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.

To date, more than 76,000 people have received support to restore their livelihoods or develop a new livelihood, benefitting almost 700,000 household members.

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.
  • Provide support to female-led livelihoods across all value chains.

Select Results

  • Trained 24,561 Afghans, primarily women, across 59 districts and provincial centers in 22 provinces of Afghanistan through apprenticeships. More than 12,000 of these individuals (80.4 percent women) have successfully secured employment, thus supporting their families.
  • Resurrected commercial relationships between key international carpet buyers and Afghan carpet producers, resulting in successful trade deals. ACEBA secured orders for 7,026 square meters of Afghan handmade carpets valued at $707,817. This initiative has played a pivotal part in fostering durable and long-term commercial relationships that promise to continue thriving beyond the ACEBA project’s lifespan, ultimately benefitting the entire industry.
  • Established 600 stop-shops and central hubs providing veterinary, feed, consultation, and sales information services to the goat and sheep herder community. By December 2023, the sales of cashmere and wool through the stop-shops have amounted to over $3.9 million. Herders have successfully sold more than 117 tons of sorted and graded cashmere and have obtained an average price premium of 8 percent compared to unsorted cashmere sold at the village level.
  • Trained more than 36,000 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.
  • Collaborated with 15 partner businesses to implement a comprehensive training program for saffron farmers within their networks across the primary saffron-producing districts of Herat Province, including Ghoryan, Guzara, Injil, Karukh, Obe, Pashton Zarghon, Shindand, Zindajan, and Zawol. Through this initiative, ACEBA trained more than 10,000 farmers, 34 percent of whom were women.
  • Established an operational logistics chain and created an Afghan saffron brand that has gained worldwide recognition for its superior quality. This has been achieved through participation in international trade shows, resulting in the overall sale of Afghan saffron worth $770,000.
  • Provided $4.6 million in Business Recovery Initiative working capital advances to 43 Afghan businesses, assisting them in overcoming liquidity challenges and restarting or expanding their operations. These advances have created direct livelihood opportunities for approximately 44,000 individuals, of which 84 percent are women, and indirect livelihood opportunities for around 136,000 individuals, with 52 percent being women.
  • Partnered, through a subcontract with AlemHealth Technologies Ltd., with 31 small to medium-sized private healthcare clinics across 14 provinces in Afghanistan, benefiting more than 27,500 individual patients. On average, ACEBA’s support has covered 61 percent of the clinics’ revenue, enabling them to aim towards self-sustainability with minimal assistance from ACEBA.


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