Concrete Development & Path Dependent Capital in Afghanistan

It’s hard to imagine, but in the 1950s and 1960s Afghanistan was in the throws of mid-century developmental modernism. Western and Communist Bloc aid flowed in. Western-style structures rose around Kabul. West German machinery filled new government printing plants and Czechoslovakia invested in a number heavy industrial projects, including a 5 million dollar concrete factory located outside of Kabul.

Negotiated in 1955 by a new Minister of Finance, (General) Abdul Malik, who was inspired by the developmental planning of Turkey, the Czech-built plant opened in 1957 in the district of Jabal Saraj, near Kabul.

Shut down by the Taliban in the mid-1990s, the plant reopened spring 2016 after a 20 year hibernation. Foreign Affairs has run a featured photo essay on the vintage, state-owned plant, whose Soviet-era equipment (with major updates) supplies a thirsty domestic demand for material inputs:

Remarkably, the outdated machinery was still functional, able to grind limestone into dust and churn out 100 tons of cement a day. That is no small feat for a Cold War-era plant, even if its output is dwarfed by the millions that Pakistan and Iran produce. Still, its value is worth more than its immediate profits. It has provided 150 new jobs within the factory walls and 5,000 more, indirectly. The domestic demand for cement, according to the Afghanistan's Ministry of Mines, is 'huge,' not to mention the six million tons it currently imports and hopes one day to replace with a more homemade variety.

A lot of development economics in one paragraph.

Photos: Photos from Ahmad Masood in “Afghanistan’s Concrete Plans.” Foreign Affairs. 17 July 2016. Web. 17 July 2016.