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. In Afghanistan, the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development has mobilised finance and expertise for various initiatives including the leading telecommunications provider in the country, Roshan and the first five-star hotel in the country, the Kabul Serena.
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. Roshan In 2003, AKDN and its partners launched Roshan (Telecom Development Company Afghanistan Ltd.) which means “light” or “hope” in Afghanistan’s two national languages. Today, Roshan is Afghanistan’s leading telecommunications operator, covering over 71% of the population and connecting 6.5 million active subscribers in 287 districts and cities across the country’s 34 provinces. Roshan also provides 3G services in 27 out of 34 provinces. Roshan is a major driver of reconstruction and socio-economic development in Afghanistan, having invested over $600 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 around 900 people and provides indirect employment to over 35,000 people. Highlighting Roshan’s commitment to diversity, approximately 19% of staff members are women and 97% are Afghan nationals. In addition, Afghans make up 73% of Roshan’s senior management out of whom 17% are women. 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. Kabul Serena 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. Habib Bank 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.