UK, Kazakhstan Explore Opportunities in Green Technology, Mining and Education, Says British Trade Commissioner

ASTANA – Kazakhstan and the United Kingdom enjoy a profound trade partnership and are committed to expanding cooperation across a range of priority sectors, such as green technology, mining and education, said Kenan Poleo, the British Consul General and Trade Commissioner for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, who arrived on his first visit to Kazakhstan on May 20. 

Kenan Poleo during the interview with The Astana Times correspondent Aibarshyn Akhmetkali. Photo credit: British Embassy in Kazakhstan.

Our bilateral relationship with Kazakhstan is really strong and continues to get stronger at the moment,” said Poleo in an exclusive interview with The Astana Times, highlighting that Kazakhstan is a “priority country” for the UK in the region.

Bilateral trade reached 2.7 billion British pounds (US$3.3 billion) in 2022. The ties span various economic sectors such as mining, agriculture and agritech, education, green technology and financial products and services.

Partnership in green energy

Poleo said the green energy sector is among the top priorities on the British agenda. The country is working towards having net zero carbon emissions by 2050, while Kazakhstan has an ambition to reach the same goal by 2060.

The fact that both countries are facing a transition away from oil and gas technologies complements and strengthens the two countries’ ambitious climate goals and transition towards a low-carbon future, according to him.

“Green technology is a really strong priority. And I think we can get together with the services, the capabilities and the innovation strengths that we have in the UK based on the academic excellence that we have. They are matched with the brilliant capabilities that you have here in Kazakhstan. We can get together and create new solutions,” said Poleo.

“Global competitiveness is really where British and Kazakh companies can develop new products, new services, new ways of working to achieve that clean growth,” he added.

Crafting a sustainable path in the mining sector will also be the focus of bilateral cooperation, said Poleo.

“I think that we in the UK can provide a lot of support around how to do mining and continue mining and exploration in a really sustainable way. So it maximizes the minerals that we all need for low-carbon transition but does it in a way that doesn’t damage the earth or is healthier for those who are engaging with actually doing the mining as well,” he said.

One of the key outcomes of British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly’s visit to Astana in March was the signing of a memorandum of understanding with Kazakhstan on a strategic partnership in the fields of critical minerals and green hydrogen.

During his visit, Cleverly met with President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev and Prime Minister Alikhan Smailov. Talks became an important moment in the bilateral relationship, according to Poleo.

“I think it is really important that that visit isn’t just seen as a standalone. That visit actually is setting off a wave of activities and a wave of meetings, really going into detail around what our bilateral relationship looks like, around agri-tech or agriculture, and critical minerals and mining, but also education,” said Poleo.

Partnership in education

As part of his trip to Almaty, Poleo visited De Montfort University Kazakhstan, a partner institution of De Montfort University Leicester.

According to him, education is another key area that drives the vibrant Kazakh-British economic partnership. 

“When you go there, you can see young, dynamic, really inspiring Kazakh students who are working in a British education system, who are creating that strong bond between the UK [and Kazakhstan], but in a way focusing on economic growth,” said Poleo.

Commercial activity in the country can be boosted by supporting educational institutions that promote creativity and close links with industry and commerce

“It’s around bringing creative industries and business and IT together, so they can start to cross-fertilize and see how they can really become commercially active,” said Poleo.

Kazakhstan’s investment climate

Poleo urged British businesses to seek opportunities in Kazakhstan and highlighted the incentives offered by the country to boost growth.

“Any UK businesses that are interested in finding out more about Kazakhstan, please do reach out to the [embassy] team. (…) They will help guide people to understand how to work in Kazakhstan, how to build a network here, how to get under the skin of the culture,” he said.

Kazakhstan has consistently demonstrated a commitment to the rule of law to improve its business climate and attract foreign investors, according to Poleo.

“With any country, including the UK, that’s looking at attracting investments, what I think anyone would want to see from the government is stability and clarity around the investment landscape, that kind of level playing field and the really strong rule of law. So it’s really great to see how much of the business environment here is influenced by international law. That means Kazakhstan is a good place to invest and that’s why the numbers have been growing,” he said.

Poleo highlighted that expanding trade and investment relations between the UK and Kazakhstan is mutually beneficial.

“We know that there’s been an ambition for hundreds of products to be exported from Kazakhstan to the UK and we welcome that because it means that our consumers and our businesses are getting great products that are competitive and world-class. And equally, we want to see UK businesses grow in Kazakhstan. We both want to see jobs, we want to see prosperity in both countries, and we want to achieve our ambitions around clean growth,” said Poleo.

The two countries have markets of around 100 million people. “Together, we could go really global and sell, exchange and network with a much wider set of partners,” said Poleo.

The trade commissioner also commended Kazakhstan’s leadership on recent political reforms.            

“My message is to continue with those kinds of reforms and continue to make Kazakhstan a brilliant place to invest,” he said.

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