In December 2019, Mozamel Aman boarded a plane to Kabul with 20 laptops and a plan to bolster Afghanistan’s digital future by empowering young Afghans with training in tech and entrepreneurial skills.
The first step, though, was making it through customs. “I was nervous,” he remembers.
When Aman, an Afghan entrepreneur, arrived in Berlin five years earlier, the city’s lively digital scene immediately captured his imagination. He helped found two tech-based companies aimed at helping other refugees find work in Germany. With his latest venture, Startupistan, Aman is bringing what he’s learned back to youth in Afghanistan.
Startupistan runs classes for young Afghans in digital skills to empower youth to thrive in the digital economy and develop solutions that turn local problems into opportunities. That December 2019 trip was the first foray and, after sailing through customs, the rest of the trip was also a resounding success.
Within the first week of arriving in Afghanistan, Aman and the Afghan team launched a ‘Digital Summit’, which drew 200 attendees taking part in sessions on intro to web development, cyber security and innovation.
Now they hope to expand that opportunity to other Afghan youth, by taking their next big step by launching a major campaign to raise €100,000 to fund their biggest project yet: Startupistan100. This pilot project, to be launched in March 2021, will train 100 Afghan students (50 female, 50 male) in an intensive six-month digital skills and entrepreneurship program.
“I’m very grateful for the opportunities I have had which have allowed me to enter the world of entrepreneurialism,” said Aman. “With this privilege comes a responsibility to give back.”
The program will take students through a series of curated web development and business training courses, taking their ideas from concept and prototyping to marketing and development, while promoting communication and leadership skills. Throughout the program, participants will have access to mentorship, events, and access to a local and international community of digital entrepreneurs. This sustainable model of digital education will enable young Afghans to achieve their full potential so that they are the ones setting their country on the path to recovery after years of war.
In two years, Startupistan has grown into a global network, stretching from Kabul to Berlin, Amsterdam, and Stockholm, that offers numerous possibilities for young Afghans to further develop their talents and ideas through hackathons, incubators, coworking and remote working opportunities.
“We believe we can empower self-learning and growth across generations, by providing access to basic digital tools. It will be the currency of all future global economies,” explains co-founder Paddy Hall on their shared values and goals. “We want to give these tools to people and help them shape their own lives, in their own countries, on their own terms.”