Business Booms In Mazar-e Sharif

September 24, 2010 (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty): Mazar-e Sharif is a story of success, as seen in such examples as the large amusement park on the outskirts of the city, complete with a Ferris wheel, a spinning carrousel of swings, and a child-sized train that lines the perimeter. A favorite of teenagers and families, it is a popular place to relax, unwind, and picnic.

Mazar-e Sharif has become a magnet for Afghan companies and foreign businesses, as evidenced by the new buildings under construction and small shops of all kinds.

"Turkish companies have come from Turkey to invest in Balkh Province in food products, and the production of oil and pasta," Ahmad Tamim Sediqi, a professor of economics at Aria Institute of Higher Learning, the city's private university, says. "And some petroleum companies from Uzbekistan have come to prepare [for oil production], and some fertilizer companies have come from Russia to produce fertilizer."

The good security has also encouraged a motorcycle-assembly business from Herat to expand its operation to the north. The business assembles motor rickshaws and is flooding the streets of Mazar-e Sharif with cheap transport for passengers and cargo.

More importantly, Mazar-e Sharif's security makes it the highly profitable hub for trade across the Uzbek border. That trade supplies half of Afghanistan's imports, according to the Asian Development Bank. To send the imported fuel, building equipment, and grain on to points across Afghanistan, Mazar-e Sharif has warehouses, truck parks, and a growing banking and service sector.

Sediqi says that the income of Balkh Province has jumped from some $5 million in 2004 to some $115 million this year, thanks largely to the border trade. It is likely to only grow further as a recently completed railroad linking Uzbekistan to Mazar-e Sharif via the Hairaton border crossing becomes operational in the coming months.