LONDON: British Afghan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BACCI) chairman Dr Mohammad Hotak and country director for Afghanistan Dr Ziaurrahman Zia attended the SAARC Development Fund Partnership Conclave 2018 in New Delhi.
The conference was also attended by prominent business leaders, financiers, bankers, government officials and civil society activists from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.
Addressing the delegates in a keynote speech, Dr Hotak highlighted human resources as the key asset of SAARC region and lack of connectivity as the biggest liability.
In his speech Dr Hotak said “In the last two days we had the opportunity to perform a situational analysis of where the SAARC region stands. We learnt that people are the biggest asset of the region and lack of connectivity a major liability.”
He added “The solution is pretty simple now since we know where SAARC stands. Our solution must be focused on better utilisation of our human resources and increasing connectivity for intra-regional trade, investment and economic exchange. As political disagreements in the region hinder physical connectivity, technology must be the tool of choice to increase virtual connectivity”
In line with the themes of the conference to alleviate poverty, ensure human development, education and health, Dr Hotak proposed to focus on promoting entrepreneurship and gender mainstreaming as the key solution.
In his speech, he said “I think the biggest barrier to economic and social growth in SAARC region is the lack of access to finance for entrepreneurs and huge gender inequality. There will be no economic growth if the women, half of our region’s population, are not given a chance to contribute to the productivity of their nations. Furthermore, traditional bank loans and micro-finance is not an appropriate solution for modern entrepreneurial economic growth of nations. We must ensure access to venture capital and strategic investing for entrepreneurs, and implement legislative gender equality policies for our women in order for SAARC countries to truly thrive and rise on global stage”
He added “In London, a young boy aged 20-30 can start a small startup, turn it into a billion dollar unicorn within a few years, thanks to venture capital and private equity funding. But the same is not possible in this region with over a billion people, millions of amazing ideas and thousands of startups, just because we are still stuck with old financing methods.”
The SAARC region comprises 3% of the worlds area, about 23.4% of the world population and about 3.3% of the global economy as of 2017. The region has huge geographical diversity, from high mountains to coastal regions, with its people as the biggest asset, with a large concentration between the age group of 15-24 years.
It has huge pool of skilled manpower and low cost workforce with large pool of educated professionals and abundance of natural resources and is one of the fastest growing regions in the world.