Winners from the Social Enterprise Challenge in Afghanistan
At British Council Afghanistan’s Social Enterprise Challenge, Paul Smith discovers that a country’s prosperity shouldn’t always be measured in economic terms, but rather by the vision and hope of its young people.
Prosperity – it’s a determination that most nations take for granted. But, perhaps because of its interminable strife and political precariousness, it’s rarely assumed that Afghanistan, too, has prosperity as a priority. But the future here has to be about much more than security and survival.
For one thing, Afghanistan has extraordinary depths of natural minerals currently valued at some $3 trillion. Education is the key to realising greater national prosperity from these resources. The country is at square-one in professionalising mining engineering and management but at least it’s a different and productive type of ‘minefield’ that Afghanistan can look forward to in the future.
It was the yearning for prosperity that was in the air as we reached the finale of our Social Enterprise Challenge a few days ago. Seven shortlisted teams of young people presented their proposals for social action and community cohesion projects, to win the British Council awards which would enable them to make their ideas happen. Winning themes included rural horticulture initiatives and website for youth engagement. The teams came from all over Afghanistan.
The happy winning team in the photo had a great idea. They’re going to set up a one-stop social business website for other young entrepreneurs to connect with large organisations. Young Afghans will be able to search for opportunities to put their ideas into action through business partnership and create business and job opportunities for many others. ‘We’re servicing Afghan youth’s dreams’ was how the team leader put it to me himself.
The day reminded us that prosperity comes not from macro-economic policies and fiscal strategies, but from the will of enterprising and visionary people, of young people who form the great majority of Afghans. It’s a will that says that ‘our future will be different and we’re going to take action, starting in our own local communities, to make that difference come about’. May they prosper.