Afghanistan—Competitiveness of Export-Oriented Businesses Activity (ACEBA)

Client: U.S. Agency for International Development

Duration: 2020-2025

Region: Eastern Europe and Central Asia

Country: Afghanistan

Solutions: Economic Growth

Many Afghan firms lack the competitive strength to maintain commercial viability in a distortion-free market, let alone to capture opportunities in export markets. The flagship economic growth project in USAID/Afghanistan’s portfolio, the Afghanistan Competitiveness of Export-Oriented Businesses Activity (ACEBA) project works to increase the competitiveness of export-oriented businesses, through a combination of key value chain support activities and export acceleration facilities designed to promote sustainable nationwide economic growth.

DAI’s market-oriented approach helps Afghan businesses increase the sales-worthiness of their products in international markets. We work with businesses from the inside to help fix their production processes, increase their productivity, and export products that meet international demand at competitive prices. ACEBA operates through “regional export accelerators” in the country’s main urban economic centers.

After a brief suspension of most activities between August and December 2021, ACEBA resumed work prioritizing livelihoods support, focusing on domestic production activities and humanitarian goods and services that will sustain households. The project supports activities that improve market performance, while maintaining existing efforts focused on its key value chains of saffron, cashmere, and carpets, and creates a new value chain for humanitarian goods and services.

ACEBA Carpet Apprentices.png

Sample Activities

  • Provide support to the implementation of key value chain interventions that will improve inputs, quality, and product development by exporters.
  • Diversify and expand exporters’ network of international buyers—supporting exporters in engagement of sales agents in export markets, hosting buyer-agent site visits to Afghanistan, participation in business visits to importers and industry trade events abroad, and the development of effective presence on e-commerce platforms.
  • Improve exporter access to credit and investment from local and/or international financial institutions and investors.
  • Implement tailored firm-level export strategies.
  • Identify and mitigate major constraints within targeted exporters’ supply chains.

Select Results

  • Placed 5,500 apprentices with 65 host companies to learn new skills to earn livelihoods and help support 41,000 household members. Each apprentice receives a stipend of $120 per month during the training period and the vast majority of those that have completed their apprenticeships are kept on in full-time employment. An additional 15,000 new apprentices will be placed with companies to learn alternative livelihoods by the end of January 2023.
  • Assisted the Ministry of Mines and Petroleum (MoMP), through a new process, to issue export certificates for 40,000 kg of lapis lazuli, 4.2 grams of emeralds, and 20.3 grams of rubies, collecting $7,637 in royalties. This is the first collection of royalties for gemstone exports that the MoMP has received in several years.
  • Partnered with Label STEP, the world’s only fair-trade nonprofit committed to the wellbeing of weavers and workers in the handmade carpet industry, to support Afghan carpet exporters by strengthening supply chain integration, quality control, and production management. Label STEP will organize weavers on local levels and cooperate with local producers and exporters to increase the weavers’ integration in the value chain, improve access to quality control, support production management, and enhance product quality.
  • Trained 14,100 cashmere and wool producers on cashmere and wool sorting and better animal care. Producers received vouchers for feed and animal health services, all with the goal of protecting and improving vulnerable livelihoods by increasing the quality of wool and cashmere produced and earning higher incomes.
  • By July 2022, sales facilitated through the stop shop network stood at 6,058 kilograms of cashmere worth $152,000 and 155 metric tons of wool worth $260,000.
  • Provided $1.9 million in working capital advances to 18 Afghan businesses to help them overcome liquidity challenges and restart operations or expand production. This support has been critical to sustaining or providing livelihoods for an estimated 15,000 households.
  • Provided nearly $1.6 million in grant funding to carpet companies to develop or expand their finishing capacity. The second-largest employer in the country after agriculture, carpet production sustains livelihoods for tens of thousands of Afghans.
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