For many generations, Afghanistan has had a robust handcraft sector with each region or province offering different products, unique to their history and traditions. Provinces like Kandahar and Helmand are very popular for their handmade caps and Yakhandozi. Provinces like Balkh, Kunduz, Jawzjan, Faryab, and Takhar are known for producing beautiful handmade carpets that are well known throughout the globe. Nuristan Province is well known for its beautiful woodwork, Pakols, and Chapan. And of course, Bamyan is known for the traditional, handmade embroideries.
Despite all these beautiful handmade products, ranging from jewelry and clothes to art and carpets, Afghanistan has been as of yet unable to tap into the 718 billion-dollar global e-commerce market that grows more than 10% each year. This is in large part due to the lack of postal and commercial infrastructure, geographical barriers, and problems with fintech. So, instead, Afghanistan has been importing other, lesser quality products into its own country and has been unable to share its beautiful, skillfully made products with the world.
To get connected to the handmade global market, Afghanistan needs to take part in the digital economy and participate in global e-commerce platforms. However, current global e-commerce platforms don’t support underdeveloped countries such as Afghanistan. They see Afghanistan as too lacking in infrastructure, too conflict-ridden, too impoverished. These larger, established e-commerce companies see too many challenges in entering into and working with Afghanistan. And they weigh the risks as too strong compared to the benefits. Not anymore.
A group of young Afghans established a platform to fill this gap, to take on the challenge that bigger e-commerce giants are hesitant to do, and to do so in a way that benefits Afghans and the Afghan economy. This platform is called Aseel, and it aims to connect Afghanistan to global commerce markets, using custom supply chains, knowledge of Afghanistan’s systems, and employing modern, technology-based solutions. Aseel empowers local artists from Afghanistan to sell their handmade products globally. Artisans are able to grow their businesses, empower their artisans-many of whom are women, create jobs, and promote the proud and rich heritage of Afghan handmade goods.
Currently over 30 handmade production companies are selling their products directly in the US, Australia and European countries from Afghanistan. And the aim is to reach every province of Afghanistan, finding the artisans that keep the handmade traditions and share those wonderful products with the world.
More than that, Aseel wants to bring Afghanistan into the 21st-century e-commerce world, turning the country into an exporter of fine goods, empowering small businesses to hire and train more artisans, and allowing each province and city to take a part in their own economic development and empowerment.
By starting small, at the local level in cities like Kabul, Mazar-e-Sharif, and Aqcha, Aseel hopes to gain momentum and be the platform that allows every artisan and handmade small business to sell their products to the rest of the world and grow into large, job-creating businesses. Aseel’s mission is to create 10,000 jobs in the Afghan handmade sector.
This is a big mission and it has taken over two years to establish a hardworking team, build an online and app-based platform, establish a supply chain out of the country that can reach all over the world, and launch out of the US and Kabul. Now Aseel is poised to grow its following, find more artisans to connect to its platform, and make this company the number one platform globally to find and purchase beautiful Afghan handmade products. Aseel is ready for the challenge, is ready to scale, and is ready to help Afghanistan enter the ever-growing e-commerce world to create jobs and make the country’s economy stronger.
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