Afghanistan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani interacts with the media in New Delhi on Wednesday. Photo: PTI
New Delhi: Afghanistan’s president Ashraf Ghani on Wednesday invited Indian companies to invest in his country in areas including fertilizers, power and telecom.
Ghani reassured Indian investors about the security situation in Afghanistan.
In a speech at an event organized by key Indian business organizations such as the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci) and the Confederation of Indian Industry, Ghani, who took over from Hamid Karzai in September, pointed out that goods made in his country enjoyed tax benefits across the world because of its status as a low-income country.
“We (Afghanistan) have tariff advantages that would not be granted to middle-class or upper middle-class countries. So, joint venturing with our private sector allows you not to just think in terms of the Afghan market but regional and global market,” he said.
“This is one of the largest subsidies available to Afghan-based industries but it has not been grasped,” he added, championing his version of “Make in Afghanistan”.
Currently, Afghanistan’s imports are 30 times its exports, which he described “as a recipe for collapse” of the country’s economy. “We see the Indian private sector as a key partner in transforming Afghanistan from an area shadowed by conflict to a hub... where goods, ideas, people flow in all directions,” Ghani said.
Highlighting the future prospects in Afghanistan, Ghani said his country had significant deposits of oil, gas, gold, copper and iron as well as 14 out of 17 rare earth metals, including lithium that is used for mobile phone batteries.
A US geological survey that had estimated Afghanistan’s resource deposits to be worth $1 trillion had covered only 33% of the country, Ghani said, adding that Afghanistan’s entire resource deposits could be worth $6-10 trillion.
While acknowledging challenges such as insufficient transport infrastructure, poor power supply and corruption, Ghani also dwelt on the many opportunities for investors in Afghanistan.
He said Afghanistan’s hydel power production capacity was 26,000MW and invited Indian engineering companies to present feasibility studies for production, transmission and distribution.
“Next to hydro(power) is the immense potential in gas (in Afghanistan),” Ghani said.
Noting that a gas pipeline from Turkmenistan passing through Afghanistan and Pakistan to India (TAPI) would take five years to materialize, Ghani said: “I invite you to another opportunity. I invite Indian industry to join us in the production of fertilizers and chemical industry based on supplies of gas from Turkmenistan and Afghanistan’s natural gas... we need you to turn Afghanistan into a centre of both fertilizer and chemical industry.”
Another area was telecom which, Ghani said, was the second largest contributor to taxes in his country.
“The telecom sector is the generator of growth. Here, there is an immense possibility to partner, to think through the second- and third-generation of telecom,” he said, adding Afghanistan could become a hub for connectivity between Central, East and West Asia.
Skill development; including empowering Afghan women with capacities to become income generators within their homes in areas like textiles, dairying and jewellery making; are other possible areas for collaboration.
Construction of infrastructure will be based on consultations between the private sector in Afghanistan, as well as in the region, he said.
It is going to be driven by the economic conception of Afghanistan, Ghani said, adding that he had planned special investment zones alongside Afghan borders with resource-rich Central Asia and Iran.
To tackle endemic corruption in his country, Ghani said that if any Afghan official asked for bribes, “share the name and we will dismiss him. We want to give you a transparency and accountability guarantee”.
At the end of the meet, Ficci and the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry signed a pact to form a joint business council to promote trade and investments, a development Ghani welcomed.