Business Pulse Survey - Impact of COVID-19 on Businesses in Afghanistan

August 2020

PHC interviewed 550 firms in agriculture, manufacturing, and service sectors to assess the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on these businesses in five major economic regions of Afghanistan, sampled through a multi-phased stratification from PHC’s database of over 35,000 active businesses and lists contributed by business associations.

We appreciate the hard work, determination and timely delivery of the study despite lockdown limitations enforced due to the COVID-19 pandemic
Rolf Behrndt
World Bank Group

Introduction:

In the Business Pulse Survey, PHC conduced a survey of 380 small-, medium-, and large-sized enterprises in agribusiness, manufacturing, and services sectors in Afghanistan with the purpose to assess the evolving economic implications of the COVID-19 pandemic on various aspects of these businesses' work. The findings of the survey would enable an evidence-based response to the crisis by the Afghan government and its development.

Approach:

Given its decade-long experience of working with Afghan businesses, PHC was assigned to conduct the BPS survey with a rapid approach to enable quick data collection and analysis with a robust research design that would best represent small,medium, and large enterprises across the five economic regions. In light of the rapidly evolving situation around COVID-19, face-to-face interviews were not possible, and PHC conducted a phone-based survey of the enterprises. The survey design relied on the population of enterprises provided in the Business Establishment Survey 2015 by the National Statistics and Information Authority (NSIA) to design a sampling approach. PHC’s in-house database of 35,000 active business across the five regions – combined with its collaboration with and receipt of additional lists of businesses from industry partners such as ICC-A, ACIM, ACCI, KCCI, etc. – allowed a fast and reliable random sampling of enterprises without conducting a preliminary mapping exercise.

Study Components:

PHC’s extensive experience of conducting research with businesses in Afghanistan and local knowledge effectively supported the rapid nature of the BPS. PHC quickly mobilized its research specialists, econometricians, and experienced home-basedenumerators to conduct phone-based interviews using tablets that were set up in advance. PHC utilized a robust, online platform for mobile-based and online data collection – to set up the online questionnaire, customize the mobile app for enumerators, and organize a rapid data collection process with strong data assurance and quality control measures such as audio audits, automated quality checks, speed limits, and real-time data monitoring.

The BPS assessed six groups of parameters including: 

  • Current state of operations
  • Channels affecting the businesses (i.e. impact on employees, sales, demand for products, supply of inputs, etc.)
  • Adjustment and coping mechanisms
  • Policy response needs
  • Expectations of the future
  • Baseline

PHC’s econometricians analyzed the cleaned and validated data using STATA and produced a comprehensive report with descriptive statistics, correlations, and regressions analyzing impacts such as reductions in sales, employment adjustments, and changes in business practices with control variables such as firm size, sector, location, export-orientation, investment, revenue, etc. The analysis would allow for comparison of the baseline results with two upcoming rounds of the survey to gauge the recovery of the businesses in 3-6 months period into early 2021.

Summary of Results:

Commissioned by International Finance Corporation (IFC), the successful completion of the BPS as part of a series of surveys in South Asian countries to assess the impacts of COVID-19 on businesses is a major milestone for PHC and its local partners. The survey’s results inform evidence-based policy responses at multiple fronts and will continue to build a stronger understanding of the conditions of Afghan firms. See highlights of the key results of BPS through IFC's Press Room, or summary text below:

Source & Copyright: International Finance Corporation (IFC)

"Kabul, Afghanistan, September 1, 2020 —The average businesses in major economic hubs of Afghanistan have signaled they may only be able to remain open for another two months under the prevailing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.  These finding have been revealed in a survey, the COVID-19 Business Pulse Survey, of over 380 businesses with five or more employees in the agriculture, manufacturing and services sectors. It was conducted by IFC and World Bank in partnership with the USAID. The survey was conducted to help policymakers monitor the effects of the pandemic.

The survey shows at least 64 percent of workers are in businesses facing a high level of vulnerability and are more likely to run into liquidity problems and potential closures. In just 60 days under COVID-19, 23 percent of workers had lost their jobs, and 37 percent of firms reported laying off at least one employee.

“The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on sales has been significantly high across all types of businesses, with 88 percent experiencing a slump in sales, leading to job losses or employers sending workers on leave without pay or reducing work hours,” said Wagma Mohmand IFC Senior Country Officer for Afghanistan. “Interestingly about half the businesses surveyed intend to use online and digital services to survive the crisis, signaling a real shift.”    

Thirty-nine percent of businesses have already started using online services for marketing while 34 percent reported using it for sales.

The vulnerability can be seen in firms of all sizes but the fraction of workers facing a higher level of a vulnerability is considerably higher in firms with at least one female shareholder (72 percent), exporting firms (79 percent) and businesses with a higher share of female workers (70 percent). Ninety-eight percent of the firms in the survey reported that they had not received any government support in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The closure of international borders also hampered businesses as 38 percent of the firms reported border closures as the most significant driver of disruption in accessing immediate inputs, raw materials or finished goods needed for production or trade.  

“The survey findings reveal a serious challenge to small, medium, and large businesses in Afghanistan due to the impact of COVID-19,” said Rolf Behrndt, South Asia Manager for Enabling Environment Advisory Services “The pandemic has significantly impacted sales of businesses across all sectors, leaving nearly 64 percent of workers as highly vulnerable and rising uncertainty for the businesses.”

Following the 88 percent reduction in sales, an overall declining trend seems set to continue as 61 percent of the firms expect further sales contraction of up to 28 percent over the next three months due to more uncertainty.

The sampling frame was drawn from a database of over 35,000 active businesses registered with the Central Business Registry – Ministry of Industry and Commerce.

About IFC

IFC—a sister organization of the World Bank and member of the World Bank Group—is the largest global development institution focused on the private sector in emerging markets. We work in more than 100 countries, using our capital, expertise, and influence to create markets and opportunities in developing countries. In fiscal year 2019, we invested more than $19 billion in private companies and financial institutions in developing countries, leveraging the power of the private sector to end extreme poverty and boost shared prosperity. For more information, visit www.ifc.org .

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Client:
Internationation Finance Corporation ( IFC)
Release Date:
August 2020

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