Afghanistan has played a prominent role in world history. The country is strategically located at the intersection of Central, South and West Asia, and is bordered by several nations including China, Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. The great silk route of ancient times ran through Afghanistan. The country has a population of about 28.6 million people in a land area of around 650,000 square kilometers of mainly mountainous terrain. Afghanistan has experienced a long period of instability and violence, and is classified by the Bank as a conflict affected and fragile state.
Afghanistan is a country with a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita of US$ 666 in 2014. The country experienced exceptionally high growth between 2003 and 2012, when real GDP grew at an average rate of 9 percent annually. Dynamism in the economy was driven by investments in reconstruction activities, security and ancillary activities, large aid inflows and periodic spikes in agriculture production. In 2014 the growth rate slowed to 2.4 percent, mainly due to security concerns, the global economic downturn and lower aid flows. However, Afghanistan has potential for strong economic growth in the future, especially in the agriculture, mining, natural resources and service sectors.
Afghan policy makers perceive higher education as a vital engine of growth and development. The Government of Afghanistan (GoA) is fully aware of the strategic importance of human capital in the modern global knowledge economy. The higher education system produces the pool of high level human resources, such as policy makers, professionals, managers, academics and technical experts, who are essential for economic development. Policy makers also recognize that the contribution higher education can make to the promotion of civic values and attitudes needed for a modern, enlightened democracy, and the development of a socially cohesive nation. In this context, the Ministry of Higher Education (MoHE) has prepared a second National Higher Education Strategic Plan (NHESP II) to accelerate the development of higher education over the period 2015-2020. The NHESP II outlines a broad development framework to be implemented through a multi-year rolling plan.
Thus, the overall objective of the HEDP is to increase access to, and improve the quality and relevance of, higher education. The HEDP will support the NHESP-II 2015-2020, which aims to develop the higher education sector by expanding enrollment, improving quality, and orienting higher education to promote the future economic and social development of Afghanistan.
The HEDP’s concept, design and components have been prepared through an extensive process of consultation and collaboration with the MoHE, MoF, representatives of universities and higher education institutions from the state and non-state sectors, public and private employers, the academic community, and major development partners active in higher education in Afghanistan. There has also been close collaboration and synchronization between the GoA team in charge of developing the NHESP-II, and the Bank team responsible for designing the HEDP, to ensure alignment and consistency.
HEDP is organized into two components: (a) a Higher Education Development Program component; and (b) a Program Operations and Technical Support component. These components are different in nature, but complementary. The first component is comprehensive and has been designed to directly support NHESP-II. The flow of funds under this component will follow a results-based financing arrangement. Disbursements are linked to specific result that would contribute to the achievement of the overall objectives of the NHESP-II and the HEDP. They will finance Eligible Expenditures Programs (EEP) selected from the MoHE’s budget, rather than against specific investments. The second component will assist the implementation of the first component through coordination, technical assistance (TA), capacity building, monitoring and evaluation, innovation and pilots, and research and communication. The flow of funds under this component will be provided against specific investments, as normally done under the Bank’s Investment Project Financing modality.