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Economic Development

Babur gardensIn 2003, there were less than 100,000 working fixed and mobile telephone lines in the country, but Roshan has now invested more than US$380 million in Afghanistan.In its economic development activities in Afghanistan, AKDN aims to create replicable models of success, and to encourage other investors to follow suit, by making strategic large-scale investments in Afghanistan’s economic development. Because of its institutional background and ethical framework, AKDN’s criteria for making commercial investments are not those of a typical investor. Investment decisions are based on whether a particular investment will improve the quality of life of those affected by it, and not simply on bottom-line profitability. Profits which are generated are then reinvested in development initiatives.

In 2003, AKDN and its partners launched Roshan (Telecom Development Company Afghanistan Ltd.) meaning “light” or “hope.” Today, Roshan is Afghanistan’s leading telecommunications operator, covering over 60% of the population and connecting 5 million active subscribers in 230 cities and towns across the country’s 34 provinces. Roshan is a major driver of reconstruction and socio-economic development in Afghanistan, having invested over $500 million in the country since inception in 2003. As Afghanistan’s single largest private investor and tax-payer, Roshan contributes approximately 5% of the Afghan Government’s overall revenue.

Roshan directly employs 1,200 people and provides indirect employment to over 30,000 people. Highlighting Roshan’s commitment to diversity, approximately 20% of staff are women, 90% are Afghan Nationals of various ethnicities and backgrounds, and 10% are expatriates from 16 countries around the world. Roshan strives to be the employer of choice in Afghanistan, investing heavily in employee education, training and mentorship programs to develop talent and capacity. The diverse members of the Roshan family share a common desire to thrive in a uniquely challenging business environment and to contribute to the future of Afghanistan.

The Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED), part of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), is a major shareholder of Roshan and promotes private initiatives in building economically sound enterprises in the developing world. Also owned in part by Monaco Telecom International (MTI) and TeliaSonera, Roshan continues to show strong investor confidence, setting the benchmark for how companies should operate competitively and with a social conscience, in post-conflict countries.

The Kabul Serena Hotel, another investment, was inaugurated in 2005, the first five-star hotel to open in Afghanistan in more than 35 years. The hotel, representing a US$39 million commitment, was built at the request of the Afghan Government to provide accommodation of an international standard for diplomats, investors and other travellers visiting the country. The hotel aims to aid the revival and development of central Kabul, and to help revive the crucial hospitality and tourism industries in Afghanistan. It directly employs nearly 400 people and emphasises the sourcing of materials from local producers, craftsmen and artists.

Through investments in Habib Bank, AKDN is making financial services available to Afghanistan’s entrepreneurs and burgeoning private sector. The Habib Bank has been able to draw on its experience in 26 countries to help update Afghanistan’s banking laws and regulations and to build capacity within the industry.


AKDN has pioneered the provision of innovative and flexible microfinance products in Afghanistan, which play an important role in driving economic development in rural areas. One aim is to discourage the cultivation and trafficking of opium and heroin. Microfinance has eased the burden on indebted farmers, in some cases allowing them to buy back land sold to drug barons.

Since 2002, AKDN’s Rural Microcredit Programme has disbursed more than 90,000 loans, totaling more than US$71 million. With nearly 30,000 active clients, the programme now operates in more than 50 rural districts across 12 provinces to create income-generating businesses and to encourage entrepreneurship.

In 2004, AKDN launched the First MicroFinanceBank of Afghanistan to operate primarily in urban areas, the first bank of its kind under the country’s new regulatory structure. FMFB provides microfinance to small businesses, helping Afghans to create productive and sustainable sources of income. It is the largest microfinance provider in Afghanistan, serving some 38,000 borrowers and savers in towns and cities in eight provinces. Since 2002, it has disbursed more than 60,000 loans, totaling US$100 million (Find out more on Microfinance in Afghanistan).

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