Tokayev’s Address at Boao Forum to Facilitate Kazakhstan’s Economic Opportunities

ASTANA – President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev’s address at the Boao Forum for Asia on March 28 is meant to significantly elevate the international profile of Kazakhstan, including amplifying the visibility of Kazakh brands and expanding opportunities for the Kazakh economy, said Adil Kaukenov, the chief expert at the Kazakhstan Institute for Strategic Studies (KazISS), in an interview with The Astana Times.

Photo credit: Akorda

Kazakhstan’s President took the stage, addressing issues from geopolitics to food security and logistics. He reiterated Asia’s growing importance, saying that in 2024, Asia will account for 60% of the global GDP growth. 

“The continent holds 53% of global trade and is home to several of the world’s largest and most dynamically developing economies. Foreign direct investment in Asia has significantly increased over recent years,” he added. 

Economic opportunities

Adil Kaukenov. Photo credit: KazISS

Kaukenov said the Boao Forum ranks among the largest not just in Asia but globally. Participation in such reputable forums offers a chance to enhance Kazakhstan’s recognition and prospects for cooperation with major foreign investors, a strategic goal for Kazakhstan as it seeks to attract at least $150 billion by 2029.

“These investors can offer Kazakhstan not only direct investment but also the transfer of technology, business processes, and much more. It is essential to understand that, unfortunately, Kazakhstan’s visibility is not as high as it could be,” said Kaukenov. 

The second day of President Tokayev’s visit pursued this objective. He met with Liu Mingsheng, сhairman of the Board of Directors of the State Power Investment Corporation, and Xiang Wenbo, the rotating chairman of Sany Group, to discuss prospects for cooperation with Kazakhstan. 

Addressing the forum, Tokayev also commended the level of cooperation with China. In 2023, China emerged as Kazakhstan’s largest trade partner and it is one of the five largest investors.

Transport and logistics

Kaukenov said what makes Kazakhstan increasingly recognized is its transport and logistics projects, in addition to the oil and gas sector. Data indicates nearly 80% of all land transportation between China and Europe passes through Kazakhstan.

“Specifically, within the Belt and Road initiative, Kazakhstan managed to advance projects not just on a regional but on a continental scale when land routes, true land bridges, started to go from Asia to Europe and back through Kazakh territory, such as the routes from Yiwu to London or Lianyungang to Duisburg, among many others,” he said. 

In his speech at the forum, President Tokayev stressed the strategic importance of expanding transit and transport cooperation between Asian countries. He specifically mentioned the Trans-Caspian International Transport Route (TITR). 

“Last year, the volume of cargo transportation along this route doubled and amounted to three million tons. In the coming years, we expect this figure to reach 10 million tons,” said Tokayev. 

According to data cited by Tokayev, in 2023, the volume of cargo transportation between Kazakhstan and China increased by 22%, reaching almost 30 million tons. 

Promoting the Central Asian agenda

Kaukenov noted Boao Forum has a vast history and Kazakhstan has supported the platform since the beginning. 

“Kazakhstan has been very positive about this forum from the beginning and has supported the initiative, given that Kazakhstan itself is an Asian country and is interested in cooperating with other nations of the vast continent of Asia, where it is located,” said the expert. 

“As part of Central Asia, Kazakhstan is keenly interested in ensuring that the Central Asian agenda is also heard in the broader family of Asian nations. In this context, the Boao Forum is of interest because, as the President noted, Asia is one of the main drivers of global economic growth today,” he added. 

Eastern Davos

According to him, Asia is not just home to manufacturing hubs but is also a center for design, scientific and technical development, and innovation. 

“This focus on scientific and technological development has not just now shifted to Asia. It has firmly established itself there. Hence, when discussing the Boao Forum as an Eastern Davos, it raises the question of which forum is now more significant, considering Asia’s substantial contribution to global stability and development,” said Kaukenov. 

He echoed Tokayev’s words that Asia is experiencing not just growth but also a “renaissance.”

“It is no surprise that the Asian direction is one of the top priorities in Kazakhstan’s foreign policy and external economic priorities,” added Kaukenov. 

“The famous work ‘Alice in Wonderland’ contains a poignant phrase – ‘we must run as fast as we can, just to stay in place and if you wish to go anywhere you must run twice as fast as that.’ This accurately describes the state of any developing country with any ambitions. And Asia is an important direction, strengthening ties with which poses a serious task for all world states,” he said. 

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