KABUL, AFGHANISTAN - Trains loaded with cargo have started to roll on Afghanistan’s first railway, part of an expanding transport network in the region, that is moving the country toward its potential as a crossroads for trade and commerce.
Trade along the rail line - completed recently in record time and connecting the northern hub of Mazar-e-Sharif with Uzbekistan - and construction of the final 233-kilometer section of Afghanistan’s ring road linking major cities around the country will help create jobs, improve trade, and improve security.
The rail and road links are strong examples of regional cooperation at work under the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) Program, a 10-country partnership that in just 11 years counts more than $19 billion in energy, trade, and transportation investments that are improving lives and livelihoods across the region.
“CAREC is an important means for boosting Afghanistan’s economic integration with its neighbors. As a strategic land bridge between Central Asia and the rest of South Asia, Afghanistan stands to gain from the improved infrastructure connectivity that CAREC is actively promoting,” said Joji Tokeshi, Country Director at the Afghanistan Resident Mission of the Asian Development Bank (ADB). ADB acts as CAREC secretariat.
An Afghan delegation will participate in the 11th CAREC Ministerial Conference in Wuhan, Hubei Province, People’s Republic of China. The theme of this year’s Ministerial Conference – taking place from 29-31 October - is Implementing CAREC 2020: Vision and Action.
CAREC 2020 is the new roadmap to guide the CAREC Program toward its vision of “Good Partners, Good Neighbors, and Good Prospects” focusing on trade expansion and improved competitiveness.
The CAREC countries comprise Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, the PRC, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. Six multilateral institutions support the work of CAREC: ADB, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the International Monetary Fund, the Islamic Development Bank, the United Nations Development Programme, and the World Bank.
Afghanistan is a founding member of the ADB. After a hiatus from 1979 to 2002, ADB resumed its partnership with the government and has provided close to $2.7 billion in concessional loans, grants, and technical assistance. The support has been extended for the development of roads, railways, and airports. Infrastructure investments have focused on rebuilding power networks, including long stretches of transmission lines that bring regular electricity to Kabul from Uzbekistan and also move energy from Tajikistan to relieve shortages in Mazar-e-Sharif.