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Afghan Finance Minister Pushes Investment Potential

Afghan Finance Minister Umar Zakhilwal

Afghan Finance Minister Umar Zakhilwal

Afghan Finance Minister Umar Zakhilwal says that despite ongoing security problems and an "unfriendly" media image, Afghanistan offers great potential for international investors, RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan reports.

Zakhilwal told hundreds of investors at an international conference on investing in Afghanistan held in the United Arab Emirates this week that many of the resources in the country remain untapped and that the country is a "true" place to make profits.

The conference brought together some 700 representatives from dozens of international companies.

Zakhilwal told RFE/RL in an interview that the main reasons for the conference, which ended on November 30, were to highlight Afghanistan's business potential as well as to confront the "negative" media reports about his country.

He said international reports from Afghanistan have kept many businesses from investing in the country. "By holding such international conferences we try to change the existing mentality in the world about Afghanistan."

Zakhilwal said mining, agriculture, construction, and the service industry have attracted the main portion of the participants at the conference.

He accused international media of ignoring the major developments that have taken place in the country since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001.

Zakhilwal told RFE/RL that more than $8 billion has been invested in the country in the past nine years.

"If you ask these investors, they are not regretting their decision to invest because there is enough profit in Afghanistan," he said.

Zakhilwal said at least $1.5 billion has been invested in the country's telecommunications system alone and that some $4 billion on construction projects.

He added that there are still "lots of opportunities to make profits."

Zakhilwal told RFE/RL that although global real estate prices have seen a huge decrease, property prices continue to increase in Afghanistan.

He admitted that security remains a major challenge for investors in Afghanistan.

But Zakhilwal said examples of security problems causing foreign investors or businesses to fail in Afghanistan are rare, while many small- and medium-sized businesses in the country have grown into large businesses despite the unstable security situation.

And, he added, foreign investment and economic development play a significant role in making the country more secure.