UN: Afghan women entrepreneurs face major market barriers

Female entrepreneurs in Afghanistan are encountering “significantly greater challenges” in accessing markets and finance, according to a recent United Nations report.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres highlighted these obstacles in his latest assessment of the country, citing a joint survey.

Guterres revealed that 32 percent of the women entrepreneurs surveyed identified gender discrimination as a barrier to market access.

The report also noted that 28 percent of respondents faced difficulties in procuring supplies, while 19 percent struggled to obtain formal or informal loans.

Women and girls emphasized that the Taliban’s restrictions have profoundly affected their lives. These constraints have deteriorated the economic conditions of millions of women and girls across Afghanistan.

The report further elaborated on Afghanistan’s broader economic challenges. The economy is under deflationary pressure due to several factors, including the declining price of imported goods, driven largely by the appreciation of the local currency and low demand.

“As of February 2024, headline inflation stood at -9.7 percent year-on-year, while core inflation was at -3 percent year-on-year,” the report noted.

Additionally, the report highlighted a significant increase in the trade deficit, which grew by 60 percent year-on-year from January 2023 ($426 million) to January 2024 ($682 million).

This rise was attributed to a 5 percent year-on-year decrease in exports and a 37 percent surge in imports.

Economists have pointed to the trade deficit as an indicator of slowing economic growth, which does not bode well for the country’s future.

Addressing the UN Security Council’s meeting on Afghanistan, UN Special Envoy for Afghanistan Roza Otunbayeva stated that the Taliban’s restrictions have impacted half of the country’s population, further exacerbating the nation’s economic and social challenges.