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Dushanbe hosts Afghan business expo
By Jamila Sujud
DUSHANBE – Visitors found big savings at last week’s Afghan trade show in Dushanbe, and Afghanistan might have found a strengthened business relationship with Tajikistan.
“The same watch costs twice a much at a jewellery store as it does here", said Dushanbe resident Gulnoz, who bought a watch made of silver. "I bought an upscale product”.
More than 300 businesspeople representing 70 companies from key Afghan cities attended. Tajikistan’s and Afghanistan’s chambers of commerce and industry (TCCI and ACCI, respectively) organised the event.
The expo was designed to enhance co-operation between the two countries, TCCI Deputy Chairman Asanali Karamaliyev said. “I think that such expositions should become a regular event”, he said.
The purpose of the expo was to inform Tajiks about the economic achievements of Afghanistan’s people, ACCI Vice President Khanjan Alokozai said.
“We hope that as result of the exposition we will succeed in signing even more contracts and agreements between our countries”, he said.
But difficulties in obtaining Tajik visas hinder the development of bilateral business operations, Alokozai said. Afghan entrepreneurs are forced to buy visas on the black market for US $500-600, when they should cost US $100, Gulomsaid Hasan, a Kabul businessman, said.
Zabiulloh Amonzoda, another Kabul businessman, mentioned other problems: Tajik schools do not accept Afghan children living with their families in Tajikistan and the Tajik labour market has no demand for young Afghan workers.
Retailer Navruz Sahizai, a Pashtun, said it makes sense for the two countries to collaborate. "Afghanistan is unsafe but does have money, while Tajikistan is stable and calm, but most people here are poor”, he said.
Tajik government representatives promised to look for ways to resolve the problems.
Russian entrepreneurs attended the expo, hoping to break into Afghan business.
Ahmad Zekerya Tohi, a director of the ACCI Foreign Trade Mission, said he hoped many contracts would result. Last year’s expo yielded US $4.5m in bilateral contracts.
“Having been in Afghanistan, I noticed how many Afghan companies see Tajikistan as a transit corridor for shipping goods, particularly to China”, TCCI Representative to Afghanistan Alijon Shoyev said.
“The mere fact that there are prospects headed this way shows that Tajik entrepreneurs need to think about this", Shoyev said.
"Tajik specialists are in demand in various sectors of Afghanistan’s economy, but the unstable situation makes it impossible to exploit this (demand) to its fullest”.
Afghan goods such as jewellery, clothing and food were on sale at the expo.
Baku resident Vagif came to the expo and bought jewellery for everyone in his family. “The prices at the expo compare favourably … and I have no doubts about the items’ authenticity”, he said.