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One of the most compelling sectors in terms of business opportunities is the power sector. A mere 15 percent of the country is electrified at present and this is limited to the main urban regions. There are vast tracts of rural areas with no grid electricity. While long-term planning by the Afghan government suggests that these regions will gradually be brought within the fold of the grid, this will take several years to implement.
But this has resulted in a burgeoning alternative energy industry in the rural areas of the country. You will find 20 watt solar panels for about $100 and 100 watt panels for about $300 in the extensive markets for electronics. It is also common to find portable solar devices and gas-based products in markets as individuals attempt to raise standards of living through the use of lighting and heating. Most of the energy products in the market are generics rather than branded ones as larger corporations are only steadily beginning to understand the country and the opportunities it presents.
One of the keys to success in Afghanistan is finding the right local partner who contributes knowledge of the work environment and a physical presence in the region. It is not easy to work with the government given its reputation for crony capitalism. However, a great partner would be a local company with scale and credibility such as one of the major telecommunication providers: Roshan, Etisalat and MTN. These entities have recently introduced mobile commerce through support from USAID and remain a major source of government revenue. They have a presence throughout the country, deep distribution channels and are eager to increase profitability by selling complementary products in the communications and energy space.