Afghan Marble Offers Beauty and Hope
Foreign direct investment, modern technology, and better management and equipment can help develop one of Afghanistan’s sectors of comparative advantage—marble. Those tools can help ensure economic stability in a nation that is still rebuilding from years of war.
by Ariana Monti
The Department of Commerce’s Afghanistan Investment and Reconstruction Task Force worked with several international donor organizations, Afghan government entities, and Afghanistan’s local industry association to organize the first Afghan Marble and Stone Conference, which took place in Kabul on March 24–26, 2009. The event was designed to promote and develop Afghanistan’s marble sector. The task force also recruited a U.S. business delegation that participated in the conference and visited local marble quarries.
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|These objects, fabricated from Afghan marble, were on display at the Afghan Marble and Stone Conference in Kabul on March 24–26, 2009. The Department of Commerce’s Afghanistan Investment and Reconstruction Task Force helped organize the event. (U.S. Department of Commerce photo)
The conference provided more than 200 Afghan and U.S. participants with an opportunity to share perspectives on how to address issues regarding investment, legal and regulatory reform, and training to move the Afghan marble industry forward.
Afghanistan has an abundant supply of some of the most beautiful and durable marbles in the world. Although the exact size of Afghanistan’s stone industry is unknown, there are more than 60 known deposits of marble, with 35 different types in 40 different colors. Afghanistan’s Chesht and Khogiani marbles have been favorably compared to Carrara marble, an Italian marble that is considered to be one of the finest in the world.
Approximately 80 percent of Afghan marble is exported as rough-hewn blocks and is often reimported, mostly from Pakistan, as higher-value polished marble products for Afghan reconstruction projects. The Afghan marble industry lacks proper equipment, has little technical knowledge, and uses poor extraction methods. Those issues often degrade the value of the marble and destroy a large portion of the stone that is quarried. In response to the situation, an entire day of the conference was devoted to technical skills development for local quarry operators and processors.
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|Jim Hogan, senior vice president of Carrara Marble Company of America, addresses attendees at a session of the Afghan Marble and Stone Conference in Kabul on March 25, 2009. (U.S. Department of Commerce photo)
Increased investment in the Afghan marble sector could address the need to modernize the extraction equipment and process at the quarries. The promotion of modern extraction methods and financial assistance in purchasing or financing more modern equipment would allow existing quarries to begin producing more and better-quality marble from known deposits.
Promoting Investment, Reducing Violence
The Afghan marble sector has the potential to generate thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in revenue by providing a valuable product to domestic and international markets, thus increasing the prosperity of Afghan communities.
Not only is increasing investment critical to helping the welfare of Afghan citizens; it is also essential to reducing and preventing insurgent activities. Violence in Afghanistan correlates with an absence of jobs, security, and viable alternative livelihoods. The marble industry is a significant source of national pride for Afghans, and it offers an opportunity for employment growth. Moreover, it can meet international demand for a unique natural resource.
During the conference, participants discussed outstanding investment issues, highlighted opportunities for investment, and outlined the resources available throughout the country. Key Afghan government ministers and First Vice President Ahmad Zia Masood attended the opening day ceremonies, which gave the needed legal and regulatory reforms high-level attention.
Since the conference, Adam Doost, president of Equity Capital Mining, and Khaled Monawar, vice president of international affairs for the Afghanistan Marble and Granite Processors Association—two representatives of Afghan entities—have participated in Coverings 2009, a U.S. industry show in Chicago. They have also held follow-up meetings with the Marble Institute of America in conjunction with the trade show.
U.S. Export Opportunities
Several U.S. companies in construction and logistics featured their goods and services at the Afghan conference and participated in the technical training day.
In 2009, the task force, with the U.S. Embassy in Kabul and the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service post in Pakistan, will continue to encourage U.S. companies to share market information, to promote investment and business opportunities, and to assist U.S. companies in entering the Afghan market. Whether through promoting Afghan trade events, reverse trade missions, business matchmaking, capacity development programs, or commercial policy dialogues, the Department of Commerce will continue to support U.S.–Afghan commercial ties.
Ariana Monti is an international trade specialist with the Department of Commerce’s Iraq and Afghanistan Investment and Reconstruction Task Force.
For More Information
The Afghanistan Investment and Reconstruction Task Force works closely with U.S. government agencies, Afghan government agencies, and international organizations to provide U.S. companies with counseling on the latest developments and business opportunities in Afghanistan. For more information on the task force or on the Afghanistan Marble and Stone Conference, visit www.trade.gov/afghanistan or contact the task force at (202) 482-1812.