The Taliban administration will promote self-sufficiency and want international trade and investment, the acting trade minister said, as Afghanistan faces isolation and suspension of some humanitarian operations over restrictions on women.
“We will start a national self-sufficiency program, we will encourage all government administrations to use national products, we will also try to encourage people through mosques to support our national products,” Minister Haji Nooruddin Azizi told Reuters. “We will support any article that can help us to self-sufficiency.”
Another part of his strategy was to boost trade and foreign investment, he added.
“Those who were importing items into Afghanistan from abroad, they are asking us to provide them with opportunities to invest in Afghanistan and they want to invest here instead of importing from abroad.”
He said countries such as Iran, Russia and China were interested in trade and investment. Some of the projects being discussed are Chinese industrial parks and thermal power plants, with the participation of Russia and Iran.
Investors, already facing a lack of official recognition and sanctions hampering the country’s banking sector, face growing security concerns following attacks on foreign targets in Kabul claimed by Islamic State.
An attack on a hotel for Chinese business agents this month, which seriously injured several foreigners, could cause some to rethink investment, a senior member of China’s business community said.
Azizi said authorities were working to ensure security.
“We do everything we can so that our entrepreneurs are not harmed. The attack has not had any negative impact, (but) if it happened constantly, it could have it,” he said, referring to the investment environment.
Azizi laid out a plan to develop the industry by creating special economic zones on land formerly intended for U.S. military bases. He said his ministry was presenting the plan to the administration’s cabinet and economic commission.
He added that foreign investors were showing interest in Afghanistan’s more than $1 trillion mining sector. He said an iron ore mine in western Herat and a lead mine in central Ghor province had involved 40 companies in an auction and the results would be announced shortly.
He stated that Afghanistan would receive gas supplies, petroleum and wheat thanks to a major contract signed with Russia in September.
The Taliban-led administration is facing increasing isolation from policies in recent days restricting women’s access to public life, including attending university.
An order banning women from working in NGOs has disrupted the humanitarian sector, which provides urgent aid to millions of people, and some organizations have suspended operations amid the harsh winter.
Azizi did not comment on the new restrictions, but stated that her ministry had allocated 5 acres of land to a permanent exhibition center and a center for women-run businesses.
“We always support women investors,” she said.