In AWAL2018, the flagship by-yearly AWAL event, which was hosted in the Babur gardens of Kabul in November 24th, 2018. We had announced our support for Kabul-based startup, ASEEL, a mobile e-commerce platform to provide Afghan handmade products to the rest of the world.
On May 17th 2019, just over 6 months after that announcement, AWAL launched the ASEEL App (now in the IOS App store) in the Afghan Embassy in Washington DC. H.E Roya Rahmi, Afghan Ambassador to the U.S., stated that the ASEEL platform will be a life-changing platform for the people of Afghanistan and is exactly in-line with the Afghan exports strategy as well as Afghanistan’s journey to self-reliance. The rest of the launch included a panel discussion led by our Chief Strategist, Nasrat Khalid, joined by Joya Jawad, Commercial Attaché to Afghanistan, and Kelly Fink, a representative of US Administration of International Development (USAID). The discussion, attended by nearly forty people, generated a lot of discussion about the future of trade and exports in Afghanistan, and how ASEEL’s plan for self-sustaining e-commerce would play a part in that.
As part of AWAL, the ASEEL team achieved unbelievable results in such a short time by creating an in-house mobile application, designing a custom supply chain solution to support the e-commerce platform, and partnering with fifteen producers from urban and rural Afghanistan. Not only did Aseel partner with them but we have captured their stories, taking them into the heart of what it is the app is meant to do. Aseel supports the Afghan men and women from different regions that produce amazing handmade products and run their businesses resiliently in the face of conflict and economic strife. Aseel and its launch send out a message that it is actually possible to use technology, smart business strategies, and a globalized strategy to connect trade between the least developed countries and the most developed.
The technical details of the app development were done in-house with a very young technical team. The business analysts, also young, were all recruited through the AWAL junior professionals program. The team has been advised and led by the AWAL strategy team who will continue to do so until the platform is sustainable. The next major milestones planned by the team is: to gather 5 million USD in capital funding, expand the availability of the platform to Android, web and beyond, enroll a total of fifty handmade producers from Afghanistan, and, perhaps even more crucially, create five thousand jobs in Afghanistan to promote a self-sustaining economy.
One of the biggest lessons we have learned from our experience with ASEEL is that although making custom solutions that fit the reality on the ground is a very hard and time-consuming process, it is vital to connect what is already available and reach out to global institutions that are well established to support us. One such incident that inspired a lot of progress on ASEEL was the visit of our Chief Strategist, Nasrat Khalid to the Forum Globalization in Berlin in late 2018. Lessons learned there are mentioned in this blog post. The importance of collaboration for such an effort means that there are no real boundaries in terms of specialization and geography; the team has grown significantly in terms of size and locations throughout the world. The boundaries remain centered around how to find better, smarter, more innovative solutions to economic development. AWAL remains committed to overcoming those bounds as it supports ASEEL’s gathering momentum towards self-sustainment. This commitment to ASEEL aligns with our commitment to finding ways to help Afghanistan’s economic, technological, and educational sectors become self-sustaining as well.
One custom solution that we enjoyed the most was creating the first advertisement video for @ASEELApp. The video was shot in Murad Khani (old Kabul) and the music was done by an Afghan artist in Phoenix, Arizona; Qais Essar. The video best demonstrates the art of collaboration that may be required to alleviate poverty and empower artisans in places like Afghanistan.