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Afghanistan gets its first shipment from Iran by railway

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(Last Updated On: December 6, 2020)

The first shipment of Iranian products arrived this week in Afghanistan via a new $75 million railroad that links Iran’s eastern city of Khaf to Herat.

This week’s shipment was dispatched as a trial run to detect possible problems on the route, Iranian media reports stated.

Construction of the railway began in April 2007 and was due to finish in 2009, but was delayed.“The first consignment of goods imported from Iran which included 500 tonnes of cement entered the country [Afghanistan] via the Herat-Khaf railway,” an Afghan official from Herat said.

The 130 km long Khaf-Herat railway is strategically important as it gives Afghanistan easy access to Iranian ports at Chabahar and Bandar Abbas.

According to the Afghanistan Railway Authority, the railway forms one of its most important regional connectivity projects, as it will provide the land-locked country with a link to Iranian ports and rail networks, Turkey, and Europe, Iranian media stated.

Freight traffic is predicted to be around two million tonnes a year, with imports to include oil, construction materials, and food and exports to include grain, dried fruit, plants and medical items.

The operation of a passenger service via this railway is also being considered. According to initial studies, passenger traffic could reach 321,000 passengers in a year.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said that “while the Khaf-Herat railway is to be inaugurated in the coming days as a symbol of great cooperation between the two countries, it is inevitable to take care of the suspicious actions of the ill-wishers of our relations [between Tehran and Kabul]”.

Mehr news agency reported that Iran’s exports to Afghanistan are projected to reach $2.7 billion by March next year.

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Afghanistan resumes export of talc stone from Nangarhar

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(Last Updated On: May 10, 2021)

Afghanistan has resumed the export of talc stone from a key mine in the country’s eastern province of Nangarhar, the Ministry of Industry and Commerce said on Sunday.

The ministry said in a statement that the process of exporting talc stone resumed recently.

“In the last two months, thousands of tons of talc stone have been exported from Nangarhar province, collecting nearly 100 million afghanis (about $1.3 million),” the statement read.

The export of the talc stone, which is used in many industries, including paper making, plastic, paint and coating, rubber, electric cable, pharmaceutical, cosmetics, dusting powder for babies and ceramics, stopped late last year.

According to the ministry, 37 talc stone processing factories operate in Nangarhar, providing employment for 5,000 people.

Most of the processed talc stone is exported to India, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Germany, the statement read.

The talc stone mines also exist in Kandahar, Kabul, Wardak, Logar, Kunar, Khost, Kapisa, and Parwan provinces.

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USAID facilitates trade between Pakistan and Uzbekistan via Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: May 7, 2021)

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), in collaboration with TCS Logistics in Pakistan, has successfully carried out a trial shipment of herbal medicines to Uzbekistan, from Karachi in Pakistan, via Afghanistan.

The shipment left Karachi on April 29 and arrived in Tashkent on Tuesday, the US Embassy in Uzbekistan said in a statement.

The pilot shipment was inline with the Transports Internationaux Routiers (TIR) Convention, a customs agreement that facilitates the international transport of goods.

The pilot is the first in a series of five planned trial runs to the countries of Central Asia through Afghanistan and China aimed at testing the viability of various routes for international transit to Central Asia and beyond under the TIR Convention.

The successful execution of the first pilot to Tashkent will build confidence among traders and transport operators from both sides to adopt TIR for cross border trade and transit and boost regional trade integration and connectivity, the statement read.

Officials at the Afghan Ministry of Industry and Trade said Thursday that for the first time, a commercial shipment of Pakistani health products arrived in Uzbekistan from Afghanistan in accordance with the TIR.

According to officials this is also in line with the Afghan government’s attempts to improve relations with neighboring countries.

Members of Afghanistan’s private sector have welcomed the move, calling for stronger trade ties between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

They express the hope that they will be able to transport their commercial goods to Central Asia through the TIR system.

Technical and financial support for the initiative has been provided by USAID through its Pakistan Regional Economic Integration activity in support of its ongoing assistance to Pakistan for streamlining TIR operations to enhance trade connectivity.

Additional support in destination countries for the execution of these pilots is being provided by the Competitiveness, Trade, and Jobs, another USAID-funded activity in Central Asia.

TCS Logistics is a leading Pakistani company providing courier, logistics and e-commerce services to the corporate sector, SMEs, and individual households both nationally and internationally.

It is the only logistics operator to date that has been licensed to carry out TIR operations by the Pakistan National Committee of the International Chamber of Commerce under the authorization of the International Road Transport Union.

The TIR Convention was signed in 1975 under the auspices of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE).

Pakistan acceded to the TIR Convention on July 24, 2015 and was declared as a ‘TIR operational country’ by the IRU on April 19, 2018. TIR is widely used for international transit of goods in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia and is being rapidly adopted in Afghanistan and Central Asian countries which are all contracting parties to the Convention, the US Embassy stated.

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Afghanistan’s GDP to expand by 3% in 2021: ADB

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(Last Updated On: April 28, 2021)

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) forecasts that Afghanistan’s gross domestic product GDP growth will increase by 3% in 2021 and 4% in 2022 after the normalization of business activity and market sentiment.

In its Asian Development Outlook (ADO) 2021 released on Wednesday, the ADB stated that Afghanistan’s economic growth is expected to recover this year and accelerate next year after a sharp decline in 2020 from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic and continued violence and instability.

“Afghanistan’s economy experienced unprecedented disruption in 2020 due to COVID-19 pandemic, political instability and continued violence, which cut remittances, trade, and revenue,” said ADB Country Director for Afghanistan Narendra Singru. 

“With a successful COVID-19 vaccine rollout and post-pandemic recovery, the country should be on track to achieve economic growth this year and in 2022 as business activity and market sentiment normalize,” Singru said.

According to the report, inflation more than doubled from 2.3% in 2019 to 5.6% in 2020 driven by higher food prices. Food price inflation in 2020 was estimated at 10% with the highest spike recorded in April when border closure and panic buying propelled it to 16.6%. Inflation is projected to moderate to 5.0% in 2021 and 4.0% in 2022 as food supplies improve.

However, risks remain, including implementing vaccinations in remote and insecure areas, conflict, criminality, corruption, political instability, and broader social fragility. If unaddressed, these could weigh heavily on the economy and impede recovery.

“Supporting the recovery of micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) hard hit by the pandemic is pivotal to safeguarding workers’ incomes and livelihoods, according to the report. Before the pandemic, MSMEs were estimated to provide nearly 1.6 million service and industry jobs. The government approved a 2-year support package worth $295 million in October 2020 to improve business conditions and implemented countercyclical measures that include support for MSMEs,” the report read.

The ADB suggests that Afghanistan should facilitate MSME access to markets by developing infrastructure, improving security, combating corruption, simplifying regulation, strengthening property rights and contract enforcement, and promoting innovation and better labor skills in order to improve the business environment.

“Increasing access to credit and further expanding the formal bank sector is also crucial,” the organization said.

“ADB is committed to achieving a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific while sustaining its efforts to eradicate extreme poverty. Established in 1966, it is owned by 68 members—49 from the region,” the report concluded.

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