The Afghanistan Innovation Fund understands that the future of the nation lies in investing in forward-thinking projects. To mitigate risk, the largest obstacle to investing in business in Afghanistan, the organization takes a unique approach to grantmaking that employs a proprietary methodology of evaluating applications. By balancing the risks and returns of each project, the organization creates a portfolio of investments that maximizes development outcomes. For each proposed project, the organization calculates the likely number of individuals impacted by its execution and then looks at the project’s potential pitfalls and how grant applicants propose to overcome them.
At present, the fund supports projects in seven categories considered central to Afghanistan’s continued development. Some of these sectors focus on the basic needs of Afghan people, such as healthcare. The organization welcomes grant seekers with an innovative idea for bringing affordable healthcare to underserved areas and making services more available to poor families. Another target area is household services, which include reliable water, electricity, and sanitation, especially in low-income neighborhoods. Grantmakers also look at projects related to both horticulture and livestock. In terms of horticulture, the fund supports grants that seek to make Afghan products more consistent and marketable by introducing certified rootstock of high-yield varieties and other techniques. The Afghanistan Innovation Fund also looks for novel ways of improving commercial animal health and welcomes projects that benefit small-scale producers.
Some of the fund’s other target categories look at sectors with remarkable potential for growth. One area with great potential is mining, but development is limited by a lack of specialist services. The fund supports projects related to laboratory services, equipment leasing, exploration and drilling, and skills training. Two other promising sectors are carpets and furniture. To support growth in the carpet industry, the fund offers grants to improve the competitiveness of Afghan rugs in the global market. The furniture industry is largely limited by a lack of design services, machinery leasing, and business support, all of which are required by small businesses as they expand their operations. The Afghanistan Innovation Fund formerly funded a grant to provide computer-assisted design and machine engraving services for small-scale carpenters.