Afghanistan Spotlight Event: Emerging Opportunity in the New Afghanistan was cohosted by the U.S. Department of Commerce Trade Administration and the American Chamber of Commerce in Afghanistan at the J.W. Marriott in Dubai.
The event brought together international business leaders and leading Afghan investors to announce new and dynamic opportunities for international investors to share in the transition of Afghanistan’s economy to the private sector.
Welcoming over 140 participants were E. Walter Koenig, Senior Commerce Officer who led the U.S. Commercial team based at the US Embassy in Kabul, and Chairman of the AmCham/Af, Marion H Day.
“This conference is such an important platform for all of us involved in Afghanistan at this juncture, Day said. “We now know much more about how things will go forward than a year ago – the game as we have known it over the past years has begun to change.”
The caliber of speakers and panelists attested to the overwhelmingly positive direction of the change.
The three keynote speakers were Asim Hussain, the Emirates Airline Manager of Route Planning & Analysis; Aneesh Kumar, ACE Hardware Middle East Regional Supply Chain Manager; and Rafaat Ludin, the President and CEO of International Home Finance & Development, LLC, the company that is building the first section of New Kabul City, a modern planned metropolis that will relieve Kabul’s overcrowding and insufficient infrastructure.
Emirates’ explanation of the decision to enter the airline market in Afghanistan captured the palpable sense of confidence in the Afghan market. “We do not go on impulse to any market,” Hussain said. “We carefully considered the environment and entered the Kabul market because we believe that it will grow and offer lasting benefits to the international community, to Afghans and to our business model.”
Two panels were constituted of business leaders and experts, people who are doing business in Afghanistan and the people and institutions that support business enterprise. The latter group included legal advisors Tom Rosenstock and Ward Scott and educational leader Michael Smith, the president of the American University of Afghanistan. Business owners and CEOs included Sadat Naderi, Mowdood Popal, and Noor Noori, all of whom have major construction, mining, and banking interests in the country.
Koenig was visibly pleased with the affair. “We were completely oversubscribed and had to turn away people,” he said. “I have done a lot of Spotlight events and I think that this one is the best.”
Keynote addresses and panels were followed by matchmaking discussions in the afternoon. In a twist on the usual, speakers rotated among tables of participants to gain greater insight into the experience and interests of American and Afghan businesses that are located in the country.
“This event was just packed with high quality, high caliber investors and owners, international and local,” said Elspeth Smith, Executive Director of the AmCham/Af. “Businesses are realistic about the risks, but the positive vibe is unmistakable. The private sector is moving forward in Afghanistan.”