Products made by trainees are sold at the Dairy Processing Centre in Takhar - In rural Afghanistan, the Aga Kh...


In 2017, more than 1,100 young men and women (78% women) in rural Afghanistan received market-driven vocationa...

AKDN / Farzana Wahidy

To improve access to markets for micro entrepreneurs, the Aga Khan Foundation in Afghanistan has helped constr...

AKDN / Farzana Wahidy

The AKDN project company Roshan, Afghanistan's leading telecommunications operator, provides mobile phone serv...


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Afghanistan | Economic Development


35,000 people have access to electricity for the first time

Roshan, an Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED) project company and Afghanistan’s leading total communications provider, has nearly six million active subscribers and a network that covers over 240 cities and towns in all of the country’s 34 provinces.

AKDN / Roshan

Infrastructure Development

These projects include:

  • systems for potable water and irrigation;

  • sanitation systems that improve health;

  • roads and bridges that provide access to markets;

  • hydroelectric plants that light homes and provide power for industry; and

  • mobile phone networks that have helped restore national telecommunications.

Today, they are often vital components of the overall quality of life.

Roshan, an Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED) Project Company

In 2003, AKDN and our partners launched Roshan (Telecom Development Company Afghanistan Ltd.). Today, Roshan is a genuine driver of reconstruction and socio-economic development in Afghanistan. It has invested over US$ 600 million in the country since 2003, turning an impediment to progress into a beacon of hope. Not coincidentally, Roshan means “light” or “hope” in Afghanistan’s two national languages.

It has a network covering more than 287 districts and cities across the country’s 34 provinces. In 2021 it had 6.5 million subscribers. It is also Afghanistan’s single largest private investor and taxpayer, contributing approximately five percent of the country's overall revenue. Roshan directly employs around 650 people and provides indirect employment to over 30,000 people, making it one of the largest private employers in the country. The Harvard Business School issued a case study on Roshan and Fortune magazine added it to its 2015 list of companies that were “Changing the World”.

From May 2017 to April 2020, the Aga Khan Foundation and it partners undertook the Improving Adolescents’ Lives in Afghanistan programme to work with over 176,720 adolescents and young adults in the Afghan central highlands, helping them to gain the confidence and skills and opportunities necessary to act as effective agents of change in their communities.

AKF Afghanistan / David Marshall Fox

Employable Skills

In partnership with Badakhshan University, UCA provides training in English, IT, accounting, teacher education and other postgraduate studies. To date, UCA has engaged nearly 3,500 Afghan youth and adults in vocational and professional development courses.

The Skills Development Programme aims to provide practical, industry-relevant training to unemployed and under-employed youth. The programme supports young people in local communities to improve their knowledge and skills, increasing their employability by preparing them for the competitive labour market.

The programme offers basic and advanced management and soft skills training, in addition to local context-specific training. The programme also provides local labour market demand-driven accredited courses on information technology, vocational training and human resources development.

AKF provides skills training to young women and men in order to enhance employment. This includes helping women graduates unlock employment and self-employment opportunities.

The Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED) has begun exporting the hydroelectricity generated by the Pamir 1 facility in Tajikistan to tens of thousands of families in northern Afghanistan.

AKDN / Christopher Wilton-Steer


According to the UN Human Development Report, 789 million people, most of whom live in sub-Saharan Africa, lack access to electricity. Total global energy demand is expected to double between 2018 and 2050. As pressure to reduce emissions in both the developed and developing world increases, access to clean, reliable energy will become not only an issue of technology, but of equity and fairness.

In the quest for sustainable energy sources, remote communities in developing countries pose special challenges. In the mountainous regions of Central Asia and northern Pakistan, villages are often isolated, and far removed from any functioning electricity grid.

AKFED has begun exporting the hydroelectricity generated by the Pamir 1 facility in Tajikistan to tens of thousands of families in northern Afghanistan. Through eight cross-border energy projects, four percent of Badakhshan Province in Afghanistan (some 35,000 people and over 200 government and commercial entities) has been electrified for the first time. Find out more

AKDN's work to create viable enterprises in both small villages and big cities in Afghanistan, include training in construction, service, beekeeping, handicrafts and agriculture. Some 75% of the trainees have found jobs or started their own businesses.

AKDN / Farzana Wahidy

Enterprise Development

We seek to create economically sound and viable enterprises, both in small or remote villages and in big cities. Our programmes have worked across the spectrum, both for the benefit of poultry farmers in Afghanistan and the creation of large-scale hydroelectric plants in Uganda that provide half the nation’s electricity.

We are guided by our own experience in husbanding companies and institutions which have now grown into large institutions, taking their place on the stock exchanges of developing countries. Many of those large institutions began as entities that were run by a few people. We also work to build many of the characteristics of healthy, robust economies, including employable skills, support for small- and medium-sized companies and savings and credit programmes that increase financial inclusion.

AKF, for example, works not only to bring prosperity to a region, but also puts into place the means to do so, building roads, bridges and markets. Its “Accelerate Prosperity” programme promotes entrepreneurship, placing emphasis on women and youth entrepreneurship, and the growth of start-up and early stage businesses. It also focuses on skills development in vocational and technical trades.

AKAM supports these efforts by providing finance to, among others, entrepreneurs and small- and medium-sized companies. Its ultimate aim, of course, is to support entrepreneurs to create the means for expanding their businesses and becoming a part of the nation’s productive infrastructure.

AKFED, which works with other AKDN agencies and often collaborates with local and international development partners, creates and operates companies that provide goods and services essential to economic development. These range from banking to electric power, agricultural processing, hotels, airlines and telecommunications. AKFED takes a long-term view in order to build viable, self-sustaining and profitable companies.

Kabul Serena (an AKFED Project Company)

The Kabul Serena Hotel, another significant investment, was inaugurated in 2005, the first five-star hotel to open in Afghanistan in more than 35 years. The hotel, representing a US$ 39 million commitment, was built at the request of the Afghan Government at that time to provide accommodation of an international standard for diplomats, investors and other travellers visiting the country. The hotel aims to aid the revival and development of central Kabul, and to help revive the crucial hospitality and tourism industries in Afghanistan. It directly employs nearly 400 people, bolstering the economy through the sourcing of materials from local producers, craftsmen and artists.

In all of these approaches, there is an emphasis on the development of local human resources over time, whether in remote and impoverished villages or in major cities in the developing world.

“Now our roles have changed, and it is more equal to that of men. We feel a part of the household now,” says Benazir (front centre), the accountant of Hamisha Bahar community-based savings group.

AKDN / Conrad Koczorowski

Financial Inclusion

AKF has supported over 4,000 community-based savings groups (CBSGs) to facilitate access to financial services for remote and marginalised communities in Afghanistan. CBSGs provide a secure, convenient place to save and take small loans on flexible terms, helping poor rural households to smooth erratic incomes and cope with emergencies.

About 40 percent of these groups have graduated and no longer require support. Women constitute over 70 percent of the total membership (56,430 members). The groups’ cumulative savings to date are $2.8 million. Building on this success, since 2016 we have been federating these groups into cluster CBSGs to achieve community development projects at a larger scale.