The Eshkashem cross-border market in northeast Afghanistan’s Badakhshan Province is of great importance to both local Afghan and Tajik populations and their respective small and medium sized businesses. Located adjacent to the Afghan Customs and Border Commissariat buildings, both of which were constructed by EU-BOMNAF, this Saturday market attracts between 800 to 1000 traders and visitors every weekend. It not only generates regional cooperation, trade and exchange of goods and products between the two countries, but is also of immense importance for the local economy, with a turnover of 150,000 Somonis (23,661 USD) each Saturday. Due to the recent deterioration of the security situation in this part of Afghan Badakhshan, the cross-border market has been closed since July 2015. This has caused two months during which Afghans and Tajiks alike have been unable to sell products in the market or trade across the international border here, which has affected their income and livelihoods.
Developing cross-border cooperation between southern Tajikistan and northern Afghanistan, supporting regional development, and integration and the enhancement of human security, as well as improving and expanding economic development in rural and borderlands areas, requires regional capacity building. This includes cross-border and bilateral activities in integrated border management. All of these key issues are addressed by the EU-BOMNAF project.
The Eshkashem cross-border market is an example of the EU’s transnational market places along the Tajik-Afghan border. These are constructed next to Border Crossing Points and each attracts between 350 and 1,000 people each week, enabling international travel and promoting local trade.
On a recent field trip to the area, we tried to find out just how important the regional cooperation and cross-border markets are for the people, and how the security situation influences the borderlands’ economic development.