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What does it mean to take context seriously for engaging in markets? Lessons from Afghanistan

Briefing/policy papers

Written by Adam Pain, Simon Levine

Image credit:Afghan bread for sale in Kabul, Afghanistan. Ahmad Tariq Azimi Image license:CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 DEED

This policy brief looks at why millions of dollars of aid and investment failed to transform Afghanistan's economy. It is part of a series by Supporting Pastoralism and Agriculture in Recurrent and Protracted Crises (SPARC) on the importance of taking context seriously in aid programming.

Throughout 2001–2021, many millions of dollars were spent on an economic transformation of Afghanistan that never happened. Investment was based on an implicit theory of how markets worked and how markets could drive the economy which did not match the reality on the ground. Economic and agricultural development policy can’t work without understanding how Afghan markets work.

This brief looks at how understanding Afghanistan's market context might have changed the focus or scope of aid interventions. It is part of a series on the importance of taking context seriously in aid programming, as part of the programme Supporting Pastoralism and Agriculture in Recurrent and Protracted Crises (SPARC).