Astana Economic Forum to Feature Sessions on Africa, KazAID

ASTANA – The 8th Astana Economic Forum (AEF), to be held May 21-22, will bring world leaders, experts and representatives from the business world together in the city’s Palace of Independence for an international discussion to address global economic and social challenges.

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The forum has become an authoritative dialogue platform of the Eurasian space, annually attracting considerable foreign investments into Kazakhstan’s industrial and innovative projects. The AEF is held at the initiative and with personal involvement of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, with the 2015 theme “Infrastructure – a Driver of Economic Development.”

Major contracts and agreements are concluded during the forum every year andthe outcome elaborates recommendations for development of global economy vectors.Among the number of different planned side events, the Kazakh Ministry of Foreign Affairs is planning two panel discussions: Kazakhstan’s Official Development Assistance System devoted to the KazAID project and Africa – the World’s Next Economic Driver, connected to next month’s African Union (AU) assembly in Johannesburg.

Within the past 20 years, Kazakhstan has moved from being a recipient of aid to being a provider of humanitarian assistance. The nation is the only net donor country among Central Asian states with humanitarian aid dispensed bilaterally and multilaterally. For example, the country provided half a million dollars to Somalia during the terrible drought in 2011 and has given financial aid to help tackle the humanitarian crisis in Central Africa.

The KazAID project being established by the government will focus on financial assistance and knowledge transfer. One of its top priorities is aimed at the implementation of projects in Afghanistan and the less-developed states of Central Asia.

“With the economic development and growth of the international authority of Kazakhstan, our country’s responsibility for ensuring regional and international stability and security is growing. The transition of Kazakhstan from being a recipient to being a development partner and soon to being an organised donor has historical significance for our country and is seen as a symbol of a new stage in the development of Kazakhstan,” said Foreign Minister Erlan Idrissov on the eve of the event.

“Kazakhstan is fully aware of its role as a responsible state in Central Asia and a partner of the international community contributing to the stability and sustainable social and economic development of the region. It is precisely in cooperation with interested countries of Central Asia that our official development assistance will be implemented,” he added.

The session on KazAID will be attended by Idrissov, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator Helen Clark and Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DAC) Chair Erik Solheim, as well as representatives of state bodies, diplomatic missions, international organisations and others.

Last year, Kazakhstan also supported a joint project of the UN, AU and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) to commemorate victims of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade to help tackle modern racism and racial discrimination.

Kazakhstan continues to develop close cooperation with the AU in other sectors. In October, the nation contributed $300,000 to the UN fund to fight the Ebola virus.

“Africa is a ‘continent of opportunities’ which are being actively explored by economic giants such as China, India and the Western states and it is those opportunities that Kazakhstan intends to develop in cooperation with our African partners. Our country is interested in establishing closer relations of mutually-beneficial political, economic and trade cooperation with African countries,” Idrissov noted in advance of the event.

The Kazakh government is also launching a programme of courses in the field of the oil and gas industry, agriculture and medicine next month for a number of African countries. The programme will provide training, internships, field trips and workshops to give the partner nations access to the professional training and opportunities offered at the country’s leading educational institutions.

The session, Africa – the World’s Next Economic Driver, will be attended by Idrissov, UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson, special adviser to the Secretary-General on Africa Maged Abdelaziz, permanent UN representatives of African countries, representatives of state bodies, diplomatic missions, international organisations and others.