In its economic development activities in Afghanistan, AKDN makes large-scale strategic investments in Afghanistan’s economic development creating replicable models that other investors can use when following suit. 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, not simply on bottom-line profitability. Profits that are generated are then reinvested in development initiatives.
In the process, the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED) 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 Hotel.
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 a genuine driver of reconstruction and socio-economic development in Afghanistan. It has invested over US$ 600 million in the country since 2003, turning an impediment to progress into a beacon of hope. Not coincidentally, Roshan means “light” or “hope” in Afghanistan’s two national languages.
As of 2017, Roshan was present in 287 districts and cities across the country’s 34 provinces. It is also Afghanistan’s single largest private investor and taxpayer, contributing approximately 5 percent of the Afghan Government’s overall revenue. Roshan directly employs around 900 people and provides indirect employment to over 35,000 people, making it one of the largest private employers in the country. The Harvard Business School issued a case study on Roshan and Fortune magazine named it to its 2015 list of companies that were “Changing the World”.provinces.
The Kabul Serena Hotel, another significant 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 travelers 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, bolstering the economy through 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.