Business, the right strategy to unite Afghans and ensure their prosperity

The collapse of democracy in Afghanistan has hit the people of Afghanistan hard economically, psychologically and socially. Isolated from the international community and governed by an interim authority with strict medieval policies, Afghanistan has been pushed into destitution and on to the brink of an ethnic civil war in waiting.

These catastrophic circumstances have posed major challenges for the people of Afghanistan and its diaspora communities in United Kingdom, America, Europe and around the world, resulting in confusion, resentment and growing hateful polarisation.

Let down by politics at home and abroad, business must become the strategy to bring the British, American, European and global Afghans together to achieve unity and prosperity.

The large and rapidly growing communities of Afghans living in UK, USA, Europe, Middle East and Asia have have easily integrated into the fabric of society in these countries, regarded as melting pots of cultural diversity.

However, despite Afghanistan’s rich history as the gateway between Sumerian and Indus civilisation, and the rulers of the Persian and Indian empires, Afghans have lagged behind other Asian communities in taking economic, political and social leadership outside Afghanistan.

But change is definitely in the air and business is the key to the change. Just this year, the richest Afghan billionaire and one of Middle East’s biggest innovators in the real estate sector, Mirwais Azizi, Chairman of Azizi Group, said that his pipeline of construction projects will put the foundations of the greatest landmarks in countries across the world, each a tribute to the contribution of Afghans.

Similar sentiments are shared by the young Afghan entrepreneurs rapidly rising and owning small and medium sized business across London, New York, Paris, Berlin, Dubai, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Sydney and Toronto.

In London, young Afghan entrepreneurs are already buying up businesses once owned by Indian, Pakistani, Irish, Afro-Caribbean, Turkish, Iranian and Jewish businessmen. The rich heritage of Afghanistan and multilingual backgrounds of its people, give a Afghans a unique advantage when it comes to working with the diverse communities of London. Whether it is South London from Croydon to Peckham, East London from Brick Lane to Ilford, North London from Camden to Watford or West London from Shepard Bush to Southall, the diversity and presence of Afghan businesses is as great as the communities of London.

The incredible thing about business and entrepreneurship within Afghan diaspora communities, don’t divide our people like polarising politicians do but rather bring them together offering unique opportunities for collaboration, partnership and investment, paving the way for unity and prosperity, as it did in the past for the Jewish and Indian communities.

Business can play a pivotal role in empowering Afghan communities, fostering their economic growth and promoting social interests in the following ways.

Economic Empowerment:

Business provides a pathway to economic empowerment and unity. By starting their own businesses, individuals from Afghan communities gain a sense of independence and self-reliance. Business ownership allows them to generate income, create employment opportunities, and build wealth for themselves and their families. Through entrepreneurship, ethnic minority communities can break free from the cycle of limited job prospects, break discriminative barriers and achieve upward mobility, contributing to their overall economic well-being.

Economic Growth:

Afghan entrepreneurs have a unique understanding of the huge Asian communities across the world, their needs and preferences. By establishing businesses that cater to these specific needs, they create employment opportunities for both Afghan community members and the wider population. A thriving business sector within Afghan communities fuels economic growth, stimulates community economies, and fosters innovation among our people. This, in turn, has a ripple effect on the overall prosperity of our people and the countries where they live.

Overcoming Barriers:

Ethnic minority communities often face barriers such as limited access to capital, discriminatory practices, and a lack of professional networks. Entrepreneurship can help overcome these obstacles by providing an avenue for Afghans to bypass traditional gatekeepers. With the rise of entrepreneurship among our people and a digital global world, Afghans can trade, invest and do business with other Afghans across the world, breaking barriers and showcase their products or services to a global audience. Moreover, successful Afghan entrepreneurs can serve as role models, inspiring others within their communities to pursue their entrepreneurial ambitions and providing mentorship to aspiring business owners.

Cultural Representation:

Businesses owned by Afghans contribute to cultural representation and diversity in societies. By showcasing their unique products, services, and traditions, Afghan entrepreneurs enrich the cultural fabric of our communities and the nations where we live. Moreover, successful Afghan businesses can act as catalysts for social inclusion, fostering cross-cultural understanding and bridging gaps. As our businesses thrive, they contribute to the wider narrative of hardwork, job creation and entrepreneurship, and help us combat stereotypes that show Afghans mainly as refugees and fight prejudice against our people.

Collaboration, Unity & Prosperity:

Business within Afghan communities will go beyond individual success. Successful entrepreneurs frequently reinvest their resources back into their communities through initiatives such as mentorship programs, skill development workshops, and philanthropic endeavours that will benefit our people both back home and abroad. Afghan investors and investment funds can fund startups, finance projects and guide the next generation of our pioneers. By actively participating in community development, Afghan entrepreneurs will create a positive cycle of progress and empowerment. Moreover, collaboration between Afghan businesses and mainstream institutions fosters mutual growth and cooperation, leading to a more equitable and interconnected society.

To conclude, it must be reiterated that pursuing business as a community is a powerful strategy for uniting our people and empowering them. By providing economic opportunities, fostering job creation, overcoming barriers, promoting cultural representation, and encouraging community collaboration, entrepreneurship can lead to significant prosperity.

Afghan Business Association UK in partnership with Afghan Council of Great Britain, British Afghan Chamber of Commerce and World Afghan Congress recognise and support the immense potential of business to transform the lives of our people. They provide and nurture an entrepreneurial ecosystem that values creativity, innovation and economic prosperity by offering free memberships, partnerships and advocacy.

We can build a brighter future where every Afghan has the chance to thrive and contribute to their fullest potential. Let’s start now.

Wagma Omar is a strategy, leadership and management consultant in London. She contributes to the business, economics and corporate social responsibility publications of the Afghan Business Association and Afghanistan Enterprise Council.

The views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Afghan Business Association UK.