Doing More Business and Less Aid: The Journey of a Market System Development Project in Afghanistan
Afghanistan is still engaged in a war that has lasted a generation and in which 3,804 civilians died from attacks last year. Foreign aid, which had been keeping the government propped up, has continuously promoted a business culture of government reliance rather than innovation and independence. The country continuously ranks as one of the most corrupt in the world, and the investment climate for new business opportunities is poor.
At the same time, Afghanistan has an employment challenge. As one of the youngest countries in the world, and with more than 400,000 youth joining a stagnant economy’s labour force each year, the number of youth who are unemployed, under-employed, or vulnerably employed grows by the day.
With an extremely challenging business climate and an immediate need to create jobs, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) funded the Road to Jobs (R2J) project to tackle both. The project was designed to address key constraints and strengthen the agriculture and manufacturing sectors' challenges in Northern Afghanistan so that the government and businesses could innovate, compete, and create more and better jobs for those who need them most.
The brief "Doing More Business and Less Aid: The Journey of a Market System Development Project in Afghanistan" describes how R2J, in collaboration with The Lab, has implemented a market systems development approach in this fragile setting to create more and better jobs that could be sustained and reach scale. The brief dives into the ways the project navigated early challenges to get businesses, government, and business associations on board with new ways of working and initiating systemic changes.