Lucas Jackson / Reuters

Making Afghanistan Self-Reliant

The Infrastructure and Mining Sector the Country Needs

In early October, representatives from about 70 countries and 30 international organizations and agencies will gather in Brussels to attend the Partnership for Prosperity and Peace conference on Afghanistan. The meeting comes as the country is facing security and political challenges, declining economic growth, and a brain drain. It will serve as a platform to review the government’s progress since the Tokyo conference in July 2012 and the London conference in December 2014 and to set out a vision for continuing reform and growth. It will also be an opportunity for the donor community to renew its commitment to sustained political and financial support for lasting peace, state building, and development in Afghanistan.

Driving this discussion should be Afghanistan’s efforts to finalize the new Afghanistan. National Peace and Development Framework, the government’s five-year strategy for achieving self-reliance. The importance of this plan cannot be overstated. The previous Afghanistan National Development Strategy assumed untenable levels of foreign assistance, failed to acknowledge the impact of corruption, and included uninformed expectations about Kabul’s ability to capitalize on Afghanistan’s resources. As a result, Afghanistan let some opportunities slip away and lost credibility with donors.

osmani_makingafghanistanselfreliant_train.jpg Reuters

The freight train line from Yiwu, China to Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan starts to operate, August 28, 2016.

The freight train line from Yiwu, China to Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan starts to operate, August 28, 2016. The freight train line from Yiwu, China to Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan starts to operate, August 28, 2016. If the conclusions of several recent government forums are to be believed, the new framework presents a more realistic picture of Afghanistan’s future. Most notable is the government’s acknowledgment of the devastating impact of corruption and its serious commitment to tackle it. These steps will help the government gain international confidence and support and will also promote investments in key sectors, such as infrastructure, energy, and natural resources. Further, even as Kabul has recognized the country’s significant natural resources, it has taken note of the logistical challenges it must address before developing a mining industry that can serve as a backbone for economic development.

Afghanistan is rich in mineral deposits. The total value of the country’s mineral deposits has been estimated to be between $1 trillion and $3 trillion, including $420 billion worth of iron ore, $274 billion worth of  recent World Bank study, if the country appropriately develops its mining industry, it will likely contribute two or three percent annually to GDP by 2021. The potential revenues during the first stage from the Mes Aynak copper and Hajigak iron ore mines alone have been estimated at around $322 million annually. According to the same report, the revenues would increase to $923 million each year during the second stage of the project. Exploitation of a natural gas field in Sheberghan, other verified gas fields, and verified deposits of rare-earth minerals would offer additional revenue sources.

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