Improving quality of life requires a multifaceted-approach, of which economic empowerment represents an important piece. If an  individual or community is empowered economically this can result in having access to better education, health, safety, an enabling environment, and desired working and living conditions.  

One of the keys to fostering economic empowerment is “better employment” that generates an adequate income not only to meet day-to-day living requirements, but to save for the future such as building assets and so on, which in turn contributes to better living conditions and better societies.

Ali Rawnaq, Chairman of the Aga Khan Economic Planning Board (AKEPB) for Afghanistan states that “Unemployment rate in Afghanistan is 32% and poverty is reported at 54%.” Since the youth make up more than half of the population,  one of our key objectives is to increase employment of youth. Better employment for the younger generation would not only empower them economically but also build their confidence in shaping the future.

Employment facilitation is one of the keys to economic empowerment, though not the sole one and therefore, AKEPB is commissioned to think of a holistic approach for economic empowerment for the Jamat by raising awareness, exploring business opportunities, encouraging the young towards entrepreneurship, and financial awareness and planning for families —  particularly women — to take charge of family finances and economic planning. 

Chairman Ali added “As a potential opportunity there are certain programmes which are mainly focusing on the empowerment of women; promoting their handicrafts and other products in the market, and encouragement to launch small businesses and create opportunity in the big national and international events in close partnership with key stakeholders and Portfolios.” 

He also stated that the Aga Khan Education Board (AKEB) for Afghanistan plays a significant role in economic empowerment to increase access to quality education for the Jamat to improve employability, increase awareness, and positive thinking perspectives. They have been organising a variety of programmes for Jamat to enhance their education and knowledge. For instance, organising short training courses on how to apply for international scholarships, IELTS and TOEFL preparation courses also make a huge impact. He further added that “AKEPB and AKEB works closely with the University of Central Asia (UCA) to create opportunities and enable Jamati youth by improving their skills and qualifications in order to recommend high school graduates to UCA to pursue their bachelors at a high quality level, and as far as we increase trends on having the best educational backgrounds, there will be high opportunities of employment in the market.” 

Positive economic empowerment can also lead to equality and balance of wealth between people in society. However, economic empowerment can also increase the desire for excessive wealth. Rather, entrepreneurs should be encouraged to increase the rate of employment and job opportunities for others. Chairman Ali of AKEBP added “Our main goal is to work closely with others Boards and Portfolios to create better opportunities and we first focus on job creation to increase employment rates according to the market need. Furthermore, we will strive to increase our high educational background profile for business development and to improve self-sustainability.”