Astana Begins EXPO 2017 Preps

Everybody gets excited when guests come to their home, and the hospitality of the Kazakh people has been legendary for ages. However, the hosting of the specialized international exhibition EXPO 2017 in Astana will present new challenges in planning. More than five million visitors are expected to come.

The event will last three months and be the greatest gathering of its kind Central Asia has ever seen. It will celebrate the emergence of independent Kazakhstan and the wider region as the energy and communications hub of Europe and Asia since the collapse of communism.

EXPO 2017 will offer enormous new opportunities for the businesses and residents of Astana. For three months, Astana, which will mark its 20th anniversary as the capital in 2017, will take centre stage on the television screens of the world. No other country in the Commonwealth of Independent States has had this opportunity since the disintegration of the Soviet Union.

President Nursultan Nazarbayev recognizes the EXPO and the global interest it generates will be beneficial for every region of the country. At a meeting with mayors and governors from around the country in Astana, he said, “For us, the EXPO has to become a mega-project which will benefit each and every region. This will give a powerful impetus to the innovative development of the country. But this does not entitle us to rest on our laurels. We have a historical responsibility for the fate of the country, for the future, and we need to mobilize all the resources of the state apparatus and the ruling Nur Otan party for the benefit of all citizens.

“The people of Kazakhstan have not yet realized that this is the greatest achievement at the international level of Kazakhstan’s independence,” the president said. He noted that the vote by the International Exhibitions Bureau (BIE) in Paris to hold EXPO 2017 in Astana was overwhelming. More than 100 countries voted to choose Kazakhstan to host the exposition on alternative energy. Never before in the history of the BIE had there been such a large majority of almost 60 countries in choosing a host city. In November 2012, Belgian city of Liege, another candidate city, received 44 country votes as opposed to Astana’s 103.

“This will be a turning point for Kazakhstan. It will start a whole new chapter in economic development,” the president said. The new complex that will be built to house the EXPO will then become a laboratory science park for the introduction of new technologies in Kazakhstan, he added.

“I want to emphasize the importance of the fact that for the next five years the whole world will be talking about Kazakhstan,” the president said.

Aidar Kazybayev, chairman of the Trade Committee of the Ministry of Trade and Economic Development, told the Astana Times that planning work on the EXPO was already well underway.

“The event is looking for strong examples of innovation,” he said. “Work on holding EXPO 2017 has already started through Astana EXPO 2017, a government corporation that has been set up to direct and coordinate the preparations,” he said. “Starting on January 14, negotiations will be held with potential investors and with BIE Secretary General Vicente Gonzalez Loscertales. We will allocate a budget of 230 million euros ($230.73 million) in land and infrastructure.The rest will come from investors.”

Kazybayev said those independent investors would be the main financiers of the event, but the government would also contribute to the costs of the EXPO from its state budget. “We will contribute to all efforts to host this event at the highest level,” he added.

The Astana EXPO may bring as many as five million visitors to the capital, experts say. This is in part due to the large number of participating countries. Kazybayev said 69 countries have already confirmed their active support. To ensure maximum international representation, “a special programme of support to developing countries will allocate 62 million euros ($81.07 million), so they can come and participate at the exhibition,” he said.

“Our goal is to have the maximum amount of countries demonstrate their achievements in the sphere of alternative energy,” Kazybayev said. The EXPO is about bringing the world to Kazakhstan and showing what this country is about. It is about caring for the future and showing the world that modern Kazakhstan is able to organize such a massive international effort, he said.

“Kazakhstan will be building pavilions itself and will rent them to the participants ready to be decorated,” the trade committee chairman said.

EXPO displays are by nature spectacular and, therefore, expensive. The average price of one pavilion comes to $17 million. When the EXPO is over, the pavilions will be converted into display museums for new technologies, scientific laboratories, a business centre complex, and a presentation-exhibition centre.

The Astana EXPO will also include a specialized educational programme on its theme of “Renewable Sources of Energy” that will be conducted at Nazarbayev University in the city.

The EXPO’s associated higher education programmes will include the theoretical as well as the applied sciences. Kazybayev said the Mazda Motor Corporation of Japan is already developing advanced technologies in Kazakhstan. A new joint venture will make electric cars for export after the EXPO.

Progress in developing the efficient use of fuel and energy is important, Kazybayev said because “the country realizes that even (oil and gas) resources are finite.”

The EXPO will also boost Kazakhstan’s national economy by generating new businesses and opportunities. Kazybayev said the city government would need 2,000 to 3,000 video cameras to record the event. “Instead of buying them, we are building a new factory to make them,” he said. “This makes sense, especially in a free economic zone.

“Astana will become the first digital EXPO with video cameras and Wi-Fi everywhere so that every corner of the world with access to the Internet can see this historic event,” Kazybayev said. Also, “this year, a new website will be opened about the EXPO that will be more open to the world. It will be easily accessible and fully navigational.”

In his most recent state of the nation address President Nazarbayev said the preparations for EXPO2017 would be a challenge for the entire nation.

“We now have a new task: to hold the EXPO at a worthy level,” the president said. “This is not only a test for the country; the exhibition will reveal our creative potential. Holding EXPO 2017 in Astana will encourage the innovative development of the republic.”

The president expressed confidence that the country would rise to meet the challenge, as it had so many other ones.