AIFC International Arbitration Centre opening ceremony, EdTech and FinTech summits mark second day of Astana Finance Days

NUR-SULTAN – The second day of the Astana Finance Days conference in the capital included the opening ceremony of the Astana International Finance Centre (AIFC) International Arbitration Centre (IAC) and EdTech and FinTech summits.

Photo credit: KazInform.

The IAC provides an independent alternative to court litigation and uses international standards to settle AIFC civil and commercial disputes. The court is independent from the Kazakh judicial system.

“We clearly understand that the rule of law is the foundation for successful economic growth. Because of this, we pay special attention to the formation of a modern professional and independent judiciary with an accessible justice system. By creating the AIFC court and the international arbitration centre using the principles of English law, we complete the creation of the institutional structure of the centre,” said Kazakh President Kassym-Zhomart Tokayev at the court’s opening ceremony referring to AIFC.

July 2 was also devoted to EdTech. The main topic of discussion was whether the education presently provided by universities answers the needs of the future labour market. Depending on estimates, from 15-50 percent of the current job market will be automated in the next 10 years, prompting the need to adapt to change, said Fung Group Chairperson Victor Fung during the Education in the Digital Age discussion. He suggested the current education system does not prepare students for the future challenges. 

By contrast, Accenture Managing Director Anton Mussin argued the current discourse overestimates the dangers of automatisation, due to the limitations of Artificial Intelligence (AI) that currently are unsolvable and prevent it from automatising the job market beyond jobs requiring very simple tasks. 

“We think currently we are in the winter of the AI life cycle, as only 30 percent of cases actually use some form of AI; the rest is either declarative or blatant lies. Generally, the current interest is in decline,” he said. 

Mussin agreed the existing academic system is inadequate even for today’s job market. Speakers in other parts of the forum broached necessary changes.

In the Building Better Schools and Leading Forward Education Transformation discussions, Kazakh specialists from the high school and higher education sectors tried to answer the question of how the existing system can adapt to these challenges. They argued that better data analysis, educating teachers and a top-down approach could assist in reforming the current system.

EdTech sector representatives offered alternative solutions to the job market supply problem. Coursera India customer success department head Bibin Shivas suggested online education is the best response to the emerging need to acquire new skills. Microsoft Education industry lead Nurlan Zhanybek emphasised the need for AI and acquiring better data for further EdTech sector development. EdTech Fund founder Maksutbek Aitmaganbet spoke in favour of investing in the EdTech sector, showing its rapid growth rate. Compared with FinTech sectors, EdTech is of marginal interest to investors, noted Mussin.

Technical skills acquisition and better data access are only a part of the response to existing challenges, said Kazakh start-up Edgravity CEO and founder Aigerim Khafizova. She suggested learning how to learn should be a cornerstone of online education, as without it, it is impossible to move forward in one’s education. Skillfolio company R&D director Viktoriya Shimanskaya added the importance of also learning soft skills, as according to Skillfolio research, they are a greater predictor of school children’s career success than technical skills.

The FinTech summit was concerned with more lucrative sectors of the economy, as the discussions analysed the latest trends of the sector and the way they apply to Central Asia. Particular attention was given to emerging trends such as blockchain, FinTech cybersecurity and personal data privacy. Lykke Corp. CEO Richard Olsen emphasised new trends do not necessarily threaten the existing financial sectors, as the interests of the investors make those areas more conservative and the new ones develop in a complementary way as a response to the existing finances crises. 

The summit also hosted the final of the Visa Everywhere Initiative start-up competition, as well as a series of memorandums of cooperation in ecosystem development initiatives, using technologies such as digital and mobile payments and developing ecosystems for students and FinTech start-ups.

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