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Statement by H.E. Minister of Commerce and Industries at the Fourth Vienna Energy Forum

It is a pleasure for me to be part of the Fourth Vienna Energy Forum in this beautiful city of Vienna. I would like to thank the organizers for convening this important international gathering which provides an excellent opportunity to discuss sustainable energy issues related to inclusive development. Such a discussion is highly valuable and very timely for Afghanistan as we have just entered the Decade of Transformation (2015-2024) towards sustainable development.

At a national level, the energy sector has remained one of the most important sectors under the National Development Strategy of Afghanistan in the post-Taliban period. Our efforts in this important area are aimed at boosting sustainable energy sources for the country including through increasing the capacity in the production, distribution and transmission of electricity in the country.

Many of our international partners including international financial institutions and development agencies have been actively supporting our energy sector over the past 14 years. With such international support, Afghanistan has been increasingly promoting sustainable energy including renewable energy sources such as hydroelectricity, bioenergy, solar energy, and wind energy (in particular in Western Afghanistan). Deregulation and privatization of Afghanistan’s electricity sector has also been underway over the past few years. This coupled with a sound investment environment could potentially unlock vast amounts of renewable energy for the country and the region.

Such efforts have resulted in increased access to energy across the country including low-cost energy in rural areas which has helped improve the socio-economic situation of the people there.  In the early 2000s, many Afghan communities were dependent on diesel generators provided by international aid organizations. Today an increasing number of people have access to reliable electricity.

Afghanistan possesses a good potential in energy generation including in hydro, as well as coal and gas. We require, however, assistance in tapping this potential to a greater extent, which would allow us to provide energy for the entire country and even sell surplus amounts abroad. Strategic development of a sustainable energy mix and reliable energy infrastructure remains a priority for my Government and in this context the Government of Afghanistan has joined various regional and international energy cooperation frameworks including the International Energy Charter.

At a regional level, energy cooperation stands at the heart of our regional cooperation agenda. Afghanistan provides the shortest and most cost-effective routes for regional connectivity including for transfer of energy from the energy-rich Central Asia to the energy-deficit South Asia. Afghanistan’s geographical location as a land-bridge in the heart of Asia constitutes a comparative advantage and we are ready to share the benefits of our centrality with the region including in the area of energy.

The Government of Afghanistan has made considerable efforts including under the Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan (RECCA) to boost regional cooperation towards securing sustainable energy for the entire region.

The Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline project and the Central Asia-South Asia (CASA) 1000 electricity transmission line project are two prominent examples of Afghanistan-centered energy cooperation between Central Asia and South Asia. Such large scale regional energy projects along with other transmission lines under Afghanistan’s regional electric grid will contribute to the creation of an integrated Central Asia-South Asia energy market.

Such efforts at both national and regional level, however, require continued international support as well as further investments, both public and private. An important area of positive change in the post-Taliban period has been the business and investment climate in the country.  In light of the new Afghan Constitution of 2004 which laid out the foundations of a free market economy, the Afghan government has made numerous efforts to create an enabling regulatory and institutional environment for private sector development and investment promotion in the country. Such efforts include the adoption of new pro-business and pro-investment laws and regulations such as the new banking law; the new customs law and the new investment law as well as the creation new institutions such as the Afghanistan Investment Support Agency (AISA) and the Afghanistan National Standards Authority (ANSA).  We hope that with such an increasingly enabling environment, we will witness greater investment in our energy sector in the future.

We highly value the role that the private sector as the main driver of the country’s economy can play in economic development including in the development of our energy sector.

We believe that the UINDO, the Sustainable Energy for All as well as other organizers of this forum have the capacity to further facilitate various forms of energy cooperation including public-private partnership, south-south cooperation and triangular cooperation.

We look forward to continuing our partnership with all such cooperation frameworks in line with the post-2015 development agenda as well as Afghanistan’s national development agenda for our Decade of Transformation.

Thank you.