MCLEAN, Va., Dec. 26, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- December 2-4, 2012, In his opening Keynote Address at the "8th Annual U.S. Afghanistan Business Matchmaking Conference 2012", when describing the climate for investment during the critical "transition" period in Afghanistan, the Minster of Commerce and Industry of Afghanistan, Dr. Anwar ul-Haq Ahadi, stated that, "the government of Afghanistan is close to announcing a new 10-year tax holiday for investments made over the next two years". This anticipated incentive, combined with a liberal regulatory environment and complemented with greatly expanded infrastructure and a growing number of skilled professionals and workers educated or trained abroad or graduated from local institutions, make for enhanced prospects for investment in a promising region of the world for economic growth.
Dr. Ahadi, a former Central Bank Governor and Finance Minister (remarks), went on to say that "a tight monetary policy has ensured that inflation is low and the exchange rate for the national currency, the Afghani, is stable. Thousands of kilometers of new highways, expanding transmission lines and a new railway can support investments in export-oriented sectors including cashmere, marble, carpets, and agriculture as well as development of local industries to replace current imports of refined petroleum products, cement, steel, poultry, edible oils, sugar, dairy products, and light manufactured goods".
U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Raymond 'Ray' LaHood (awaiting remarks) expanded upon the Minister's remarks when he commented on the enormous potential for Afghanistan as transportation, logistics and distribution hub for the vast emerging South and Central Asian market. He reviewed details of the DoT's work in Afghanistan and said his "Department and the Administration are committed to a successful Afghanistan". Secretary LaHood commented on the tremendous improvements in Afghanistan's infrastructure for road, air and rail and the impending increase in regional connectivity as crucial to the future of the country.
The conference focused on ways in which U.S. companies can tap into business opportunities in Afghanistan and the region and realize the value of partnering with Afghan companies and entrepreneurs. The Afghan-American Chamber of Commerce (AACC) held the Conference in Washington, D.C. on December 2nd to 4th at the Ronald Reagan Building -- International Trade Center with related evening activities at the JW Marriott Washington, D.C. Hotel directly across the street.
Security is such a big concern for everyone investing in Afghanistan and this issue was addressed head-on by Col. Ret'd. U.S. Army, James Bullion, Director of the DoD Task Force promoting business in Afghanistan (remarks). Bullion stated that "investment in Afghanistan is being held back by perceptions that simply do not reflect the reality of most of the country today". He gave examples of how businessmen and women across the country are building their enterprises apart from, and in spite of, conflict areas. He mentioned that one recognized index of global violence has Afghanistan ranked 119th in the world, "well less than many Central American and African countries". Drawing parallels with Africa, where foreign investment is supporting widespread development, he described support for the extraction of minerals, infusions of international equity for traditional Afghan industries, and establishing entrepreneurship training centers and small business incubators.
Some 400 participants, including businessmen and women, financial organization representatives and government officials, from both the U.S. and Afghanistan, registered for the conference, including were some 100 participants from Afghanistan.
Ms. Holly Vineyard, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Africa, the Middle East and South Asia, ITA, (awaiting remarks) spoke about the expanding presence of the Department of Commerce (DoC) on the ground in Afghanistan as 'transition' points the way to greater and greater focus on the market economy. The DoC Task force on Afghanistan Reconstruction has been working for years in various sectors of the economy such as carpets, marble, construction and agriculture value chains, they are receiving greater resources to engage in these and other areas of the economy.
Col. Ret'd. U.S. Army, Mr. James Balocki, the Chief of International and Interagency Services of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (awaiting remarks) outlined future developments in Afghanistan. The Corps supports almost a thousand individual construction projects for the NATO military and Afghan security forces, and importantly local development funds support a variety of grass roots projects and an Afghan Infrastructure Fund supports major civil development projects.
Focusing on collaboration among the Government, Military and Business Communities, Mr. Hugh Haworth, a Senior Economics Advisor with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) (remarks), indicated how USAID has shifted from large infrastructure projects to training, advising and assisting Afghans to maintain the gains already achieved and allow Afghans themselves to progress into the future. On a national scale, USAID is working with the Afghan power utility to effectively collect revenue covering its costs, completing large-scale hydropower projects and supporting the Ministry of Public Works with systems to maintain roads and public infrastructure. He advised as to how Afghan businesses are shifting from dependence on military and donor contracts to new opportunities with agriculture food chains, telecommunications expansion, and efforts to re-establish Afghanistan as a center of regional trade among other opportunities.
His Excellency Noorullah Delawari, the Governor (PPP), brought back to the Governorship of the Afghan Central Bank by President Karzai in the wake of the Kabul Bank collapse, described how the banking system learned and is now healthier. He outlined the major improvements in regulatory oversight of the banking system and went on to describe how the Afghan Central Bank has maintained a stable Afghan currency and managed liquidity in the local financial market.
Complementing these keynote addresses, expert panels addressed opportunities in agriculture and food processing; telecommunications and information technology, mining and natural resource development; transportation and logistics; construction and infrastructure; culture and tourism; and finally, financing and promoting the Afghan private sector. These panels, including both private sector and government representatives, addressed the practical experiences of Afghan and foreign businesses and investors, new opportunities for U.S. companies, and the Afghan perspective on commercial opportunities. The full Conference Agenda is available on the AACC website.
Opportunities for networking and private discussions were provided by an evening Welcoming Reception, networking breaks between meetings, business luncheons and a Mix & Mingle Dinner and Awards Reception featuring the presentation of the AACC Business of the Year Award to Nadim M. Amin of Afghan Resources Group (ARG); the Performance Excellence and Support for AACC Award to Zamari M. Kamgar of Kam Group; and an Award from the Chairman of Afghanistan's Senate, Fazal Hadi Muslimyar,to AACC President & CEO, Hon. Don Ritter for Building Business and Economic Bridges Between the U.S. and Afghanistan. (Award Speeches)
Highly popular with attendees, one-on-one networking discussions were conducted for some two hours in the afternoons where AACC arranged for individual consultations by attendees with panelists and speakers from relevant businesses, trade associations and government agencies.
An AACC Information and Communications Technology Working Group demonstrated new communications technologies that enable Afghans using high speed satellite connections to get real time support by experts abroad teamed with a translator at a 3rd location.
AACC is deeply grateful for those sponsors who literally made the conference possible with their generous support.
SOURCE Afghan-American Chamber of Commerce