23 August 2016
Since 2010, the American Chamber of Commerce in Afghanistan has established itself as a pioneer for the economic development of the private sector in Afghanistan for American and international investors, businesses, and organizations. The AmCham/Af consists of nine board members representing an array of industries. The membership of AmCham/Af includes companies from the mining, information technology, construction, logistics, wholesale, web design, financial, and legal industries plus many more. In addition, 2015 was a critical transition year where the AmCham/Af’s executive director, Soraya Ahmadyar , was succeeded by Thomas Muenzberg in August 2015.
Afghanistan’s economic situation continued to remain slow in the first half of 2015. This was a particularly challenging year on the political front, where Afghanistan experienced a divided and stagnant unity government between President Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai and CEO Abdullah Abdullah. The National unity government struggled to deliver on anticipated reforms depressing investor and consumer confidence and causing serious concerns from the private sector and potential investors from abroad, foreign direct investment declined by 30% in the first half of the year, according to the Afghanistan Investment Support Agency and a business tendency survey released in August by the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry indicated that business conditions deteriorated substantially from January to June 2015.
Despite the troubling news the AmCham/Af members held steadfast through the political uncertainty and pressed forward, attempting to bring new interest and optimism to a country known for its abruptly changing economic and political climate.
The AmCham/Af continues to push forward as the accreditation application remains under review with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce headquartered in Washington D.C. The new Executive Director met with the U.S. Chamber in Washington D.C. where they reiterated support for the AmCham/Af’s presence in Afghanistan and vowed to continue their monitoring of Afghanistan’s political, economic, and social reforms. AmCham/Af is working to expand its network of contacts and encourage collaboration and information exchange with other regional centers and promote economic development on all levels.
Board of Directors
The Board of Directors routinely meets every month to discuss critical actions to be taken as a chamber. Key officer positions were maintained in 2015, with the addition of the position of treasurer, to help manage the financial decisions of the chamber. Board members are vital to supporting the chamber’s mission and vision by constantly seeking out potential new members, encouraging business interests and investments in Afghanistan, organizing events around critical topics of interest for businesses, and providing their own first-hand experience of operating on a daily basis in Afghanistan.
Gerald IKE Parks,
Gerald began his distinguished military career as an Infantryman in the United States Army. His career is highlighted by rapid advancements and a variety of assignments, including service with 1st Battalion, 325th Parachute Infantry Regiment at Fort Bragg, North Carolina; U.S. Army Infantry Board at Fort Bening, Georgia; 1st Squadron, 4th Cav. 1ID (FWD), Germany; 2nd Battalion, 4th Infantry in Germany; 56th Field Artillery Brigade in Germany; Drill Sergeant School at Fort Knox, Kentucky; VII Corps in Stuttgart, Germany; and 51st Infantry Regiment in Germany. He is a graduate of the United States Army Sergeants Major Academy at Fort Bliss, Texas, where he also served as a Facility Advisor and Instructor. As a Command Sergeant Major, he served in numerous units, including 2nd Battalion, 22d Infantry Regiment, 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, New York; 3d Battalion, 325th Infantry, Airborne Battalion Combat Team (ABCT) in Italy; Brigade Sergeant Major, Lion Brigade (Airborne), Italy; and as the Command Sergeant Major, Combat Maneuver Training Center (CMTC) Hohenfels, Germany, he retired culminating a distinguished career of more than thirty years of dedicated service.
Following his military career, Gerald worked as the Operations Officer and Director of Plans, Training, Mobilizations, and Security for 282d BSB Combat Maneuver Training Center in Hohenfels, Germany, where he planned, managed, directed and controlled current operations of the directorate pertaining to military operations and security activities for the installation. In 2005, Gerald accepted a position as the Senior NCO Mentor to U.S. Army CSM’s in Afghanistan and to the Afghan National Army for MPRI in Kabul Afghanistan. He mentored and developed NCO Leadership Developmental Programs and was the Subject Matter Expert on Joint and Coalition Training, After Action Reviews (AAR), and Risk Management in Afghanistan.
With over 9 years of on the ground experience in Afghanistan, Gerald has gained a deep understanding of the Afghan culture. He has developed key personal and business relationships with many key Afghan officials, businessmen, and ANA military leadership.
Seasoned, detail-oriented, and analytical executive, offering comprehensive years of hands-on experience in managing project design and implementation, program development, and organizational management operations. Accustomed to managing and leading people in successfully developing and implementing applications that drive insights and efficiencies. Recognized for outstanding performance and exceeding expectations in positions requiring strong planning, analytical, problem-solving, team-building, and leadership skills. Commended for excellent communication and interpersonal skills; easily interface with business clients, C-level executives, staff, and other professionals. Highly capable of multitasking as well as working independently or as part of a team to meet critical deadlines.
James (Jim) Sagen is the Senior Country Director for DynCorp International and provides oversight and support to DynCorp’s 12 in-country programs. He is the senior management interface between the Government of Afghanistan, the United States Government, and senior corporate leadership. Mr. Sagen has 35 years of leadership and management experience in operational, logistics and specialized organizations. He has extensive experience in organizational transformation, and strategic level planning. He has 10 years of overseas service in Germany, Korea, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Mr. Sagen has a Bachelor of Arts in History from the University of Washington in Seattle, A Masters in Business from Embry-Riddle University, and a Masters in Strategic Studies from the U.S. Army War College.
Mr. Sagen is recently retired as a Colonel in the U.S. Army where his last assignment was a Chief of International Agreements Branch in ISAF Headquarters, Kabul Afghanistan.
Tom Kraemer is a commercial lawyer with over 25 years of experience assisting companies of all sizes with a wide variety of business matters. He has been associated with Rosenstock Legal Services in Kabul since July 2015.
Tom’s legal career has focused on complex commercial matters. He has helped with issues relating to contracts, employment, antitrust, intellectual property, licensing, personal injury, securities and privacy. Tom has also counseled other attorneys in matters involving professional ethics. His experience includes negotiations, arbitrations, and jury trials in civil and criminal cases. At Rosenstock Legal Services, Tom advises Afghan and international clients in matters involving licensing, customs, visas, employment, tax, contracts and other issues.
Prior to moving to Afghanistan, Tom spent nearly three years doing hospital administration and public health research at Edna Adan Hospital in Hargeisa, Somaliland. He has a B.A. degree from the University of Virginia, a J.D. from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, and a Masters in Public Health from Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine.
President of Elite Holdings
Elite Holdings is one of the fastest growing groups of companies in Afghanistan with total revenue of over 60 million in four years. With over 130 direct employees and over 2000 non-direct, it serves the Government of Afghanistan, US Government and the international community in Afghanistan. There are three main companies in Elite Holding, Elite Construction, Elite Procurement and Logistics, NAVIA Design.
Vice President of Afghan Builders Association
Duties and responsibilities include – Manage over 500 companies and developing their abilities to participate in the reconstruction of Afghanistan; to unite individuals, firms and local companies in Afghanistan for the purpose of exerting and effective, combined influence upon matters affecting the shelter construction, remodeling, ore land development industry, and the professional conduct of persons engaged for the benefit of the construction industry, the community and the consuming public.
Under my supervision 10 projects were successfully completed at the value of $32M, awarded by different US Agencies and Contractors. Also 4 ongoing projects are under my supervision with the value of $22M. These projects consist of construction of buildings and headquarters for army, towers, communication infrastructures and other design and build projects. I am responsible for the development of the strategic plan to advance the company’s mission and objectives and to promote revenue, profitability, and growth as an organization. I also oversee company operations to ensure production efficiency, quality, service, and cost effective management of resources.
Dr. Mark English
Dr. Mark A. English is the President of the American University of Afghanistan.
Dr. English has two decades of experience in academic leadership. He has served in senior administrative positions in several esteemed academic institutions around the globe, particularly in the Middle East. He most recently served as the Superintendent of the American International School of Jeddah in Saudi Arabia from 2007 to 2013, and prior to that was President and Chief Academic Officer of the Ross Global Academy Charter School in New York City.
Dr. English also has experience working in Oman, where he managed a large International Education and Training Program, and Amman, where he was a US Fulbright Scholar and Associate Head of the English department at the University of Jordan.
Further credentials include serving as University Level Dean at the United States Military Academy Preparatory School, Head of the Arabic Department as USMA, a West Point visiting professor at the National Defense University, and a Head of School Fellow at Columbia University. He also served as the President of the American Business Group of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
A fluent Arabic speaker and linguist, Dr. English received his Ph.D. in Foreign Language Education and Arabic Studies from the University of Texas. He also has a Master’s degree in Civil Government from Campbell University and earned his Bachelor’s from the United States Military Academy, West Point in Engineering. He and his wife, Eleftheria, have been married for 36 years, and have one grown daughter.
Mr. Sanzar Kakar is current the Chairman of Afghanistan Holding Group. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science Engineering and from Warwick Business School with a Master’s in Business Administration. At the University of Pennsylvania, Mr. Kakar served as the Manager of the Wharton Graduate Association. Following his undergraduate degree, he worked for Merrill Lynch as a Technology Analyst on a trading desk for bonds and equities, creating a link for automatic reporting to the New York Stock Exchange.
Mr. Kakar started in Afghanistan as an Investment Associate for Acap Partners, setting up a $20 million venture capital facility and sourcing over 300 new deals for consideration. Mr. Kakar joined as an Executive Advisor to the Attorney General’s Office of Afghanistan on a U.S. Department of State program to reorganize the institution and setup a nationwide paper and computer criminal case management system spanning 7 justice institutions. Mr. Kakar then served as the Economic Advisor for the Afghanistan Investment Climate Facility, setting up operational and fiduciary requirements for the 7 year £30 million
M. Ismail Ghazanfar
Mr. M Ismail Ghazanfar is the CEO of the Ghazanfar Group of Companies. He oversees the strategy and operations of the Ghazanfar Group including financial planning of all major activities. He has many years of experience in managing large scale projects and contracts. Over the last decade, Mr. Ismail has built a successful oil & gas division which now includes upstream projects as well as one of the largest fuel supply & distribution companies in the region. In 2009, Mr. Ismail developed the Ghazanfar Bank to help strengthen and grow the financial sector in Afghanistan.
Mr. Ismail holds a degree in Economics and has over 25 years of management and operations experience. In addition to being the Chairman and CEO of the Ghazanfar Group, he has also held the position of Vice Chairman of ACCI since 2012.
Personal Motto: Work is life, life is work.