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Dr. Elspeth Smith, Executive Director of the American Chamber of Commerce in Afghanistan, spoke to the Kabul chapter of International Rotary to introduce the AmCham/Af and to learn more about Rotary’s activities.
“I reviewed Rotary’s mission before I came, “Smith said. “The business community has a tremendous amount of respect for Rotary’s good will and humanitarian efforts.”
The role of organizations like AmCham/Af and Rotary—which have distinctive American roots—was the subject of Smith’s remarks.
“Let’s be frank,” Smith said. “Whereas American companies must turn a profit to remain viable, they must also conduct business in transparent and honest ways to stay in line with American law.”
The real business problems in Afghanistan, she said, have less to do with the readiness of Afghans to do business or even with the ability of American firms to negotiate the tangle of laws or institutional procedures.
“The real problem is that businesses have not been engaging with each other in usual, market-driven ways. Instead, they have been doing business one-on-one with donors.”
That this pattern must change is inevitable, she said, and the faster the better. “What the AmCham/Af needs over the next few years—and I am sure that Rotary agrees—is greater participation, greater camaraderie, and greater tolerance for risk.”