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Ashraf Ghani

Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai is an Afghan politician and a candidate in the 2014 presidential election. In the 2009 presidential election, he ranked fourth in the polls, behind Hamid Karzai, Abdullah Abdullah, and Ramazan Bashardost. He is usually referred to as Ashraf Ghani, while Ahmadzai is the name of his tribe. Ahmadzai previously served as Finance Minister and as a chancellor of Kabul University. In 2009 he was ranked second in the world's top 100 intellectuals,[1] just behind Richard Dawkins. In 2005 he gave a TED talk, in which he discussed how to rebuild a broken state such as Afghanistan.[2]

He is the co-founder of the Institute for State Effectiveness, an organization set up in 2005 to improve the ability of states to serve their citizens. Before returning to Afghanistan in 2002, Ahmadzai was a leading scholar of political science and anthropology. He worked at the World Bank working on international development assistance. As Finance Minister of Afghanistan between July 2002 and December 2004, he led Afghanistan's attempted economic recovery after the collapse of the Taliban government.

Ghani is a member of the Commission on Legal Empowerment of the Poor, an independent initiative hosted by the United Nations Development Programme. In 2010, Foreign Policy Magazine placed him in its annual list of the Top 100 Global Thinkers.[3] In 2013, Prospect magazine placed him second in their world thinkers poll.[4]

Early years

Ghani was born in 1949 in the Logar Province of Afghanistan. An ethnic Pashtun from an influential Ahmadzai tribe, he completed his primary and secondary education in Habibia High School in Kabul. He travelled to Lebanon to attend the American University in Beirut, earning his first degree in 1973, where he also met his future wife, Rula Ghani. He returned to Afghanistan in 1977 to teach Afghan studies and anthropology at Kabul University before winning a government scholarship in 1977 to study for a Master's degree in anthropology at Columbia University in the United States.

Academic career

When the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) communist party came to power in 1978, most of the male members of his family were imprisoned and Ahmadzai was stranded in the United States. He stayed at Columbia University and earned his PhD in Cultural Anthropology. He was invited to teach at University of California, Berkeley in 1983, and then at Johns Hopkins University from 1983 to 1991. During this period he became a frequent commentator on the BBC Farsi/Persian and Pashto services, broadcast in Afghanistan. He has also attended the Harvard-INSEAD and World Bank-Stanford Graduate School of Business's leadership training program. He served on the faculty of Kabul University (1973–77), Aarhus University in Denmark (1977), University of California, Berkeley (1983), and Johns Hopkins University (1983–1991). His academic research was on state-building and social transformation. In 1985 he completed a year of fieldwork researching Pakistani Madrasas as a Fulbright Scholar. He also studied comparative religion.

World Bank

He joined the World Bank in 1991, working on projects in East and South Asia through the mid-1990s. In 1996, he pioneered the application of institutional and organizational analysis to macro processes of change and reform, working directly on the adjustment program of the Russian coal industry and carrying out reviews of the Bank’s country assistance strategies and structural adjustment programs globally. He spent five years each in China, India, and Russia managing large-scale development and institutional transformation projects. He worked intensively with the media during the first Gulf War, commenting on radio and television and in newspaper interviews.


After the September 11 attacks in the United States in 2001, he took leave without pay from the World Bank and engaged in intensive interaction with the media, appearing regularly on PBS's NewsHour, BBC, CNN, US National Public Radio, and other broadcasters, and writing for major newspapers. In November 2002, he accepted an appointment as a Special Advisor to the United Nations and assisted Lakhdar Brahimi, the Special Representative of the Secretary General to Afghanistan, to prepare the Bonn Agreement, the process and document that provided the basis of transfer of power to the people of Afghanistan.


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