The Seventh Regional Economic Cooperation Conference on Afghanistan (RECCA-VII) was convened under the theme “Deepening Connectivity and Expanding Trade through Investment in Infrastructure and Improving Synergy” in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan on 14-15 November 2017.

Co-chaired by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan and the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, the Conference brought together high-level delegations and senior representatives from 67 countries and organizations.

The first day of RECCA-VII on November 14, included a number of important events including a Special Event on Women’s Entrepreneurship held in collaboration with the Office of H.E. the First Lady of Afghanistan, the Afghan Women Chamber of Commerce and Industries, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Turkmenistan, and USAID. The Special Event included two panel discussions on market access: success stories, and challenges and impediments to market access respectively with participants from Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, the region and beyond.

As part of the Ministerial Meeting of RECCA-VII, three Working Group Meetings (WGMs) were also held on the first day of the Conference centered on three important areas: i) energy and natural resources; ii) regional connectivity, and iii) regional trade, private sector development, business-to-business cooperation, and labor support.

The RECCA-VII program on the first day also included an exhibition of goods from Afghanistan, Turkmenistan and regional countries as well as a business matchmaking event. More than 250 private sector representatives from Afghanistan, Turkmenistan and regional countries including women entrepreneurs participated in the activities of the first day.

The second day began with the the Ministerial Session. His Excellency Rashid Meredov, Deputy Chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan, His Excellency Sarwar Danish, Second Vice President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, and His Excellency Salahuddin Rabbani, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan addressed the inauguration session. The Ministerial Session continued with a series of  statements from the various participating governments and regional and international organizations.

RECCA-VII program on November 15 included a special signing ceremony for the Lapis Lazuli Route Agreement, which marked an important milestone in the collective efforts under RECCA towards deepening connectivity and expanding trade.

The closing session of RECCA VII included presentations on the outcomes of the WGMs, Business Forum, Special Event, and the Academic Forum as well as the adoption of declaration. A number of offers expressed by regional countries to host the next meeting of RECCA.

Prior to the Ashgabat Meeting, six meetings of RECCA occurred since its inception: Kabul (2005), New Delhi (2006) Islamabad (2009), Istanbul (2010), Dushanbe (2012) and again in Kabul (2015). At RECCA-VI, Afghanistan and its regional partners began a sustained effort to incorporate the private sector into building the trade/transit/investment corridors of Central and South Asia on to Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. Via putting in place the ‘software’ components like enabling PPP legislation and emphasizing the ‘bankability’ of RECCA’s infrastructure projects, Afghanistan and its neighbors are beginning to realize investment from the private sector.

RECCA is now a principal platform for the economic integration of Central, South, and Southwest Asia, which is proceeding with full regional and extra regional support for the RECCA 2.0 agenda—including everything from joint bankable projects on one hand, to several new initiatives on the other including a RECCA Chamber of Commerce and Industry (RCCI), a Center for Research and Evaluation (CRE), investment road shows for bankable projects, and ultimately a regional economic strategy.

The Joint Opening of the Business Forum and the Special Event

Working Group Meetings

Ministerial Session

The Lapis Lazuli Signing Ceremony

Academic Forum