The largest mobile network operator in Afghanistan is not a multinational company. Or it wasn’t until this month, when Roshan Telecom took its network to Uganda, Burundi and Tanzania. That makes telecoms Afghanistan’s most high-profile export after opium.
Roshan Telecom was born in Kabul in July 2003. Its headquarters remain in the Afghan capital. Its name, Roshan, means “light” in Dari and Pashto, Afghanistan’s two biggest languages. Altaf Ladak, the firm’s operations chief, says the plan was to call the network balle, the term people use when they answer the phone. But when they asked people to name the network, the overwhelming response was roshan, which can also connote hope.