Mohammad Qurban Haqjo head of Afghanistan Investment Support Agency (AISA) said on Wednesday that economic growth, reducing the trade deficit, creating job opportunities and increasing exports in the country are dependent on the support of small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
Speaking at the start of a two-day conference on SMEs at Karwan University in Kabul, AISA officials said that in the past 14 years no attention has been paid to the value or development of such enterprises.
Haqjo said that small and medium enterprises are critical to the country’s economy and that support in terms of loans, tax breaks and other initiatives should be implemented to help develop the sector.
In addition, he said Afghanistan’s trade deficit was at minus 94 percent. The only solution to reducing this was through the development of SMEs, he said.
“Our trade balance is minus 94 percent and one way to grow exports is through small and medium enterprises. In Afghanistan more than 90 percent of exports takes place through small and medium enterprises,” said Haqjo.
Economic analysts meanwhile said that challenges facing the sector in the country need to be removed.
“If the enterprises are faced with restrictions and shortages, entrepreneurs with labor and other production problems, will be in a state of stagnation,” said Hamidullah Farooqi an economic analyst.
AISA said however that so far there are 5,000 trade licenses in Afghanistan within the sector – of which most are craft artisans and shopkeepers.
According to AISA officials, the role of women and their support is also crucial in the development and growth of small and medium enterprises and there should be effective and clear programs to increase capacity in this respect.
The conference aims to promote entrepreneurship, to stimulate services for SMEs, to support diversification, create employment opportunities and productivity.
This is the first such focused event in Afghanistan for SMEs and is partnered and sponsored by companies including the Afghanistan Commercial Bank (ACB), Afghanistan Chambers of Commerce (ACCI), Afghanistan Investment Support Agency (AISA) and Kabul Group among others.
Small enterprises plays a critical role in developing the economies of countries around the world and are key to creating employment opportunities.