Exploding bombs and gunfights will harm the economy of any city, either by causing direct damage or through the wider impact on trade and services. But for security equipment companies working the market in Kabul, business is, for want of a better word, booming.
That war means big business is a lamentable fact of life. In Kabul, a vast security equipment sector is consequently thriving as the armed conflict enters its tenth year, while other areas of the market are feeling the pinch.
“Increasing insecurity and instability means the price of our equipment goes up, as does the number of customers,” said Qais Ayoubi, sales manager at the Kabul-based company Grand Security Suppliers, which like most in the sector has a broad list of products: “We deal in everything from small security devices like cameras to armoured vehicles.”
Add to these items others that are readily sought these days, like razor wire, reinforced doors, blast walls and blast-proof glass, alarm systems, metal detectors, body armour, uniforms and walkie-talkies, to name a few, and you have a billion-dollar industry.
And as in any line of goods, security items are varyingly priced for a wide spending bracket.
In Kabul, a passenger vehicle that has been specially armoured to withstand gunfire and blasts can cost between 65,000 and 120,000 US dollars, and security cameras from 700 to 6,000 dollars.
But contrary to possible expectations, each successive attack – and there have been several major ones in the Afghan capital in recent weeks, does not necessarily precipitate a deluge of orders.
Business is increasing steadily, say the firms. But it also shows a peculiar elasticity, a general ebb and flow of orders that makes turnover hard to predict.
“Our revenue figures also depend on customer needs of course,” Ayoubi added. “We can average at a turnover of 10,000 dollars a month for a while, and then this can spike to a million dollars or more. [So] it’s not always the case that security threats increase our sales. Usually sales are done through contracts with companies and organizations.”