engaged, committed government, has been the recipe of every successful ascent out of poverty. Trade has helped economies grow faster, with international markets serving as a source of demand, ideas, inputs, and investment. Faster growth, whenbroadly shared, translates into faster poverty reduction.
The endorsement of this National Export Strategy by the Council of Ministers and the High Economic Council clearly demonstrates the intent of the Afghan leadership to encourage private sector development and unleash the country’s unrealized trade potential. The strategy’s focus on micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, women, and youth seeks to ensure that the gains from exports deliver social dividends where they are needed most.
The National Export Strategy identifies some of the most pressing and solvable constraints on Afghan export success. It is credible and actionable, because it is the product of a rigorous, year-long consultative process involving public and private sector stakeholders and institutions from across Afghanistan. The role of Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) was crucial in mobilising business actors. Likewise, I want to emphasize that women’s groups, such as the Afghanistan Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry (AWCCI) played a central role in the consultations, helping ensure that gender-specific concerns were integrated into the strategy.
The National Export Strategy is therefore a Made-in-Afghanistan blueprint for competitiveness and export development. It sets out a detailed roadmap for policy reforms and institutional investments to grow, diversify and add value to the basket of goods Afghanistan exports. Since all stakeholders share ownership of the strategy, it will define a single trajectory for trade-related policy and private sector practice in support of the government’s efforts to reposition the country as a strategic trade hub connecting Central and South Asia. The strategy’s recommendations will also serve to bolster the capacity of domestic businesses to supply the local economy, in line with the National Priority Programme on Private Sector Development.
The National Export Strategy identifies six sectors for their high potential to spur exports and job creation. These sectorsrespond to Afghanistan’s traditional strengths: dried fruits and nuts; fresh fruits and vegetables; saffron; marble and granite; carpets; and precious stones/jewellery. For each, the strategy identifies weaknesses and vulnerabilities across the value chain, and proposes remedies designed to help Afghan businesses compete internationally on quality and price, connect to buyers in key markets, and increase their ability to adapt to changing market demands.
Beyond these six sectors, the strategy identifies six key cross-sector functions for improvement: trade facilitation; quality management; skills development; professional business and services, access to finance, and trade information and promotion. Each of these is critical to realising Afghanistan’s aspirations for trade-led growth. Implementing the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement would bolster the country’s position as a transit hub. Better institutions for health and safety compliance, testing, and certification would help ensure that Afghan food exports do not get blocked at the border in export markets. Improved marketing support would help Afghan companies connect to buyers in foreign countries.
Today’s launch represents the culmination of work to design the National Export Strategy. But it is only the beginning of the real job: We need to move to Phase 2 focused on turning these recommendations into increased exports, growth, and jobs for Afghanistan’s citizens.
If Afghan exports reached last year the 600 million mark, I am convinced that a rapid implementation of the Strategy would help Afganistan reach the 1 bio exports mark in the very near future.
ITC is committed to supporting Afghanistan’s government and private sector as they work to implement the National Export Strategy. As an early harvest, we are already working on building the competitiveness of the saffron sector.
We now look forward to collaborating with a wide range of partners on other elements of the strategy. I want to recall that the National Export Strategy was made possibly by a broader EU-funded initiative on Advancing Afghan Trade. This initiative, which seeks to empower Afghan MSMEs to reach markets in the region is also supporting the development of a National Trade Policy which will soon be presented for the adoption of the Afghan leadership.
Before closing, I would like to reiterate ITC’s thanks to the Chief Executive and to Minister Rasaw, as well as to the staff in the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock and the Afghan National Standards Authority who have been critical in this endeavour.
This partnership with all of you has been incredibly enriching for the ITC team. Thank you for this collaboration and we look forward to working together as Afghanistan moves to turn this strategy into action on te ground.