Biography of President Dr. Mohammad Ashraf Ghani
Mohammad Ashraf Ghani grew up in Afghanistan before pursuing his education abroad. Like so many
Afghans, foreign invasion and civil war led to the persecution of his family and forced him to remain in
exile. Whilst abroad, he became a leading scholar of Political Science and Anthropology and then
worked at the World Bank where he learned the tools of international development. Following the fall
of the Taliban in 2001, he returned to Afghanistan to devote his unique skills and knowledge to
rebuilding the country. He advised interim President Karzai and served as the Finance Minister in the
Transitional Islamic State of Afghanistan until December 2004. During his tenure as Finance Minister,
he designed a package of reforms and initiated several public investment programs that led to
significant improvements in the livelihoods of ordinary Afghans across the country. He declined to join
the newly elected Government in December 2004. However, he remained an influential voice in the
political circles both in Afghanistan and abroad. He served as the chairman of the Transition
Coordination Commission (TCC) in 2010 which was responsible for transferring authority from foreign
to national troops. He resigned from TCC to run for president in October 2013. He was declared
winner on September 22, 2014.
Dr. Ghani was born into an influential family in Afghanistan in 1949, and spent his early life in the
province of Logar. He completed his primary and secondary education in Habibia High School in
Kabul. Growing up in Kabul under a monarchy, where his father worked in various senior capacities,
he has been immersed in politics from his early days.
Education and Early Career
As a young man, Dr. Ghani travelled to Lebanon to attend the American University in Beirut, where he
met his future wife, Rula, and earned his first degree in 1973. He returned to Afghanistan in 1974 to
teach Afghan studies and Anthropology at Kabul University before winning a government scholarship
to study for a Master’s degree in Anthropology at New York’s Columbia University. He left Afghanistan
in 1977, intending to be away for two years. When pro-Soviet forces came to power, most of the male
members of his family were imprisoned and he was stranded in the US. He stayed at Columbia
University and earned his Ph.D. there, with a doctoral thesis entitled ‘Production and domination:
Afghanistan, 1747-1901’, and was immediately invited to teach at University of California, Berkeley
(1983) and then at Johns Hopkins University (1983-1991). During this period, he became a frequent
commentator on the BBC Dari and Pashto services, broadcast in Afghanistan.
In 1991, Dr. Ghani joined the World Bank as lead anthropologist, advising on the human dimension to
economic programs. He served for 11 years, initially working on projects in East Asia, but moving in
the mid-nineties towards articulating the Bank’s social policy and reviewing country strategies,
conditionalities, and designing reform programs. 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 in China, India,
and Russia managing large-scale development and institutional transformation projects. Whilst at the
World Bank, Dr. Ghani attended the Harvard-INSEAD and Stanford business school leadership
Work After 2001
Following the ousting of the Taliban in late 2001, Dr. Ghani was asked to serve as Special Adviser to
Ambassador Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN Secretary General’s special envoy to Afghanistan. In that
capacity, Dr. Ghani returned to Afghanistan and worked on the design, negotiation and
implementation of the Bonn Agreement, which set out the roadmap for transition to a new government
based on popular consent. During the Interim Administration, Dr. Ghani served, on a pro bono basis,
as Chief Adviser to Interim President Karzai and was among the first officials to disclose his own
assets. In this capacity, he worked on the preparation of the Loya Jirgas (grand assemblies) that
elected president Karzai and approved the constitution.
Work as Finance Minister
As Afghanistan’s Finance Minister for the duration of the Transitional Administration, Dr. Ghani is
widely credited with the design and implementation of some of the most extensive and challenging
reforms of the period. He issued a new currency in record time; computerized the operations of
treasury; institutionalized the single treasury account; adopted a policy of no-deficit financing;
introduced the budget as the central instrument of policy; centralized revenue; reformed the tariff
system and overhauled customs; and instituted regular reporting to the cabinet, the people of
Afghanistan, and international stakeholders as a tool of transparency and accountability.
Dr. Ghani has combined personal integrity with extremely tough measures against corruption. When
he became Finance Minister, he fired corrupt officials from the Finance Ministry, ignoring those who
threatened to take revenge. He refused to pay the army until they produced a genuine roster of
soldiers, rightly suspecting that the figures were exaggerated so as to claim extra money.
Dr. Ghani harnessed his knowledge of the international system to break new ground in coordinating
donor assistance. He required donors to keep their interventions to three sectors, thereby bringing
clarity and mutual accountability to their relations with government counterparts, and preparing a
development strategy that put the Afghans in the driver’s seat regarding accountability for their future.
In recognition of his services, he was awarded the Sayed Jamal-ud-Din Afghan medal, the highest
civilian award in the country. He was recognized as the Best Finance Minister of Asia in 2003 by
Emerging Markets for his efforts.
On March 31-1 April 2004, he presented a seven-year program of public investment, ‘Securing
Afghanistan’s Future’, to an international conference in Berlin attended by 65 finance and foreign
ministers. Described as the most comprehensive program ever prepared and presented by a poor
country to the international community, ‘Securing Afghanistan’s Future’ was prepared by a team of
one-hundred experts working under the supervision of a committee chaired by Dr. Ghani. The concept
of a double-compact, between the donors and the government of Afghanistan on the one hand and
between the government and people of Afghanistan on the other, underpinned the program of
investment in ‘Securing Afghanistan’s Future’. The donors pledged $8.2 billion at the conference for
the first three years of the program –- the exact amount asked by the government — and agreed that
the government’s request for a total seven-year package of assistance of $27.5 billion was justified.
Throughout his career, Dr. Ghani has focused relentlessly on poverty eradication through the creation
of wealth and the establishment of the rights of citizenship. In Afghanistan, he is attributed with
designing the National Solidarity Program, a program of block grants to villages in which elected
village councils determine both the priorities and the mechanisms of implementation. The program
has been rolled out across the country and has become so successful that other countries around the
world are seeking to emulate it. Dr. Ghani also partnered with the Ministry of Communication to
ensure that telecom licenses were granted on a fully-transparent basis. As a result, the number of
mobile phones in the country jumped from 100 in July 2002 to over a million at the end of 2005.
Private investment in the sector exceeded $200 million and the telecom sector emerged as one of the
major sectors of revenue generation for the government.
After the election of President Karzai in October 2004, Mr Ghani declined to join the cabinet and
instead asked to be appointed as Chancellor of Kabul University. As Chancellor, he was engaged in
articulating the concept of shared governance among the faculty, students, and staff and advocating a
vision of the University where men and women with skills and commitment to lead their country in the
age of globalization can be trained.
Dr. Ghani subsequently founded the Institute for State Effectiveness, to help governments and their
international partners to build more effective, accountable systems of government. As Chairman of the
Institute, Dr. Ghani co-authored a book, ‘Fixing Failed States’, to international acclaim.
As a candidate during the 2009 presidential elections, he placed fourth. In 2010, he served as
chairman of the Transition Coordination Commission. TCC was responsible for transfer of power from
ISAF/NATO troops to Afghan Security Forces. During his time at TCC, he visited all of the 34
provinces several times.
On October 1st 2013, he resigned as the chairman of TCC to run for presidential elections in 2014. He
was declared winner of the June 14th runoff on September 22, 2014 with 55.27% of total votes. He
was sworn in as president on September 29th, 2014.