This was the year Haji Nasrallah came home to Kandahar, one of Afghanistan’s biggest, most troubled, provinces.
After years of refugee life in Pakistan, he was ready to return to his trading business in a country torn apart by more than 25 years of war. Kandahar was once world-famous for its grapes and pomegranates and could be again, he thought, if only it could get help competing in today’s far more competitive global markets.
It was also a year of decision for Lebanon’s Abchee brothers, whose first-class grocery stores had long set the standard for retail in their country. The surprise 2006 conflict with Israel and related blockade of Lebanese ports had crippled their company ADMIC. Needing more money than any local bank would provide, they suddenly had to consider the unthinkable: shutting down their firm, one of the local business community’s brightest lights.
These are the kinds of challenges IFC faces in conflict-affected countries and regions. We now work in more than 20 of them, rebuilding the private sector through $55 million in advisory services projects and a $1.6 billion investment portfolio.
The goal is always the same: creating opportunities to improve the lives of people directly affected by conflict—people like Haji Nasrallah. Once back in Kandahar, he noticed improved conditions that had allowed local grape farmers to raise their output and quality. This allowed his wholesaling business to buy more of their raisins, bringing many benefits to the surrounding community. Joining an IFC-sponsored trade mission to India has also alerted him to additional market opportunities.
“Before I had three full-time employees and would hire about 25 day laborers,” he says. “Now I have 10 full-time employees, and because of the increase in production I sometimes have to hire as many as 60 laborers. Security is still an issue that worries many people, but economically, Afghanistan has changed. There are far more opportunities now.”
In Lebanon, IFC stepped in with a $20 million financing package for ADMIC. Its Monoprix stores are not only still open as a result, but growing stronger with additional corporate governance and supply chain management advice from IFC. This is just part of the $275 million IFC pledged for private sector development at Lebanon’s January 2007 donor conference in Paris in close coordination with the World Bank.