US firms keen to invest in Afghan economy
WASHINGTON (PAN): As Afghanistan prepares to enter into a critical phase of its development post 2014, American companies are keen to invest in the country that is poised to become a thriving economic hub, connecting South and Central Asia, a senior US official said Monday.
“The United States government and our private sector stand with Afghanistan. We want the Afghan national economy to be strong and sustainable. We are committed to this vision. US companies want to play a role in Afghanistan’s commercial development,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary Holly Vineyard.
Addressing the 8th annual Afghan-American Chamber Of Commerce Business Matchmaking Conference -- attended by top Afghan and US companies, Vineyard said American companies can offer Afghanistan much needed management experience, technology and investment.
Noting that US-Afghan business ties has been growing stronger, she said in 2011, US exports to Afghanistan reached $2.9 billion -- a steady increase from the previous two years.
Under Secretary Francisco Sanchez led a successful trade mission of 12 US firms to Afghanistan in February.
“The firms represented a wide range of sectors, including transportation, logistics, agri-business, information technology and construction, and participated in over 300 business matchmaking meetings. Virtually every participating company left the event with a deal in the pipeline,” she said.
Several American giants such as Pepsi, Ace Hardware, Ford Motors, Caterpillar, Coca Cola, Federal Express and Tysons Meats have also realised commercial successes in Afghanistan and a successful carpet conference was held in September for selected Afghan rug producers and US buyers, creating approximately id="mce_marker".2 million in near term sales and established long-term supplier relationship, said Vineyard.
In his key note address, the Afghan Commerce and Industries Minister, Anwar-ul Haq Ahadi, urged American companies to invest in Afghanistan. The Afghan government, he said, has taken series steps to make the country a business and investor friendly destination.
Ahadi said Afghanistan has now decided to give investors the option of either tax holidays or accelerated depreciation to investors.
The day-long meeting was addressed not only by officials from both the countries but also business executives and those representing the non-profit sector.
“The Bayat Foundation, working in partnership with Afghan Wireless (AWCC), has developed a programme that combines the breakthrough potential of mobile technology and commerce, with a deliberate woman-centered direct sales network to bring communication, hope and opportunity to even the most remote communities in Afghanistan,” said Monty Simus, vice president, Business Development, Telephone Systems International.
“The Bayat Foundation to further activate the use of mobile phones among women for health information purposes, is also planning a programme that will encourage vulnerable, food-insecure communities in key regions to take advantage of nutrition and health education through a mobile money platform,” added Simus.
Attended by top US and Afghan businesses, the three-day conference beginning 2nd December is being held in cooperation with Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industries, Afghanistan Builders Association, Afghan Business Council-Dubai, Afghanistan Investment Support Agency, embassy of Afghanistan in Washington, the US Department of States, Department of Commerce and Department of Defense.
“In an era of transitioning out of heavy military engagement to a more civilian-supported economy, the central role of the private sector to create sustainable wealth, products and services and jobs for the Afghan people cannot be overestimated,” said Sulaiman Lutfi, board chairman of the Afghan American Chamber of Commerce.
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