Afghanistan and conflict are synonyms since I can remember. The war in Afghanistan has resulted in problems that make life harder each year. Despite the Afghan government and the international community’s efforts, Afghanistan’s peace is still out of sight.
Stopping conflict and violence requires a good understanding of its root causes. Considering the relation between economic development and peace-building in Afghanistan, we can find out that unequal distribution of resources, unemployment, economic deprivation, and, most importantly, lack of hope and a clear image for a country’s future have formed a cycle that is difficult to breakthrough.
But instead of looking back, this time, I want to look at the issue from the opposite side. Imagine a situation where peace is in place and people are happy; what would have happened?
I believe many factors should be put together to have a peaceful country. The existence of economic opportunities is undoubtedly one of the most important contributors. Many scholars and practitioners have come to see entrepreneurship as both a job creator and a peace incubator, particularly in post-conflict settings[i];. However, the conflict in Afghanistan is ongoing; it is so at a reduced level. Entrepreneurs will contribute to economic growth and can lead Afghanistan towards peace. Conflict happens in the absence of peaceful ideas. Even further, entrepreneurship is a source for innovation, solutions to problems, and a new image for Afghanistan’s future. It can be considered a solution to the tension brought by unemployment and lack of economic opportunity.
A growing number of entrepreneurs and a vibrant local private sector in conflict zones will contribute to peacebuilding. Every entrepreneur and business relies on good relationships with consumers and suppliers and can be considered brokers for peacebuilding. They can be the link between the government and the opposite side of the conflict to ensure a stable economic environment which is not a theory. A strong relationship between the government and entrepreneurs supported peace in Tunisia and Columbia years ago.
Entrepreneurship as a source of employment and job opportunities, as economic deprivation and unemployment can undermine peace. Most of the time, those who join terrorist groups like the Taliban in Afghanistan have lost a perspective for their future, often enhanced by long periods of unemployment. As the government itself cannot hire all the unemployed and usually is not itself an economic actor in producing goods or providing services, the private sector and entrepreneurship, in particular, can fill the gap. The more entrepreneurs a community has, the more job opportunities will be created, the more innovation will be added to an economy, and the more perspectives will be provided for individuals. This scenario will lower the incentives to join terrorist groups.
One could say a lack of a future perspective does cause that conflict and discrimination among the different ethnic groups, like Pashtuns, Hazaras, and Tajiks in Afghanistan. Discrimination can be based on many potential reasons. However, overall, all Afghan ethics have in common, and that is their desire to live in economically prosperous societies. So why not use this common ground and invest in it?
In the end, I believe the Afghan government, together with the established private sector, can play an essential role in fostering entrepreneurship by improving the business environment, provide access to resources, offer training, and, after all, promote an entrepreneurial spirit. Innovation hubs, where entrepreneurs can collaborate, learn, and operate, could function as germ cells for an entrepreneurial movement. But we should also not forget that access to capital and funding is another essential factor for a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem.
So, let’s start an entrepreneurial movement in Afghanistan so that these innovative personalities can develop solutions to existing problems and contribute to an economically stable and developed country, where each question is seen as an opportunity!
[i] Roy Laishley, “After War, Creating Jobs for Peace,” Africa Renewal Online, April 2009, available at