Four Seasons Hotel, London
It gives me great pleasure to be at the Kazakh Global Investment Forum once again.
Your kind invitation for me to be here today made me pause for a moment to reflect.
The EBRD now works in nearly 40 countries, across three continents.
Which of these countries do I speak about in public most often, I asked myself?
You can probably guess the identity of one of them!
Indeed, I take every opportunity that comes my way to spread the word about what Kazakhstan can offer.
There is what appears to be my annual engagement at this event here in London.
And every summer I travel to Kazakhstan itself to take part in and speak at the meeting of its Foreign Investors’ Council, which I co-chair with the President.
And I brief influential audiences about Kazakhstan and the benefits of investing there on every occasion I can on my travels over the years.
- Kazakhstan as a prime investment destination
This is no coincidence.
Kazakhstan offers people such as yourselves some very significant opportunities.
Indeed, its investment climate is such that it is already attracting large volumes of FDI from both East and West.
The country stands at the crossroads of numerous trade routes, as well as being a key component of the Belt and Road Initiative.
It is blessed with abundant renewable energy resources – among them solar, wind, hydro and others – and is rich in natural resources, such as oil, uranium and zinc.
Crucially, it also benefits from plentiful supplies of high quality human capital.
It is recording impressive economic growth and possesses a stable monetary framework and foreign currency regime.
At the same time, its efforts to digitalise and encourage innovation are generating the interest of many new economic players.
Turning now to the EBRD, we are the largest foreign investor in Kazakhstan outside the oil sector.
The total of our investment in the country so far is now well over €8 billion, two thirds of that amount in the private sector.
And both the volume and the tempo with which we are investing are increasing all the time.
For example, the amount we have invested in the first three quarters of this year already has almost overtaken what we did over the whole 12 months of 2018.
Almost half the total so far this year has been in the green economy, by the way.
And the green economy is one area where we can contribute in many ways other than investment alone.
Complementary to our investment in projects, our work on policy reform, in the green economy and in growing capital markets, is also spurring real progress.
The same is true of our engagement in regional development and gender inclusion.
Our groundbreaking Enhanced Partnership Framework Agreement with Kazakhstan allows us to have ever more impact.
And so does the fact that our partnership with the Kazakh authorities is so strong – and growing ever stronger.
For all those reasons – and many more – I believe that we can be your trusted partner as you look to invest in Kazakhstan as well.
At the EBRD, we pride ourselves on our deep understanding of the countries where we work, their economies and their business climate, especially as experienced by foreign investors.
A very important part of that expertise is our credibility with every level of government and with the private sector.
When we offer our advice, our partners listen, take note and, more often than not, act on it.
And that influence is amplified by our presence on the ground, not just in capital cities, but secondary cities as well, closer to our clients and projects and to the people whose lives they change.
We have more than 50 offices away from our HQ here in London.
But the single country where we have most offices of all, seven in fact, is Kazakhstan.
- Some recent highlights
Ladies and gentlemen, when I spoke here twelve months ago, I identified three EBRD projects or Kazakh themes which represented, in my opinion, real breakthroughs in our work there.
Today I want to update you on where we are with them and their delivery, and look at some of the highlights of this last year.
The first of these projects is the Big Almaty Ring Road PPP, also known as BAKAD.
I am very happy to report that, after seven years of painstaking work by the Kazakh Government, the Turkish-South Korean Concessionaire, the EBRD and many other financial institutions, our Board of Directors approved the project last week.
This is a major milestone for Kazakhstan and for Central Asia as a whole.
It is the region’s first proper PPP, with a total project cost of €675 million, and, not surprisingly, the project finance world has been following its progress very closely.
We expect it to open the doors to increased private sector participation in infrastructure financing both in Kazakhstan and beyond.
It will also benefit the people of Almaty and the country as a whole in the areas of transparency and the environment, as well as bringing many economic benefits.
My second theme is our ever expanding work to secure Kazakhstan’s status as a regional leader in the field of renewable energy.
Last month we launched the second phase of our Kazakhstan Renewables Framework, a facility worth up to €300 million to fund solar, wind, hydro and biogas, and distribution and transmission projects. The first phase attracted international investors from UK, France, Germany and China, I might add.
Apart from our funding, the framework will also be supported by the Green Climate Fund, which will promote competitive tendering for wind projects and the development of a carbon market.
And at the end of last month we announced that, together with the Green Climate Fund, we are financing a new Kazakh solar plant, the first to be developed under an auctions scheme designed to encourage competitive pricing and more outside investment.
My third highlight is a more personal one, my visit to the Astana International Financial Centre in May.
I know that my good friend, Kairat, is next up after me and I don’t want to steal his thunder.
But I do want to say how exciting it was to see the way his centre has grown from the tiny seed of an idea into a fully operational financial hub.
I was there in the week of the grand opening of the AIFC court and the International Arbitration Centre.
I was pleased to see that the impact of AIFC will be felt not just in Nur-Sultan and within the financial sector.
It will touch many other sectors of the economy across the country as a whole, the rest of Central Asia – and beyond.
The AIFC has attracted foreign shareholders, introduced modern trading technologies, brought English law to Central Asia for the first time and proved itself capable of performing the most complex financial transactions.
Financial centres such as the AIFC have a great track record in strengthening the international financial system, for example by improving the availability of credit and encouraging competition in domestic banking systems.
We look forward to becoming regular and active AIFC clients ourselves, not least by helping companies tap into the region’s – and the world’s – capital markets there.
And we urge you all to join us in that exciting adventure.
Ladies and gentlemen, the EBRD has been a pioneer in investment in Kazakhstan.
Follow our lead and see for yourselves what it has to offer.
As the country makes more progress in its plans to accelerate privatisation, there will be more and more opportunities to do so, I am sure.
We look forward to being your partner as you discover what Kazakhstan can do for you and your business.
Thank you very much.