In October 2018, the International Trade Centre (TC) – a joint technical agency of the United Nations and World Bank – interviewed ACE’s Managing Partner, Suleman Fatimie, about his work supporting the Afghan startup community.
Specifically, the interview focused on his role as a founding member of the Kabul-headquartered Startups and Emerging Entrepreneurs Network (SEEN). The ITC is supporting SEEN under the umbrella of the 3-year, European Union-funded Advancing Afghan Trade (AAT) project.
“There has been hype among the youth to create small businesses,” Fatimie told the ITC. As Fatimie explained, Afghan youth are entering the market with all the necessary creativity and skills that the economy needs, but “we need to provide them a framework or safety net so they can implement their ideas.”
Fatimie’s experience leading the Afghanistan Center for Excellence (ACE) – a leading agency in Afghanistan in the areas of skills development training and employment services – has given him unmatched perspective on the business climate for startups.
“Existing organizations have not been able to voice the concerns of startups and SMEs [small and medium-sized enterprises]” asserts Fatimie, as he details the impetus behind SEEN’s creation. Working with other forward-thinking members of the Afghan private sector, Fatimie set out to create a platform for advocacy and awareness in support of the next generation of Afghan business leaders. One of the primary objectives of SEEN was to secure a literal ‘seat at the table’, to ensure that the concerns and wellbeing of startups and SMEs were considered in Afghan Government policymaking.
While headline-grabbing stories about developments in telecommunications, agri-business, mining, and other major sectors often monopolize the discussion about the Afghan economy, Fatimie hopes that SEEN will be able to contribute to more inclusive economic growth. If the current generation of startups can be successful, Fatimie insists, then more youth will be prepared to assume the risks involved in launching their own businesses.
Excerpts from the interview were published on the ITC YouTube channel in January 2019, and can be viewed here.
Suleman Fatimie Profiled by the International Trade Centre for Work Supporting Startups