Afghanistan produces almost all of the world's illegal opium, and the drug accounts for 1/3 of the country's total economic activity. On Tuesday the World Bank and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) released a report on Afghanistan’s drug industry. Among the findings:
- Opium policy in Afghanistan is failing
- Counter-narcotics efforts have deepened corruption, as wealthier opium producers pay bribes to avoid having their crops eradicated
- Opium production in Afghanistan increased by 49% this year
What alternatives exist for the 13% of Afghans who work in opium poppy cultivation? I saw a presentation today from the OTF Group's Rob Henning on the Afghanistan Competitiveness Project. Its goal is to develop clusters of businesses around particular Afghan products. He talked about carpets, but they're also working on marble and dried fruits & nuts.
The challenge is to encourage Afghan entrepreneurs to trade directly with wholesalers in the States, Germany, and elsewhere. Right now, a huge volume of Afghan-produced goods flow through Pakistan, where customs processing is more predictable and business networks better established. See this prior post for more information about Afghan traders, and links to several other PSD Blog posts on Afghanistan.