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Afghan-American Chamber of Commerce Holds Third Annual Conference

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez and Ambassador to the U.N. Zalmay Khalilzad were among the prominent Americans who joined Afghanistan experts in addressing the third annual U.S.-Afghan Business Matchmaking Conference presented by the Afghan-American Chamber of Commerce (AACC) on November 12-13 at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, D.C. The conference facilitated fruitful discussions between companies, institutions, and nonprofit organizations through information sharing and interactive presentations. The overarching goal of the conference is increased investment in Afghanistan, bringing jobs, technology, and training to the Afghan people.

Ambassador Khalilzad gave the conference’s opening keynote, noting “the crucial role of the private sector in enabling Afghanistan to succeed… There is great opportunity in the mineral, building materials, construction, transit, agriculture, and other sectors in Afghanistan.”  Commerce Secretary Gutierrez indicated in the second-day keynote, “There is reason for optimism in Afghanistan. The transition to a free market economy is happening. Over the last few years, GDP growth has been solid, averaging around 10 per cent. Rebuilding is taking place. Real progress is being made.”

Mr. Robert Mosbacher President of U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) gave a review of his agency’s activities and expressed willingness to fund future projects. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Mr. John Gastright, Jr. spoke of the U.S. government’s continuing commitment toward Afghanistan in the coming years.

A conference highlight was the inaugural presentation of the AACC’s annual Business Person of the Year Award to Mr. Ehsan Bayat, Founder and CEO of the Afghan Wireless Communications Company. Mr. Bayat is an Afghan-American who has made a significant private sector capital investment in post-9/11 Afghanistan.  Another highlight was the official release of a new mineral resource assessment in Afghanistan by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Mineral resources present a great source for a country’s economic growth, and the USGS announced that Afghanistan has significant amounts of undiscovered non-fuel mineral resources, according to its 2007 assessment.

“In the last six years, reconstruction and development in Afghanistan have acquired real momentum and there are fortunes to be made in the sectors highlighted in this conference. To facilitate U.S.-Afghan business and investment, AACC has seeded new business partnerships, organized major conferences, issued policy papers and, very importantly, acted to ensure that Afghan private sector-based economic development is a top priority for U.S. and Afghan policymakers,” said AACC President Atiq Panjshiri.

This annual event convenes U.S. and Afghan leaders from the private and public sectors to promote the role of business development in Afghanistan’s reconstruction and emerging economy. The conference presented sessions on investment finance, human resource capacity, telecommunications, and civil-military cooperation for economic development in Afghanistan. It also included roundtable discussions on business opportunities in Afghanistan’s key sectors, such as infrastructure, construction, power, agribusiness, and mining. The conference was complemented by an informational trade fair, showcasing companies and organizations based in the U.S. and Afghanistan as well as resources available from U.S. Government agencies.

The conference was organized in cooperation with the Afghanistan International Chamber of Commerce in Kabul and the Afghan Business Council in Dubai and supported by USAID and DAI.

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