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Product Exhibitions at the Forefront of October ‘Event Month’

October’s “event month” has finally come to a close. I say event month because PDT participated in three product exhibition-type events (AgFair, the AISA International Exhibition, and the Afghan Builder’s Association Product Exhibition), as well as three vendor events (2 in Kabul, 1 in Helmand), and a Knowledge Management Symposium. I think that everyone has breathed a sigh of relief now that November’s here and we don’t need to worry about setting up booths, distributing marketing materials or scheduling people to staff the events.

The exhibition events were designed to give local businesses a chance to showcase their products and services. There was a breadth of products on display, from traditional industries such as agricultural produce, carpets and gemstones to the burgeoning industries such as beverage processing, construction materials manufacturing and telecommunications. Check out our photos on Facebook to see for yourself the Grade A pomegranates, locally produced pharmaceutical, and soccer balls and other sporting equipment.

What I thought was really cool about these events was that they were Afghan initiatives. So often it takes an NGO, donor or government agency to sponsor such events, but in this case it was Afghan entities that took charge of organizing the events, finding sponsors and doing the promotion and marketing. What’s more is that buyers and investors attended the events and were impressed with the products and services on display. This says something not only for local production capabilities but for the Afghan initiative to grow the private sector.

It was encouraging to see the private sector take the opportunity to market themselves to national and international buyers beyond the traditional swap-business-cards-as-a-networking-opportunity kind of thing. For example, many companies took the chance to heighten their visibility by distributing marketing materials such as pens, bags and pins. Walking away from the events, one got the sense that there is a capable Afghan private sector that can and should be invested in – the embodiment of the “Buy Local, Build Afghanistan” message.

And speaking of the private sector, PDT’s developed a cool new initiative, Factor Finance for Procurement (3FP), which will set up loan guarantees for Afghan small and medium enterprises (SMEs) so that local banks can provide the SMEs with lines of credit and they in turn can bid on international contracts. The idea is actually one of 14 winners of the G-20’s SME Finance Challenge, and we’ll be going to South Korea next month to accept the prize at the G-20 meeting. You can help us win the “People’s Choice” award by voting for the 3FP idea here – we would get to accept the award onstage from President Obama at the rest of the G-20! We would really appreciate your support!

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