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Afghanistan: Doing business and staying in touch

Doing Business in Afghanistan

Price bargaining is expected and oral agreements are honoured. Formal wear is expected and meetings should be pre-arranged.

Business is a personal thing in Afghanistan, and you should try to forge a strong relationship with your business partner. Bear in mind that prestige and honour are hugely important in Afghanistan, so never intentionally - or unintentionally - damage these.

Office Hours

Generally Sat-Wed 0800-1200 and 1300-1630, Thurs 0800-1330

Economy

Decades of continuous war have completely wrecked the Afghan economy. Reconstruction of the agricultural sector, which accounted for about half of GDP, has been severely hampered by abandonment of farms and the huge number of minefields. This has led to falling food stocks and Afghanistan has had to rely on foreign aid. The lack of funding has led many farmers to rely on growing opium and selling it illegally to survive - a practice the current government is trying to end.

There have been some positive advancements in recent years: in January 2003, Afghanistan signed a trilateral trade agreement with Iran and India that designated the Iranian port of Chabahar as a major port for Afghanistan. In May 2008, Afghanistan agreed a US$2.8 billion contract with China for a project on copper extraction, which it is estimated will provide 20,000 jobs.

GDP

US$11.7 billion (2008).

Main exports

Fruit, nuts, carpets, natural gas and cotton.

Main imports

Capital goods, food, textiles and petroleum products.

Main trading partners

Pakistan, the EU, India, Russia, Kenya and Korea (Rep).

Keeping in Touch in Afghanistan

Telephone

There is generally a severe shortage of lines for operator-connected international calls.

Mobile Phone

There is coverage in cities such as Kabul and Herat, and in other small pockets throughout the country.

Internet

The first public Internet service opened in Kabul in late 2003, and several post offices have since been fitted with Internet connections.

Media

Afghanistan's media were seriously restricted under Taleban rule. In late 2001, Radio Afghanistan returned to the air in Kabul after the Taleban deserted the capital. One of the first signs of change was the music broadcast over Radio Afghanistan for the first time in five years. Days later, Kabul TV was back on the air, with a woman presenting the news. Afghanistan's newly-invigorated press enjoys freedom of expression, although print runs are small. A law bans media criticism of Islam and other religions. Kabul Times is an official, English-language newspaper; Kabul Weekly is a private, English-language publication. Foreign radio stations on the air in Kabul include BBC, Radio France Internationale and Deutsche Welle; USA-funded stations include Radio Free Afghanistan, which uses the name Azadi Radio, and the Voice of America, which brands its Dari and Pashto broadcasts as Radio Ashna ('Friend').