Dispelling Myths and Instilling Hope: The View from Kabul

 

By Sayed Aziz Azimi

January, 2012

 

I recently returned home after several weeks abroad convinced that Kabul, Afghanistan is one of the busiest construction sites on Earth. From my office at Ti’s Kabul headquarters I looked out at one building project after another as far as the eye could see. Driving through the city’s congested streets offered further evidence that the pace of construction will continue through the cold winter months and then accelerate in the spring. The ongoing rebirth and transformation of the Afghan capital never fail to amaze me, despite my frequent trips to the country. Unfortunately, few people outside a very small circle of Afghanistan experts know how much real progress has been made since 2001. Most of what the media report is a mixture of bad news, stereotypes, and myths about how Afghanistan is dangerous, backward, and hopeless.

Security, obviously, is still a concern in some places, but in almost every other aspect of life things are much better than they were—and getting better all the time. When Ti first began working in Afghanistan in 2004, we had to bring in everything we needed, from power tools and supplies to computers and software, and we had to train the local workforce to use new tools and techniques efficiently and safely. Today it is possible to buy much of what one needs from reliable local vendors, and Ti’s Afghan workforce includes hundreds of capable engineers, designers, and other professionals. Ti itself created a Production and Manufacturing Unit to make high-quality concrete masonry units, electrical panel boxes, and many other products for our own use and for sale to other firms.

 

The construction industry has clearly been a major driver of economic growth in Afghanistan. The tremendous growth and modernization of the communications, banking, insurance, and other service sectors are due in no small measure to the spillover effects of construction spending. Although there is a prevailing myth that Afghans are building just to rent to foreigners, most of the buildings I saw from my window are financed by and designed for Afghans themselves. They will become offices for new business ventures and homes for growing families. Some of the new buildings are luxurious; others are more modest. But even for the many families moving for the first time from mud houses to brick homes with sound roofs, windows, and doors, the construction boom constitutes a real improvement in the standard of living.

Money is critical to this process but I believe the most important thing we can give Afghanistan is not money, but hope. We need to dispel the myth that the Afghans do not want the same things people want elsewhere: security, decent food and housing, education, a better future for their children, and, above all, stability and continuity. Convincing the Afghans that we remain committed to helping them build their own future will instill hope. If people have hope they will find the money under the proverbial mattress—or borrow from a rich cousin in the West—to build their dreams.

 

Ti is doing its part to dispel myths and instill hope. Even as we develop ambitious plans for expanding into new markets, our company remains committed to Afghanistan and the Afghan people—and we share their hope for a brighter future.