View as Webpage NEWS RELEASE – For Immediate Release For more information contact: Michele Chynoweth, Marketing Specialist Email: [email protected] Phone: 302-656-7905 Delaware/Afghanistan Joint Trade Conference A Huge Success “Afghanistan Beyond the Headlines” World Trade Centers’ Virtual Conference featured list of VIP Global Speakers Kabul, Afghanistan, March 9, 2021—Business leaders from Delaware and Afghanistan met via a “live” virtual conference hosted by the World Trade Center Delaware and WTC Kabul to hear about a host of present and future opportunities for trade and investment between both countries and take advantage of a wide range of resources readily available. Featuring a VIP speaker line-up that included U.S. and Afghanistan Embassy officials and government leaders, experts from the World Bank, US Department of Commerce and local businesses, the two-hour conference was the start of what World Trade Center Delaware President Carla Stone promised would become an ongoing partnership and continued talks to come. “We are already planning a second program so stay tuned,” she said. U.S. Senator Chris Coons and U.S. Rep. Lisa Blunt-Rochester addressed the conference virtually, encouraging US businesses that now is the best time to partner with Afghanistan in terms of trade, investment and doing business there. “With President Biden and the new administration, the US is ready and willing to be a partner on the world stage,” Rep. Rochester stated. The conference gained its name because there is a distinct difference between how Afghanistan is viewed in the news and the reality that it has made great strides in the past several years to foster a more secure, progressive climate for U.S. companies to do more business there said Zabihullah Ziarmal, CEO of CEFE Group International and Chairman of WTC Kabul. Instead of “war and conflict, violence and instability, poverty and corruption” the reality is that there is “life and business, hope and prosperity and lots of business opportunities in terms of trade and investment” there, he said. Ranked as the top country in trade growth with $1 billion in exports and a goal to increase that to $2 billion in 2023, H.E. Roya Rahmani, Afghan Ambassador to the United States and the first female ambassador from Afghanistan, attributed this growth to the huge youth population in her country. She said that sixty-five percent of the Afghan population is under twenty-five years old, eager to work, have never known a world without a close US-Afghan partnership, and are invested in future industries like telecom, Fintech and biotechnology. While Afghanistan produces traditional products such as spices, new industries such as energy and minerals offer opportunities as well, conference leaders added. For example, there is one trillion dollars’ worth of lithium that is unmined, and the country is home to fourteen of seventeen rare earth minerals. Ian J. McCary, Deputy Chief of Mission, U.S. Embassy Kabul said the country is in “a pivotal point in its history” despite the ups and downs it has faced, making great progress in infrastructure, security, financing and even social issues such as improved education and opportunities for women and minorities. McCary said there are over 4,000 products to be imported and that businesses now more than ever can work within the country’s “system of preferences” that supports doing trade there, which is backed by its government. Through its five-year comprehensive plan, Afghanistan’s objectives include improving transit, legal channels, industrial growth, increasing imports and exports, establishing governmental “one stop shops” that focus on cutting the cost of doing business and creating public-private partnerships. There are 148 projects currently ready in mining and energy, and a portfolio of $4.5 billion in investments waiting to be had. Diplomats at the conference said there are already more than 6000 companies in Afghanistan’s new electronic “procurement portal” and legal blocks are being removed to pave the way for US companies who are doing business there, including General Motors, with 322 opportunities already on the horizon in the coming year. Christopher D. Clement, Sr. Dir., Government Affairs Siemens Energy, Inc. shared its success story at the conference. With 11,000 employees and legacy healthcare and rail operations based in Delaware, Siemens established an energy presence in Afghanistan in 2019 when it built the first natural gas power plant to be installed there since the 1970s giving power to 200,000 homes, meeting “Afghanistan’s high demand for electricity but insufficient domestic supply.” Clement said Siemens’ success shows how important public-private partnerships are for small to mid-sized businesses that may not have the huge size and scale of larger corporations. Siemens was aided by its partnerships with the government of Afghanistan, its banks, the US Embassy, Dept. of Commerce and World Bank to name a few, which were all represented here at the conference. “It’s good to have a strong team to support you,” he said. Similar to the Delaware Prosperity Partnership, Afghanistan has a PPP (Public Private Partnership) and is opening legal and electronic banking opportunities like the new e-portal of the National Procurement Authority known as AGEOPS.net. which will “cut red tape” and “expedite, streamline and boost investor security,” said Kabir Khan Isakhel, Chief Legal Advisor to the President of Afghanistan. He said that just today, five of six PPP projects were approved, and the goal is to make Afghanistan an “investment destination.” Eric Casey, CEO of GT USA the Port of Wilmington, encouraged Afghan businesses to look at Delaware’s Port as being a viable option for its exports, especially fruits, vegetables, tree nuts snack foods, spices, teas and other perishable goods that can be distributed and sold quickly from the easily accessible hub. Other speakers at the conference included Atta Nasib, General Dir. Afghanistan Investment Facilitation Unit Harris Manan, Dir. General of Afghanistan President’s Office for Policy & Strategy, Abdul Hadi Nijrabi, Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of Afghanistan, DC, Jocelyn A. Steiner, Attorney Advisor, Office of the General Counsel of the United States Department of Commerce, Nancy Bikondo-Omosa, Senior Procurement Specialist The World Bank and Abdul Qadir Bayman, Founder & CEO, World Trade Center Kabul Afghanistan. Business owners from small start-ups to large global companies were given the chance to ask questions of the panels and world leaders on the virtual conference stage which was supported by the World Trade Center Washington D.C. and World Trade Center Harrisburg (PA). For more information visit World Trade Center Delaware at www.wtcde.com. World Trade Center® Kabul - Founded in 2020, WTC Kabul is the newest member of the World Trade Centers Association. Currently under construction, and opening at the end of 2021, the WTC Kabul’s campus will be an iconic 5-star property consisting of a deluxe office and apartment/ hotel complex, retail shops, and other facilities and amenities. It will be both the headquarters for established global companies and an incubator for aspiring global entrepreneurs and an exciting and vibrant international hub in the heart of Kabul. https://wtc.af/ World Trade Center® Delaware is the state’s premier international business resource. We help companies grow their international business through our membership with the World Trade Centers Association, a global network of 320 World Trade Centers in nearly 100 countries. Our connections help local businesses succeed in new markets, increase profitability, expand employment and attract investment. We provide trade leads, training programs, job leads, networking, matchmaking, and inbound and outbound trade mission opportunities to all types of companies in various sectors. The result is that our members and clients can deliver higher quality goods and services while saving time and money. Delaware is the Eastern Gateway to the United States and World Trade Center Delaware is the Key.™ For more information visit us at at www.wtcde.com. Watch the Conference Here!