We’ve Got Competition!
As most of you know, PDM-Afghanistan has recently re-launched our Business Portal, which we’ve been promoting far and wide. We took into considerations comments from users, and added in new features for buyers and suppliers. The end result, we think, is a site that makes it easy to navigate the 5,800 Afghan-owned companies we’ve registered – a site that keeps buyers and suppliers connected with what’s going on in the local marketplace.
Until recently we plugged ourselves as the only online database with such detailed information about Afghan businesses, and to a certain extent that’s still correct, but we’ve got competition. Similar websites have been springing up over the past year that seem to build upon different aspects of the Afghanistan Business Portal.
You would think that with all this competition, we’d be starting to get a little nervous. Surprisingly, that’s not the case. We’re pretty sure that USAID, CIDA and DFID will continue to fund us because they see impact that local procurement has when buyers purchase goods and services from Afghan-owned companies – the economy grows as the money gets invested and re-invested into other businesses and jobs are created, and it cultivates respect and trust from the local population, which in turn fosters stability.
In fact, we feel a rather proud. PDT is all about finding, testing, and implementing ideas, and the Business Portal has turned in to a great success. We’ve created a business space that others have moved in to, and the fact that they are taking our ideas and build upon them means that there will be more opportunities available for Afghans, and more places to find these opportunities. What is that, if not a sign of success?
There’s www.afghanyellow.com, which has the look and feel of a Yellow Pages (this kind of grinds my gears because I always describe the Business Portal as a ‘Super Yellow Pages’ – hopefully Afghan Yellow doesn’t have a copyright on the phrase!). They have a broad spectrum of businesses listed under about 200 categories. However, unlike PDT they don’t require their businesses to be Afghan-owned. Buying from a Pakistani, Chinese, or even American-owned firm doesn’t do much to help out Afghanistan – the profits are transferred into bank accounts abroad, meaning that little money is invested in the local economy, and few local jobs are created. It’s hard to imagine a stable, prosperous Afghanistan without a robust economy and established employment. At any rate, it is still a good resource to find companies in Afghanistan.
There is also ASMED’s newly launched www.afghanbids.com, which has listings of local suppliers as well as tender opportunities. The solicitations listed offer detailed information, a discussion forum, and a chance to download the tender documents. Once registered, suppliers can submit bids directly for the solicitations online. The difference between this site and PDT’s is that suppliers create their own profiles, which means that the information they present has not been verified, and it is not mandatory to provide a business license before registering.
In addition, we’ve heard that the US Task Force for Business and Stability Operations will be creating an Afghan First website that will be posting US Government contracts in Afghanistan. The Afghan-owned company that runs http://jobs.af/ is reportedly seeking to replicate their successful job board with a website that posts business-to-business opportunities.
So it seems that online business directories are a growing niche in Afghanistan. I sincerely hope that this will help buyers in-country and abroad gain easier access to Afghan suppliers. I also hope that the increased online presence will help Afghan suppliers connect with investors and partners. What seems like a small step in the development of the local marketplace today can translate to a big leap for the Afghan economy in the years to come.