On 15th August, the world watched as the Taliban took control of Afghanistan by capturing its capital Kabul. This took place after US forces withdrew their troops from the country after a deal with the Taliban to end their two-decade-long war. Taliban is a fundamentalist Islamic force that has been fighting and taking over parts of the country over a few years. The current conflict has led to the death and displacement of millions of Afghani people.
Before the recent takeover, Afghanistan had slowly started to open its door towards modernization and many small business and startups were starting to rise. With Google launching its startup grind program in Afghanistan in 2016, the country saw a few startups and ventures coming up and support the success of entrepreneurs and their businesses.
Currently, Afghanistan is in crisis, as the country's small business economy has been dealt with yet another series of devastating blows by the Taliban. And many of the startups that have started to provide technology services and products and small businesses are facing numerous problems and are even closing down. Many banks, ATMs, media centres, Government offices, Passport & Visa offices, Schools, colleges, universities and many other workplaces are being shut down by the Taliban.
A brief history of the Taliban in Afghanistan
The military organizations emerged during the civil war in the southwest and border regions of Pakistan. Taliban had held power in most parts of Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001 and had also imposed the strict interpretation of the Sharia Law or Islamic law back then. Taliban started out by saying that they had vowed in fighting corruption and improving security, but in reality, the Taliban is an extremist group that follows the austere form of Islam.
Taliban is an extremist group that earns its money from various illegal ways. Some of the ways it earns its money are by taxing and drug trade which has to lead to the country becoming the world's largest producer of opium, which can be refined to make heroin. Besides taxing and drug trade, the organization is also illegally mine the precious minerals of the country. While the mining industry in Afghanistan is said to bring in over $1 billion every year.
Now with the Taliban taking over the entire country just in the matter of a few days, we see the history repeating. With the Taliban in power, the women of the country face the greatest threat as they will lose their basic human rights like the freedom to work, to dress as they want, or to leave home alone under Taliban rule. Not only that the country has possibilities of turning into yet another training ground for terrorism. While many business and startups are losing their employees and are close to shutting down.
Top Afghani Startups that might shut down
Over the past few years, the country has seen a steady increase in the growth of IT startups that had also started to expand into other sectors. Before we check on how the current situation can affect the startups in the country, these are some of these top Afghani startups are:
SmartMaktabcis a startup that was started by Naikbeen Naikpay in order to create a better educational system for students. This Afghani startup is revolutionizing the way that instructors present school subjects ranging from mathematics to English, by creating an app and digitizing education for more than 10 million students across the country.
Daftar is one of the most well-known co-working spaces in Afghanistan with its headquarters based in Kabul. Daftar helps other small startups and businesses by renting out desks monthly and by providing them with multimedia rooms to assist with business marketing operations.
Netlinks is one of the first successful IT startups in Afghanistan founded by Farshid Ghyasi. The company’s employees were said to be trained in Indian and now the company is capable of providing customized IT solutions to over 3,000 clients.
Ibtikaar is a startup incubation program that helps entrepreneurs by mentoring, training their skills and getting funding. So far the company has supported and helped many startups grow across Afghanistan.
This company was started in 2013 and is known to play a vital role in cutting down the illegal and black market trade in the country. The company aims to prevent emeralds from getting sold through illegal ways and by ensuring miners receive a fair price for their gems.
TechSharks is one of the top startups in Afghanistan and was founded in 2011. The company offers services from web hosting services to mobile app creation, among others. The company is also helping Afghanis to come up with innovative ideas that will help the IT industry grow in their country.
Farah Farhat Faizi
Farah Farhat Faizi is a fruit and vegetable processing company was founded in 2012 by Kobra Dastagirzada. The company helps promotes domestic products of Afghanistan and was also a part of the Google initiative of Afghanistan’s Start-Up Grind.
This is a food company that was started by another woman named Zarifa Razaee in 2019. The company produces and sells organic food products.
Gahwara is a unique startup that was started by Shabeer Ahmad Hameed in 2018. The company started an artistic kindergarten for kids where they can learn are music, dancing, painting, and handicrafts along with the Preliminary Body Practices, Yoga, Technology, and Management.
ToNext was started by Akmal Arzhang in 2017 and is a firm that provides many cost-effective IT solutions and services.
What is the future of these startups in Afghanistan?
After the Western-backed Afghanistan Government fell after 20 years and the Afghani President Ashraf Ghani fled the country. Many Afghanis started to fear for their future and started running to the airport which was one of the last ways to get out of the country. The Afghanis are now struggling to get out of the country in any way possible, in order to find a better future in other countries.
Employees of these startups leaving their jobs and leaving the country. The women will now have to stay in their house or wear a full burqa and be accompanied by a male relative if they want to go out, which has led to many women already losing out on education or jobs. Many businesses that were run by women or had women as employees will be shut down.
Besides, that businesses and startups will no longer get support from the government. While the electricity and internet access, education gap in the society and poor economic conditions will only grow and this will harm the upcoming startup ecosystem in Afghanistan. There is also a potential that the illegal activities will increase in the country because the Taliban and might become a training ground for terrorist groups like Al Qaeda.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are some of the top startups in Afghanistan?
The top startups in Afghanistan are SmartMaktab, ToNext, Gahwara, Bushra Tranum, Farah Farhat Faizi, TechSharks, Aria Gems, Ibtikaar, Netlinks, Daftar, among others.
Who are the Taliban?
The Taliban is a military organization that emerged during the civil war in the southwest and border regions of Pakistan.
What happened to Afghanistan on 15th August 2020?
On 15th August, the Taliban took control of Afghanistan by capturing its capital Kabul.