Thursday marked another milestone in Afghanistan’s modern history when President Ashraf Ghani inaugurated the new fiber optic connection between Turkmenistan and the commercial port of Aqina in Afghanistan’s Faryab province.
Within four months of having signed the memorandum of understanding with government the Afghan Wireless Communication Company (AWCC) had successfully completed the task of connecting the two neighboring countries.
In a virtual address at the launch, Dr Ehsan Bayat, the founder and chairman of AWCC, said he was “delighted” to celebrate the company’s success in connecting Afghanistan with its friends in Turkmenistan – especially given the past year that has involved unprecedented challenges due to the coronavirus pandemic, which also impacted people’s ability to connect with each other across the globe.
“When Afghan Wireless embarked on the journey to build Afghanistan’s largest nationwide fiber network, we did so with the goal of realizing President Ghani’s vision to transform the country into a hub of digital data connectivity for Central Asia.
“Today marks an important milestone in the building of a digital silk road across the region with Afghanistan at its center; a road that will connect millions of Afghans to the digital economy.
He said the latest optical fiber connection, between Afghanistan and Turkmenistan, is the country’s fifth and sixth international border connections. Others include Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Pakistan.
“From Mazar to Jalalabad, and from Kabul to Kandahar to Kunduz, communities across the country are benefiting from high-speed connectivity. And now our connection to Turkmenistan through Torghundi and Aqina will enable Herat and western cities to become Afghanistan’s next major bridge for digital transformation,” he said.
However, Bayat stated that the impact of AWCC’s project should not be measured in kilometers of fiber laid, or megabytes of data transmitted, or even money invested but instead, it should be measured by the industries revitalized, the local businesses boosted, the jobs created, the pace of economic development and the enhancement to critical services in health, education, commerce and finance.
“This project could not be delivered without Afghanistan and Turkmenistan working together.
“Afghan Wireless’ optical fiber connection between the two countries that we are celebrating today is a powerful testament that when we work hand in hand with our neighbors, not only do we strengthen our countries individually, but we also strengthen our region together,” he said.
The Turkmenistan to Aqina cable has the capacity to transfer 2,500 megabits of the Internet and can therefore provide high quality and cheap Internet to Faryab province.
According to the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, a fiber-optic network is the result of the rapid development of telecommunications and information technology, which has become an integral part of modern life.
The ministry states that along with the progression of technology and innovation, the shape and quality of tools have also changed to a great extent.
At the beginning of the invention of the telephone, copper cables were used to transmit information and sound, but today, with the advancement of technology and increasing human needs, these cables have been replaced by a new generation of signal conductors or fiber optics.
Because of the need for fast and cheap digital connectivity in the country, Government has already connected a total of 25 provinces in the country with the national fiber-optic network.
Efforts underway to safeguard Afghan women’s property rights
Through the Afghanistan Land Administration Project (ALASP) the government of Afghanistan has started distributing property Occupancy Certificates for land owners with priority for women.
World Bank reported that while Afghanistan’s laws give women equal rights to own land and property, ignorance, weak law enforcement, and social norms have combined to deprive Afghan women of their property rights.
According to the article, experts estimate that less than five percent of land ownership documents in Afghanistan include the name of a female owner.
Given the social, economic, and cultural importance of property ownership, equitable access to land is key to empowering Afghan women.
In the article it stated that excluding women from owning land or property has led to their marginalization in political and economic spheres and limited their decision-making roles at home and in communities.
As such, equal access to land ownership is key to empowering Afghan women, the article stated.
The Ministry of Urban Development and Land (MUDL) however has reportedly been improving land administration and promoting better access to registration services, especially for women.
Supported by a number of agencies, and financed by the World Bank, this project has so far resulted in MUDL having issued 34,370 Occupancy Certificates (OC) and more than half include a woman’s name.
These initiatives have helped many Afghan women acquire certificates that prove their rightful ownership and protect them from eviction, encroachment, or dispute. The legal documents also guarantee they can pass on their property to their children and shield them from homelessness, the World Bank article stated.
The article also stated that consistent with the new legal framework, co-titling for occupants of state land is mandatory, and husbands are now required to include their wives’ names on the certificates.
In addition, there is also now dedicated help desks in eight provinces to support women seeking an Occupation Certificate, encourage female enrollment, and facilitate co-registration.
SIGAR finds over $2 billion in capital assets wasted in Afghanistan
The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) has found that of the nearly $7.8 billion in capital assets in Afghanistan, paid for by the US, about $2.4 billion in assets is unused, abandoned, or destroyed.
The report to Congress released on Monday morning summarizes all capital assets in Afghanistan paid for by US agencies that SIGAR found in its prior work to be “unused, not used for their intended purposes, deteriorated or destroyed.”
The capital assets reviewed were funded by the US Department of Defense, USAID, OPIC, and the State Department to build schools, prisons, a hotel, hospitals, roads, bridges, and Afghan military facilities.
The report stated that of the nearly $7.8 billion in capital assets reviewed in its prior reports, SIGAR identified about $2.4 billion in assets that were unused or abandoned, had not been used for their intended purposes, had deteriorated, or were destroyed.
SIGAR also found that more than $1.2 billion out of the $7.8 billion in assets were being used as intended, and only $343.2 million out of the $7.8 billion in assets were maintained in good condition.
Most of the capital assets not used properly or in disrepair or abandoned are directly related to US agencies not considering whether the Afghans wanted or needed the facilities, or whether the Afghan government had the financial ability and technical means to sustain them, the report read.
It also stated that this waste of taxpayer dollars occurred despite multiple laws stating that US agencies should not construct or procure capital assets until they can show that the benefiting country has the financial and technical resources, and capability to use and maintain those assets effectively.
According to Special Inspector General John F. Sopko, “SIGAR’s work reveals a pattern of US agencies pouring too much money, too quickly, into a country too small to absorb it.”
“The fact that so many capital assets wound up not used, deteriorated, or abandoned should have been a major cause of concern for the agencies financing these projects.
“The lesson of all of this is two-fold. If the United States is going to pay for reconstruction or development in Afghanistan or anywhere else in the world, first make certain the recipient wants it, needs it, and can sustain it. Secondly, make certain before you spend the money there is proper oversight to prevent this type of waste,” Sopko said.
28 production and trade companies participate in Gulfood 2021 Exhibition
The Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL) says that 28 production, processing, and trade companies from Afghanistan have participated in the Gulfood 2021 International Exhibition.
The 2021 edition of Gulfood is being held between the 21st and 25th of February at Dubai International Exhibition Center.
Habibullah Habibi, director of private sector development at the Ministry says that the expo is an exceptional and very important opportunity for Afghan traders to introduce Afghan agricultural and livestock products to the world.
Afghan traders participated in the exhibition with the assistance of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and in coordination with the Ministry of Agriculture; these products included saffron, dried fruits, herbs, honey and processed fruits, and dozens of other products.
Gulfood International exhibition is one of the largest food exhibitions in the world, with traders from more than 85 countries participating.
This year, as in previous years, tens of thousands of visitors and businessmen are expected to visit the exhibition.
According to ministry officials, Afghan products were welcomed at the exhibition and more than $ 100 million worth of contracts were awarded for the sale of Afghan agricultural and livestock products.
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