ASTANA – At the Kazakh-German Business Council held on Nov. 10 in Astana during the visit of German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the focus was on promoting Kazakhstan’s investment opportunities, particularly in infrastructure development, mining and innovative technologies, as well as the access Kazakhstan provides to neighbouring markets.
Addressing the council in Astana’s Hilton Garden Inn, Minister for Investments and Development of Kazakhstan Asset Issekeshev listed tourism, mechanical engineering, the chemical industry and construction as the most attractive sectors in the Kazakh economy for German investors.
He also emphasised Kazakhstan’s role as an investment hub, offering access to other markets from Kazakhstan’s business friendly territory. “Our economic policy is to be an investment hub of the region. We create good conditions for foreign investors, so they can create and develop their business in Kazakhstan and go to neighbouring markets, such as Russia, Central Asia, East China et cetera,” he said. Issekeshev also noted Kazakhstan’s desire to partner with small companies as well as large ones.
Kazakhstan’s desire to position itself as an investment hub seems to be reaching investors. “Currently, Kazakhstan is, I think, maybe the best, most convenient country in Central Asia to start any kind of business. It’s a good place: you can move to neighbouring countries like Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. We have a joint venture in China, so it’s also a possibility to connect those activities, and so on and so on,” managing director of German animal breeding venture Masterrind Rolf Strassemeyer said after the forum.
The visit here and the networking it offered had been enlightening, he said. “We tried to have closer discussions with our partners in Kazakhstan to construct possibilities … It’s also really important to know what the Kazakhstan side is thinking about the development of animal production here.”
Visiting German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told the assembled delegations that the two countries had a broad base for establishing deeper cooperation, particularly in energy-efficient infrastructure development. Steinmeier met with President Nursultan Nazarbayev and Foreign Minister of Kazakhstan Erlan Idrissov on his Nov. 9-10 visit.
Infrastructure, particularly that which uses innovative technologies, is a sector with major potential in developing Kazakhstan, especially in light of the coming EXPO 2017 in Astana and the innovative infrastructure and materials that will be necessary to fully develop its theme of “Future Energy.”
Manfred Grundke, general partner of Knauf Group, told Kazakh TV at the forum that his organisation wants to bring German technologies and German standards of quality to construction in Kazakhstan, and to produce their projects in Kapchagai, near Almaty. Knauf Group wants to provide their materials for use in building EXPO 2017 infrastructure, he told The Astana Times after the council meeting. He said he had learned about some interesting investment opportunities on the trip to Kazakhstan. “I think that [Kazakhstan] is serious about their investment and really interested in new technologies,” he said.
Rare earth metals mining is also an area in which the two countries intend to begin cooperation in the very near future, Deputy Minister of Investment and Development Albert Rau told the council. German businesses have received information on 15 interesting metal deposits in Kazakhstan and the Kazakh side was looking forward to continuing the dialogue, he said.
He added that the government of Kazakhstan was considering two proposals for the construction of an agricultural machinery factory: the German CLAAS and America’s John Deere. “We really need such factory, so I would ask the leadership to make this project a priority for us, if the government accepts it,” Rau said.
Executive Director of the National Association of Mining and Metallurgical Enterprises Nikolai Radostovets told the council about the potential for cooperation in metallurgy, mountain metallurgy, geologic exploration and subsurface use in general, and mentioned amendments to Kazakhstan’s law on subsoil use that will facilitate foreign investment and cooperation.
According to German statistics, Kazakh-German trade has amounted to some 6.5 billion euros over the past year and the two countries have implemented 12 joint investment projects over the past 3 years. This was the seventh meeting of the Kazakh-German Business Council so far. More than 1,200 German companies are currently operating in Kazakhstan.