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  Donna Thiessen 

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USTDA GRANT SUPPORTS TELECOM DEVELOPMENT
IN AFGHANISTAN

 

His Excellency Eng. A. Sangrin (center), Minister of Communications of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, and ATRA Board Member Eng. Khair Muhammad Khan (right) listen to remarks by Richard Norland (left), Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, at the USTDA grant signing ceremony.
His Excellency Eng. A. Sangrin (center), Minister of Communications of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, and ATRA Board Member Eng. Khair Muhammad Khan (right) listen to remarks by Richard Norland (left), Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, at the USTDA grant signing ceremony.

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN – (December 12, 2006) Rural telecommunications development in Afghanistan is the goal of a U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) grant awarded today to the Afghanistan Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (ATRA). The $404,500 grant will fund technical assistance to the ATRA in determining how to implement and administer the Telecommunications Development Fund (TDF), which was established by the government of Afghanistan to further growth in rural telecommunications infrastructure.

 

Recognizing that telecommunications is an essential catalyst for development, USTDA has supported a number of telecommunications projects in Afghanistan, providing over $1 million to support the sector since 2002.

 

The technical assistance facilitated by today's grant builds on the success of prior USTDA assistance, which includes a grant for telecommunications regulatory policy technical assistance in 2002 that resulted in the granting of mobile telephone operator licenses and the development of a government satellite telecommunications network. Other USTDA grants in the telecommunications sector in Afghanistan funded a feasibility study and technical assistance on a fiber optic ring backbone network that is currently being implemented.

 

The USTDA grant that was awarded today was conferred in a signing ceremony at the ATRA's offices in Kabul. Mr. Richard D. Norland, Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, and Eng. Khair Muhammad Khan, ATRA Board Member, signed the grant on behalf of the U.S. and Afghan governments, respectively. Afghanistan Minister of Communications, His Excellency Eng. A. Sangin; USTDA Regional Director for Europe and Eurasia Daniel D. Stein; and State Department Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs Special Advisor on Regional Affairs Robert Deutsch were present at the grant signing.

 

The development of the telecommunications sector continues to be a key driver of economic growth in Afghanistan, with cumulative sector investment expected to reach $300 million by the end of 2006. However, approximately 38,000 Afghan villages still lack telecommunications links. In an effort to rectify the situation, the recent Telecommunications Law created the TDF, which subsidizes the development of telecommunications services in rural and underserved areas. The TDF is maintained by contributions from operators as a percentage of their revenues and is expected to grow to $32 million by the end of 2008.

 

The USTDA grant awarded today will help the ATRA identify how best to implement the TDF, so as to maximize its effectiveness for improving rural access. An important aspect of the assistance will be to ensure that initiatives at the local level can properly integrate and interoperate with systems at the district and national levels. The technical assistance will also examine mechanisms to encourage operator participation in rural development, as well as mechanisms to promote community buy-in of rural communications facilities.

 

Due to the breadth and success of USTDA's program in Afghanistan, the agency selected Afghanistan as its 2005 Country of the Year. Since 2002, USTDA has provided more than $9 million as a reflection of the agency's commitment to Afghanistan's development. In addition to furthering priority projects in the telecommunications sector, these funds have helped to develop the capacity in the power and education sectors that is necessary to sustain long-term economic growth.

 

The contracting opportunities associated with the USTDA grant will be announced on the Federal Business Opportunities website at www.fbo.gov. U.S. firms should submit proposals according to the instructions contained in the Federal Business Opportunities announcement. The ATRA will select the U.S. firm that will provide the USTDA-funded assistance.

 

The U.S. Trade and Development Agency advances economic development and U.S. commercial interests in developing and middle-income countries. The agency funds various forms of technical assistance, early investment analysis, training, orientation visits and business workshops that support the development of a modern infrastructure and a fair and open trading environment. USTDA's strategic use of foreign assistance funds to support sound investment policy and decision-making in host countries creates an enabling environment for trade, investment and sustainable economic development. In carrying out its mission, USTDA gives emphasis to economic sectors that may benefit from U.S. exports of goods and services.

 

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