Saad Mohseni is Afghanistan’s first captain of industry and chairman of Moby Group. In this week’s New Yorker, Ken Auletta profiles Mohensi who owns radio and television networks, an advertising agency, a movie production company, and many other businesses. Mohseni’s rise is important to American concerns in the region and may offer a view into what a post-occupied Afghan economy could look like.
After decades in exile, Mohseni returned to Afghanistan in 2002 with the hopes of raising money to begin producing radio content for news starved Afghans. Prior to Mohseni’s network only the state run Voice of Sharia was accessible to Afghans.
After pooling resources he was still about $200,000 short. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) stepped up and provided the remaining angel funding. “Without United States support, Saad Mohseni could not have succeeded at what he did” Auletta writes, “He needed that infrastructure, that capital expense that the government supported.”
Currently USAID sponsors “On the Road” a weekly reality show. Starting next year the State Department will pay for another program about, in the words of David Ensor, director of communications and public diplomacy at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, “cops who may be tempted by bribes but don’t take them.”
A major reason for the Karzai government’s unpopularity is the perception that corruption is condoned, particularly among the police. The show, Ensor explains, is meant to help recruit police by demonstrating “that cops can be heroes.”
Through Mohseni’s reality TV, dramas, and soap operas, young Afghans, especially woman, are beginning to view themselves as equal stakeholders in the Afghan society. Since the eve of the Soviet invasion many bright and ambitious young people have fled Afghanistan creating a brain drain that could impede Afghanistan from emerging as a democratic and economically viable nation. Mohseni’s programs and other NATO led initiatives can restrict this flow.
As should now be clear after many failed nation building excursions relying on ‘hard’ power all but ensures disaster. Instead, partnerships between state and non-state actors must be formed to foster a collectivist mentality and most importantly to provide hope to a people besieged by corrupt officials. By actively building and deploying political capital, Mohseni has paved a road of other entrepreneurial leaders to follow.
Picture Credit: Spuz