World Bank provides grant support to Afghanistan

WASHINGTON, May 19, 2005 - " The World Bank approved today a US$85 million package of grant assistance to Afghanistan, of which US$40 million will fund higher education, and US$45 million will support the country's economic and social recovery through improved road and airport access to goods, markets and social services. The large proportion of grant funding to Afghanistan recognizes the scale of the challenge, particularly the infrastructure needs, facing this nation as it recovers from more than two decades of conflict.
Over the past three years, the government of Afghanistan has made notable efforts to revive the higher education sector in parallel with ongoing progress in primary and secondary education. Eighteen higher education institutions have reopened their doors and enrollment has jumped from 4,000 students in 2001 to 37,000 in the fall of 2004. As in primary education, the enrollment profile is skewed with approximately two-thirds of students in their first and second years. With students returning from Pakistan and other countries and the students graduating from high schools, demand for higher education is on the rise, not only in terms of enrollment but also in terms of relevance of curricula and quality of teaching.

The Strengthening Higher Education Program aims to progressively restore basic operational performance at a group of core universities in Afghanistan, and to provide an institutional base for the development of an agenda focusing on tertiary education development, capacity building and reform. The program is envisaged as the first-phase of a long-term higher education development program in Afghanistan. In addition, it will act as a catalyst to attract various resources to the Afghan tertiary education sector with a long-term development framework. The program also facilitates and finances partnership program agreements for Kabul Polytechnic University, Kabul University, and four regional universities (Balkh, Herat, Kandahar and Nangarhar) with established foreign universities.

"Rebuilding higher education is a pressing and critical need for Afghanistan, particularly at this time, when there is an urgent need for skilled professionals and capable leadership in all sectors of the economy," says Keiko Miwa, World Bank's Education Specialist. "We expect the program to improve the quality and relevance of higher education so that the students graduating from Afghan universities can become competent professionals and leaders, contributing to the needs of reconstruction, growth and poverty reduction in the country."

More than two decades of conflict combined with a lack of maintenance has resulted in the deterioration of large part of Afghanistan's road network. This has meant that the road network has been rendered only partially usable with high transportation costs. Today, more than 50 percent of the main road network is in poor condition.

The Emergency Transport Rehabilitation Project (ETRP), funded by a World Bank credit of US$108 million, approved in March 2003 aimed at restoring road and airport infrastructure in Afghanistan. Under this project, the government funded the rehabilitation of the Kabul Doshi, Pol-e-Khomri-Kunduz Shirkhan Bandar highway, including already completed work on the Salang tunnel; rehabilitation of Kabul International Airport including reconstruction of damaged runway pavement, provision of airfield ground lighting, and other related equipment to support safe airport operations; and rehabilitation of secondary roads.

The supplemental grant of US$45 million for the Emergency Transport Rehabilitation Project approved today, will increment the project budget for Kunduz Taloqan Kishem road rehabilitation, and other components for satisfactory completion of the project. The project is expected to be completed by the Ministry of Public Works and Ministry of Transport by June 2007.

"For Afghanistan, not as a land locked country - but rather as a country that provides a land bridge, it is crucial to remove key transport bottlenecks to facilitate regional trade, the delivery of humanitarian aid, and deliver reconstruction and development efforts in all sectors," says Alastair J. Mckechnie, World Bank Country Director for Afghanistan. "The Government's ambitious plans set out during the recent Afghanistan Development Forum clearly indicate that growth in will very much depend on regional economic integration."

The total cost of the ETRP is estimated to be around US$147 million, with today' s approved IDA supplemental grant of US$45 million added to IDA's original credit of US$108.

For more information on the World Bank's activities in Afghanistan, visit:

For more information about the Strengthening Higher Education Program, click here.

For more information about the supplemental grant for the Emergency Transport Rehabilitation Project, click here.