Advisor to President Ghani for Infrastructure Dr. Mohammad Qayoumi strengthens US partnerships for energy, urban and human capital development

Dr. Mohammad Humayon Qayoumi, President Ghani’s Chief Advisor on Infrastructure, Human Capital and Technology, was in Washington, DC last week for meetings on a series of public-private partnerships with American firms to develop Afghanistan’s energy sector; improve and expand urban development; and increase educational platforms for human capital development. He also spoke at a public forum about Afghanistan’s leadership role in promoting regional connectivity in the region.

These four development sectors are key aspects of the government’s national development strategy, as laid out in the Afghanistan National Peace and Development Framework (ANPDF) and National Priority Programs (NPPs), and are being particularly emphasized this year.

Highlights from Dr. Qayoumi’s trip included meetings with US design firm Sasaki and the World Bank; USAID and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Edx program; meetings with various partners in the energy sector; and a public forum at the Atlantic Council on regional connectivity.

Dr. Qayoumi met with partners from three major energy projects: the Kandahar Solar power plant, the Kajaki Dam Phase II project, and the Bayat Power 1 gas-fired power plant project. As the government moves to develop the energy sector, it is pursuing a public-private partnership (PPP) model of investment, focusing on business alliances between US-based companies and the Afghan government.

Developing the energy sector, particularly the national grid, via PPPs is a government priority for 2018, as laid out in the ANPDF and the Energy and Infrastructure National Priority Program (NPP). The goal is to improve and expand energy sources internally so that it may feed the industrial development needed to boost the economy.  The government has an energy masterplan to produce 2,300 MW from internal sources within five years. “By the end of 2018, Afghanistan will be generating more electricity from new domestic sources than has been produced domestically during the previous 40 years,” states the ANPDF.

Kandahar Solar is the first government-sponsored solar power plant in Afghanistan and is a critical project for providing residential and commercial power to further stimulate economic development in the south. 77 Construction USA signed a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) on last month with Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat (DABS) for the 15 MW Solar PV Power System in Kandahar. The produced energy will be around 26,280 MWh per year. Construction is expected to begin in the next three months.

Phase II of the Kajaki Dam project is a PPP between the Afghan government and 77 Construction USA to install new turbines and a new powerhouse to one of the most important dams in the country, located along the Helmand River in Kandahar. The project will triple its power output. Once completed the cost of electricity will fall to about 6 cents per kilowatt hour, as compared to the 40 to 50 cents per kilowatt hour charged for diesel-generated electricity in Kandahar.

The Bayat Power 1 project will produce a 40MW power plant located in Sheberghan, capital of Jawzjan province. Utilizing advanced SGT-A45 aero-derivative technology produced by Siemens, this project — the first privately financed gas-fired power plant in Afghanistan— will harness the gas resources available in the Sheberghan/Yatimtaq region to help further Afghanistan’s journey towards energy independence. Upon completion, theproject will provide more than 200 Megawatts of electricity, enough to meet the needs of more than 700,000 Afghan homes and businesses, and helping give rise to much needed Afghan jobs in the agribusiness, mining and manufacturing sectors.

Also during this trip, Dr. Qayoumi and Afghan Ambassador to the US Dr. Hamdullah Mohib met with Sasaki, a US-based design firm, and representatives of the World Bank. Sasaki is preparing urban design plans for nine major cities in Afghanistan as part of the Urban Development Support project.

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In line with the goals and deliverables laid out in the ANPDF and urban development NPP to turn urban centers into economic hubs and upgrade urban neighborhoods with affordable housing, Sasaki successfully developed a masterplan for Kabul city, and has now been engaged to create master urban plans for nine other major cities in Afghanistan. During this meeting, Sasaki presented preliminary drafts of the plans.

Another focus of the trip was human capital development through educational partnerships. The Afghan government has partnered with USAID and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Edx program to role out MIT’s online higher education courses in Afghanistan. In a meeting with Dr Qayoumi and Ambassador Mohib, MIT’s Edx representatives provided a presentation of their capabilities and work with communities around the world.  This program not only aligns directly with the ANPDF goal of improving quality assurance of post-secondary educational institutions, but it will also allow Afghanistan to enter the world stage for distance learning technologies.

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Dr. Qayoumi also spoke about the leadership role Afghanistan is playing in connecting the region at a public panel hosted by US-based think tank Atlantic Council. He particularly emphasized the launch of the Afghan construction phase of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline late last month, which will carry not only natural gas from Central Asia to South Asia, but will also open up an economic corridor between the two regions, with fiber optic and railway links planned. Regional connectivity and cross-border energy transmission are key components of the ANPDF to foster growth and security in the region. Watch the full discussion here.

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During this trip, Dr. Qayoumi spoke to Voice of America Afghan service about the focus on strengthening public-private partnerships with US-based firms for the country’s development. Watch the interview here.