Weekly News Review

February 18, 2017

Embassy of Kazakhstan to Canada Weekly News Review

February 13-18, 2017

Issue No. 208

POLITICS

  • Second round of Syrian talks in Astana adopt mechanism to monitor ceasefire
  • Kazakhstan ‘strongly condemns’ North Korean ballistic missile launch

 

ECONOMY

  • Uranium prices glow with decision by main producer Kazakhstan to trim output
  • Kazakhstan. Opening a logistics corridor for grain supplies to Southeast Asia through China
  • Kazakh government services app receives award at World Government Summit
  • Can Kazakhstan light up its privatisation programme?

 

CULTURE, SOCIETY AND SPORTS

  • Forum addresses national gender equality achievements and challenges
  • ‘Technovation Challenge’ seeks to build new generation of women leaders

POLITICS

Second round of Syrian talks in Astana adopt mechanism to monitor ceasefire

Astana Times, 17 February 2017

Another two days of talks on strengthening the ceasefire regime in the nearly six-year-old Syrian conflict ended Feb. 16 in Astana with the adoption of a document to formalise monitoring of the ceasefire.

The document will guide the activities of a joint operational group to be formed by Russia, Turkey and Iran that was agreed to be set up during the earlier meeting in January in Astana. The document is also meant to guide confidence-building measures among the opposing sides.

The parties also agreed during the talks to continue discussions of a mechanism to exchange corpes and prisoners, including women and children, said Russian Foreign Ministry Special Envoy for the Mideast Settlement and Director of the Department of the Middle East and North Africa Sergei Vershinin during a Moscow-Damascus-Astana teleconference following the talks.

The meetings were meant to also create a positive momentum in support of Feb. 23 peace talks in Geneva.

In addition to representatives of the trilateral monitoring group, the Feb. 15-16 meetings were attended bythe Syrian Arab Republic’s delegation headed by Syria’s Permanent Representative to the UN Bashar al-Jaafari and the Syrian armed opposition delegation representing nine groups and being headed by the political leader of Jaish al-Islam Mohammad Alloush. Representatives of the United States, Jordan and the UN attended the talks as observers.

Kazakh Deputy Foreign Minister Akylbek Kamaldinov opened the talks’ plenary session expressing Astana’s hopes that the meetings on Syria would make a tangible contribution to the UN-led Geneva process and ultimately result in a comprehensive peace agreement on Syria.

“Kazakhstan, as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for 2017-2018, will make every effort to address issues of regional and global security. In this regard, we are prepared to further contribute to the process of Syrian settlement,” Kamaldinov said.

He highlighted that all the meetings in Astana were held in a constructive manner, and showed the importance of the Astana platform created with the support of President Nursultan Nazarbayev.

In a press briefing following the end of talks, Al-Jaafari emphasised that Damascus is committed to taking all steps to comply with the ceasefire regime in order to stop the bloodshed.

He said Turkey “cannot be fanning the flames and extinguishing them at the same time.” Al-Jaafari accused Turkey of continuing to facilitate the entry of “tens of thousands of mercenaries” to Syria and said the talks ended without a final statement because of the late arrival of the Turkish delegation and the Syrian opposition.

Alloush, in his turn, said all opposition groups represented at the talks would as well take measures to support the shaky truce.

Despite the objections of the Syrian armed opposition concerning Iran’s participation, the decision to establish the joint Russia-Turkey-Iran group was approved.

“We also discussed mechanisms to establish control over the ceasefire regime. Russia mentioned a brief document in response to the document that we presented,” Alloush said at a press conference.

The head of the Syrian armed opposition emphasised his delegation’s commitment to acting in the interests of the people of Syria, who have suffered a lot over the six years of the conflict.

Head of the Russian delegation and Representative of the Russian President on Syrian settlement Alexander Lavrentiev noted that “the Astana platform is not confined to military matters on Syria, the parties might as well engage more closely with political issues.”

He also stated that there were two more documents that hadn’t been signed in Astana. One of them sets the procedures of identifying and preventing violations and provides for sanctions against violators of the truce. The other deals with areas that are under the control of moderate Syrian armed opposition groups that have signed the Dec. 29 ceasefire agreement. Lavrentiev said both documents might be adopted within less than a month.

The Feb. 15-16 talks followed two previous rounds of Syria negotiations in Astana. The first meetings were Jan. 23-24 and were the first to include both the Syrian government and the Syrian armed opposition. Representatives from Russia, Iran and Turkey also attended as well as representatives of the UN and the United States who attended as observers. The trilateral group, as well as observers from Jordan and the United Nations, met again Feb. 6 to discuss mechanisms to monitor the ceasefire.

The Russian delegation’s Vershinin said the Astana meeting was “another important step” towards bringing the ened of the conflict closer.

Al-Jaafari also said that the Geneva meeting “needs to take into account the Astana-1 and Astana-2 results and resolutions so that they become a basis for the work in the upcoming meeting.”

 

Kazakhstan ‘strongly condemns’ North Korean ballistic missile launch

Astana Times, 13 February 2017

Kazakhstan “strongly condemns” the ballistic missile launch conducted by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) on Feb. 12 as “a blatant violation of the relevant UN Security Council resolution, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Astana said in a statement on the same day.

“Being, together with Japan, the co-chairman of the 9th Conference on Article XIV of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), as well as the chairman of the Hague Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation, Kazakhstan believes that extremely irresponsible actions of the DPRK have a negative impact on the nuclear disarmament process and pose a threat to both regional and global security, undermine the efforts of the vast majority of countries in the world in ensuring a nuclear weapon-free future,” the ministry said.

“Kazakhstan is firmly convinced that the key to global security is a nuclear weapon-free world, and stands for complete prohibition of nuclear testing all over the world,” the ministry said. It further called on the DPRK to return immediately to the negotiating table in the six-party format with the participation of China, Russia, the United States, the Republic of Korea and Japan, and to abandon completely its nuclear weapons aspirations.

In 1991, at the break-up of the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan inherited part of the former Soviet nuclear weapons arsenal, at that time the world’s fourth largest. It then renounced that arsenal and shut down the former Soviet nuclear test site at Semipalatinsk where, from 1949 to 1991, more than 450 nuclear tests were conducted resulting in contamination of large areas of land and harmful consequences for health of more than 1.5 million people.

Since independence, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev has made campaigning for a global nuclear disarmament a key staple of the country’s foreign policy. In addition to creating, together with Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, the Central Asian Nuclear Weapon Free Zone (CANWFZ), Kazakhstan has also launched an international awareness campaign, The ATOM (Abolish Testing. Our Mission) Project whose online petition for the early entry into force of CTBT has already been signed by more than 300,000 people in more than100 countries around the world.

 

ECONOMY

 

Uranium prices glow with decision by main producer Kazakhstan to trim output

Cnbc.com, 13.02.2017

A resurgence in interest for nuclear energy and a sharp reduction in supply is putting a glow on the uranium market, with prices surging 30 percent this-year-to-date.

Benchmark uranium futures on the New York Mercantile Exchange are trading around $27 per pound, with prices getting a boost after top supplier Khazakhstan shocked the market on Jan. 10 when state-owned Kazatomprom announced a 10 percent production cut. All of Kazakhstan's uranium output is produced by the company.

Kazakhstan supplies 40 percent of the world's uranium supply, so any output cuts will have an outsized impact on the market, said Warren Gilman, CEO of CEF Holdings, a Hong Kong-based investment company. Almost all of the world's mined uranium is used for nuclear power generation.

In the company's announcement last month, Kazatomprom chairman Askar Zhumagaliyev said the company will cut 10 percent of its output this year, an amount equivalent to 3 percent of global production. The decision stems from an oversupply that contributed to a sustained crash in prices that saw prices slump to a 12-year low last December.

Kazatomprom's troubles came after years of expanding supplies from 2011—the year of Japan's Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant disaster, when a powerful earthquake and tsunami caused a meltdown and radiation leaks. The accident prompted plant shutdowns in Japan and re-examination of nuclear safety and policies in many other countries, slashing uranium demand.

There's been a recent uptick in interest however, notably from emerging markets like China, India and Southeast Asia.

"You have a very good long-term indicator of what demand is going to be; what is the volatility in the recipe is the supply," said CEF's Gilman.

"You've got a very focused supply of uranium in a country which has significant sovereign risks surrounding it," added Leigh Curyer, the CEO of NexGen Energy, a uranium exploration company.

"(Nuclear power) is undergoing quite a resurgence. A lot of countries are recognizing that nuclear power is the baseload supply of electricity that is emissions-free," he added.

This is particularly in China where air pollution from coal-powered plants have become a social and political issue.

There are some 61 nuclear plants being built globally with another 150 being planned, so the demand outlook for uranium is much stronger than that for other fossil fuels, said Mark Jolley, equity strategist at CCB International Securities.

Macquarie Bank was more circumspect on the current rally, noting that the jump was from a low base as prices tanked to a 12-year low of $18 per pound low in November, with the run-up lagging gains in the energy complex.

"Uranium pricing is currently trading 50 percent of where it was 40 years ago in nominal terms – never mind adjusting for inflation. There is no other commodity for which this is true. Essentially, this has put uranium in the situation where many peer commodities were at this time last year, trading too far into the cost curve for pricing to be sustainable," analysts wrote in a report on Jan. 20.

Even so, the Australian bank was upbeat on the outlook on confidence in the U.S., the world's largest uranium consumer.

"With the closure of a large number of nuclear power plants announced earlier in 2016 on economic grounds, legislative actions in New York and Illinois keeping some of these open will provide both more optimism and spot market demand into 2017," Macquarie analysts wrote.

http://www.cnbc.com/2017/02/13/uranium-prices-glow-with-decision-by-main-producer-kazakhstan-to-trim-output.html


Kazakhstan. Opening a logistics corridor for grain supplies to Southeast Asia through China

Blackseagrain.net, 15.02.2017

On February 5, a railroad train loaded with 720 MT of wheat from Kazakhstan arrived to the Chinese-Kazakh logistics cooperation base in the port of Lianyungang, the province of Jiangsu (East China). Then, after transloading, the wheat will be shipped to Vietnam by sea.

Thus, wheat of Kazakh production will for the first time come to the market of Southeast Asia through China, reports UkrAgroConsult.

According to estimates, wheat delivery from Australia to Southeast Asia takes 30 days against about 20 days for Kazakh wheat transit through China. At the same time, Kazakh wheat is $45/MT cheaper than Australian wheat of the same quality. Transit shipping through China will contribute to making Kazakh wheat much more competitive.

Kazakhstan intends to export about 500 KMT of wheat to Southeast Asia through China in 2017.

Further development of the Black Sea region logistics in the upcoming 2017/18 season will be discussed at the XIV International Conference “Black Sea Grain: Wind of Change”, which will take place on April 5-6, 2017 in InterContinental hotel, Kiev, Ukraine.

Black Sea Grain conference is large international platform, offering high quality market analysis and networking opportunities for the global leaders of grain and oilseed industry. The event is annually attended by over 800 agribusiness representatives from more than 400 companies and 50 countries worldwide.

http://www.blackseagrain.net/novosti/kazakhstan-opening-a-logistics-corridor-for-grain-supplies-to-southeast-asia-through-china

 

Kazakh government services app receives award at World Government Summit

Astana Times, 17 February 2017

Kazakhstan’s eGov.kz mobile application was named the best “one stop shop app” in the first World GovTechioneers competition at the February 12-14 World Government Summit (WGS) in Dubai.

The Android, iOS and Windows phone app was launched in late 2014 and offers86 e-services, including a “Mobile Personal Cabinet” where a citizen can view his/her personal data from national databases. It also offers a map of government services, such as notaries and kindergartens, and allows users to make suggestions to improve public services. The app had more than 1.6 million users at the end of 2016.

The World GovTechioneers competition was launched in December 2016 to encourage global government entities to enhance their services, implement smart government initiatives and develop partnerships to identify innovative solutions to challenges facing the world. The contest received thousands of nominations since its launch.

The competition includes three main categories: Blockchain Virtual GovHack, Best m-Government Service, and Best Emerging Technologies in Government. It highlights leading projects in the fields of robotics, artificial intelligence, drones, statistical data, nanotechnology, autonomous cars, block chain transactions, virtual reality, and 3-D printing.

The winners of the World GovTechioneers Race, selected by an impartial judging panel, were awarded on the third day of the WGS, Feb. 14.

Kazakh Minister of Information and Communications Dauren Abayev, who headed the country’s delegation to the summit, accepted the award presented by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Emir of Dubai.

“This is a deserved award for our team of highly skilled professionals, who put a lot of effort into this project. It’s also an incentive to develop the industry,” Abayev said.

Also at the summit, Abayev discussed Kazakhstan’s experience in the field of digitilisation and the “Digital Kazakhstan” programme with the Minister of Economy of the UAE Sultan bin Saeed Al Mansouri. The sides also discussed the hub Astana plans to create within the Smart City project and agreed to cooperate in the technology sector to develop digital transformation.

Abayev also discussed cooperation and progress in modernising public services, procedures simplification and public services management with UAE Minister of State for Happiness Ohoud Al Roumi.

The WGS 2017 attracted more than 4,000 people from 139 countries and featured 150 speakers over 114 sessions.

The attendees included leading figures from the public and private sectors globally, ministers, decision makers, chief executive officers, innovators, officials, entrepreneurs, academics and university students.

President of the World Bank Jim Yong Kim, Prime Minister of Bhutan Tshering Tobgay and UAE Minister of State for Tolerance Lubna Khalid Al Qasimi delivered keynote speeches at the event. The summit attendees were Uber CEO Travis Kalanick and Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

Issues like the end of globalisation, how technology is breaking borders, treating extremism and the source of nuclear energy were key topics discussed during the summit. Participants of the three-day event shared best practices in government agencies’ work and talked about their vision of the future government.

The WGS included participation of seven world and international organisations who are also strategic partners of the summit, including the International Monetary Fund, the United Nations, UNESCO, Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the World Economic Forum.

 

Can Kazakhstan light up its privatisation programme?

Ftseglobalmarkets.com, 15.02.2017

Although long standing, in 2016 the country’s privatisation programme was harnessed by the government to encourage foreign investment in minority stakes in a gamut of state-owned firms, include the country’s flagship National Company KazMunaiGas. Since then, the programme has sometimes been mired in questions around governance. Partner, Carter Brod and general director, Aset Shyngyssov of global law firm Morgan Lewis examine the viability of Kazakhstan’s privatisation plans.

The process of privatisation of state property in Kazakhstan began in the early 1990s after Kazakhstan obtained independence following the break-up of the Soviet Union, where private property was almost non-existent. The privatisation process has continued up to the present, with numerous small, medium and large enterprises having been privatised pursuant to several programmes.  The privatisation drive has the aim of decreasing the state’s influence in the economy, with the goal of fostering business activity and labour productivity and improving the investment climate in Kazakhstan.

In 2011, the Kazakhstan government adopted a “People’s IPO” programme aimed at providing citizens of Kazakhstan with the ability to buy shares in the country’s major enterprises. Ten state-owned companies were initially chosen to participate, but to date only KazTransOil, the Kazakhstan oil transportation company (in December 2012), and KEGOC, the Kazakhstan electricity grid operating company (in December 2014), have conducted IPOs under the programme.  The share of state ownership and participation in the economy of Kazakhstan remains substantial.  Per the National Report on the State of Entrepreneurial Activity in Kazakhstan published in 2016, the share of Kazakhstan’s GDP represented by state owned or controlled entities (and entities affiliated with them) was approximately 60%.

Kazakhstan’s privatisation campaign continued with the adoption in December 2015 of the Comprehensive Privatisation Plan for 2016-2020 along with a revised list of entities that are planned to be privatized, which currently consists of 780 entities, including 215 entities owned (partially or fully, or directly or indirectly) by the sovereign wealth fund Samruk-Kazyna.  Among other things, it is planned to decrease the share of Kazakhstan’s GDP represented by state owned or controlled entities (and entities affiliated with them) to 15% of GDP by 2020.

The list of entities to be privatised is very wide and includes assets owned by the Republic and by municipalities, as well as assets owned directly or indirectly by Samruk-Kazyna and national management holding companies Baiterek and KazAgro.  Entities from almost every major sector of the economy are present in the list, including oil and gas, railway, power, chemicals, aviation, banking and finance, agriculture and communications. Depending on several factors, including the strategic importance of the entity for the economy, the valuation of the entity and recommendations of independent advisors, methods of privatisation that may be used include electronic auction, electronic bidding, direct sale, public-private partnership and public offering (IPO or secondary public offering).  

According to the current privatisation plan, the shares of the following entities are planned to be privatized by way of an IPO: Kazakhstan Temir Zholy, the national railway company (targeted for 2018-2020); KazMunayGas, the national operator for exploration, production, refining and transportation of hydrocarbons (targeted for 2018); KazAtomProm, the national producer and exporter of uranium and uranium products, as well as rare and rare-earth metals (targeted for 2018); Samruk-Energy, the national energy holding company (targeted for 2019-2020);  Tau-Ken Samruk, the national mining company (targeted for 2018-2020); Kazpost, the national postal service (targeted for 2019-2020); and Air Astana, the principal airline carrier of Kazakhstan (targeted for 2017).

State authorities are currently reviewing the options for listing locations for the planned privatisation IPOs.  Listings could be domestic or international only or they could involve dual listings in Kazakhstan and on an international stock exchange such as London or Hong Kong.

It should be noted that the exact timing for an IPO, the stock exchange for listing and the percentage of shares to be floated will ultimately depend on a number of factors, some of which are currently difficult to predict, including among others: macroeconomic factors, such as commodity prices, that may significantly affect the valuation of companies; completion of restructuring and other preparatory stages for the IPO; and recommendations of financial advisors.

Domestic IPOs:  The AIFC

One of the most important recent developments in the financial market of Kazakhstan is the establishment of the Astana International Financial Centre (AIFC) in Kazakhstan’s capital city Astana.  The administration of AIFC was registered in December 2015, but the registration of AIFC’s participants is not expected to start until July 2017 with AIFC expected to be fully operational in time for the planned privatisation IPOs, with the AIFC Exchange expected to be ready to launch first trades in equities by September 2017.

Currently the only stock exchange in Kazakhstan is the Kazakhstan Stock Exchange (KASE). It was established in 1993 and is in Almaty.  As of 30 January 2017, KASE had 141 listed companies, although a substantial majority of trading on KASE consists of repo and FX trading, with trading in shares and corporate bonds each accounting for less than 1% of trading volumes in 2016.  Representatives of Samruk Kazyna have stated that the planned privatisation IPOs are planned to be listed on the AIFC and will not be listed in Kazakhstan if the AIFC has not yet been operational at the time of the IPO. However, dual domestic listings on AIFC and KASE may be a possibility.

The AIFC is intended to become a financial hub for the CIS region and Western and Central Asia (such as the Dubai International Financial Centre for the Middle East, Africa and South Asia). The AIFC is expected to have the following characteristics, which will be attractive to international investors: (a legal regime be based on English law principles and/or standards of leading international financial centres; adjudication of disputes by an independent AIFC Court (consisting of a trial and appellate court) and the International Arbitration Centre; a preferential tax regime; (iv) simplified registration, visa and labour regimes for participants and employees of the AIFC; a special (more liberalized) currency control regime; and (vi) English language as the working language of AIFC and its bodies.

The AIFC’s key pillars will be capital markets, asset management, private banking, Islamic finance, financial technologies and “green” finance.  The AIFC will provide a multi-currency trading platform with infrastructure for trading securities (including, derivative instruments) and commodities with access to capital for both local and foreign issuers and investors.

Whether securities traded on the AIFC will be included in the list of assets approved for investment of pension savings (which were approximately $20.5bn as of January this year) in Kazakhstan and the funds of the Kazakhstan National Fund (which were approximately $61bn as of December 2016) remains an important open question and would affect market liquidity and the number of domestic and international market players that register on the AIFC.

Under a presidential decree adopted in May 2015, the Government of Kazakhstan is to identify five companies of the Samruk-Kazyna group (which are expected to be from among the seven IPO candidates listed above) that are most attractive from investment standpoint for a domestic IPO on the Kazakhstan capital market, with an offering to the public in Kazakhstan of not less than 25% of placed shares.  The list of such companies is still under discussion and will depend on a number of factors, including the technical capability of AIFC to process the IPO by the time of offering, the availability of enough investors, sufficient financial intermediaries (including, dealer-managers) registered as members of AIFC and when the relevant companies will be ready for their IPOs.

International IPOs: London vs Hong Kong

Certain of Kazakhstan’s planned privatisation IPOs are expected to include international listings. It is currently unclear what destination will be the preferred listing venue, although two likely options are London and Hong Kong.

London has historically been the favoured listing venue for CIS companies, including Russian and Kazakhstan companies. Per the London Stock Exchange, there are currently 17 Kazakhstan companies (including non-Kazakhstan companies with assets and operations principally in Kazakhstan) which have their equity securities listed in London.

Following the listing of Russian aluminium company Rusal in Hong Kong in 2010, there had been views in the market that Hong Kong could replace London as the listing venue of choice for international IPOs by Russian companies. This view would seem to be applicable to Kazakhstan companies as well, as Kazakhstan is a CIS, Russian-speaking country and is closer geographically to Asia than Russia is. However, following the Rusal IPO the expected shift toward Hong Kong away from London never materialised, and London has continued to be the preferred venue for Russian IPOs.

This may prove to be the case for Kazakhstan companies as well.  Due to the importance of London for Kazakhstan companies to date, such companies are known to investors in the London market, whereas it may be difficult for a Kazakhstan company to gain similar recognition and acceptance among Hong Kong investors, unless it already has strong links to Asia. There are also several technical challenges involved in a Hong Kong listing, which may cause Kazakhstan companies to view London as the most straightforward path to an international IPO. On the other hand, Hong Kong investors have shown strong interest in natural resources companies, of which there are many from Kazakhstan.

http://www.ftseglobalmarkets.com/issues/issue-85-january-february-2017/can-kazakhstan-light-up-its-privatisation-programme.html

 

CULTURE, SOCIETY AND SPORTS

 

Forum addresses national gender equality achievements and challenges

Astana Times, 14 February 2017

Empowerment of Women in the Corporate Sector, an international forum held Feb.10 in the capital, highlighted the involvement of women in Kazakh business.

Of the more than 570,000 enterprises in the nation, 44 percent of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are run by women. The businesses provide 31 percent of all jobs in the SME sector and in the past three years, 32 percent of loan recipients have been women, said Secretary of State Gulshara Abdykalikova.

Members of the National Commission for Women, Family and Demographic Policy and Parliament, heads of state bodies and  national companies, foreign ambassadors, representatives of international and non-governmental organisations, as well as Kazakh and foreign experts attended the forum.

In his Jan. 31 address to the nation “Third modernisation of Kazakhstan: global competitiveness,” President Nursultan Nazarbayev noted the country has entered a new era of development, said Abdykalikova. In response, there is a need to improve and expand the business environment.

“Much depends on SMEs headed by women. Participation of women leaders in social processes have a positive impact on the quality of administrative procedures and increase competitiveness. Women should also take part in the creation of innovative start-ups as one of the drivers of the knowledge-based economy,” she added.

Women-owned business is supported through national programmes and agreements between the government and international development institutions including the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), World Bank and UN Women.

“A model of gender relations has a significant effect on the stability of the family according to the international practice. The higher level of gender equality leads to greater responsibility, parity and fulfilment of domestic, economic, moral and educational functions by family members,” said Abdykalikova.

More than four million families currently reside in Kazakhstan and the nation has conducted systematic work on creating the necessary conditions to strengthen them. The family and gender policy up to 2030 was adopted by a presidential decree.

“The proportion of women totals 27 percent in the Mazhilis (lower house of Parliament), whereas it stood at 10 percent in 2006. According to the World Economic Forum, Kazakhstan took 48th place among 144 countries on women in Parliament in 2016,” said the Secretary of State.

There is also a growing tendency of women’s involvement in industrial production, the oil, gas and energy sector and innovation and infrastructure development, especially in top management. The share of female employment in the oil and gas industry accounts for 18 percent, the nuclear industry, 22 percent, and the electricity industry, 27 percent. Approximately 340,000, or 30 percent, of the nearly one million people working in heavy industry are women.

EBRD has supported the way the Kazakh government provides equal rights and opportunities for both men and women in the economy and in society at large. According to EBRD’s Chief Counsellor for Social Issues Michaela Bergman, the private sector is a great catalyst for promoting economic growth.

“We work with our clients to see how we can increase the number of women in the workforce and then also to increase the number of women in decision-making roles. We worked with the Almaty Bus Company, where we found there were no women because of a regulation that prevents women from being bus drivers. We worked with the client and the government to see how we can get a desperate dispensation from that regulation. In Kazakhstan, there are 255 types of jobs that women cannot do because of legislation and some of these legacy laws probably need to be reviewed,” Bergman told The Astana Times.

Extensive research shows that diversity in decision-making and risk are good for a company, because differing views result in an approach that is not as uncertain.

“Women provide a different point of view, different approach. Women are a good way of increasing the diversity in decision-making roles and therefore it will be good for businesses to have more women in decision-making roles. We are trying to promote women in non-traditional areas of work, for example in oil or mining and in other areas because they are poorly represented everywhere in the world. We think that working in Kazakhstan, which has a huge sector on this area, will be a very good role for the rest of the world,” she said.

EBRD Director in Kazakhstan Janet Heckman said the bank welcomes the Kazakh 2030 concept on gender and family.

“It is a very contemporary document and first of its kind in the private sector potential to intensify efforts to promote gender equality. Women entrepreneurs are well represented by EBRD’s projects. Our flagship project is the Women in Business programme in Kazakhstan, which supports women entrepreneurs through both access to finance and advisory services. This is EBRD’s first and largest Women in Business programme in Central Asia, with $50 million already dedicated and channelled through the partner banks. The government of Kazakhstan and EBRD have a lot in common in the part of history of promoting gender equality and we will continue doing so, because we strongly believe in the potential to improve women’s economic opportunities wherever we invest,” Heckman said at the forum.

Issues on protecting the rights and interests of women entrepreneurs, experience in promoting women in non-traditional sectors, gender aspects in the corporate and private sectors and gender-sensitive planning were also discussed as part of the roundtable meeting.

 

‘Technovation Challenge’ seeks to build new generation of women leaders

Astana Times, 14 February 2017

Technovation Challenge is bringing together young girls from across the country to learn to solve real-world problems through technology.

Founded in San Francisco, the annual international competition for girls aged 10-18 was introduced in Kazakhstan in 2016. Shortly after attending the 2015 TechWomen programme, Diana Tsoy launched Technovation Challenge in her home country and became the programme’s representative in Almaty. This year, Gulshnar Salpykova, a TechWoman herself, joined the initiative and helped expand the programme.

“Our mission is to inspire and teach young girls to address real life challenges through technology, namely through development of mobile applications. We want to encourage them to pursue their ambitions in entrepreneurship and programming,” Salpykova told The Astana Times.

The programme offers girls the opportunity to emerge as tech entrepreneurs and leaders. The teams, supported by mentors, build mobile apps and develop business plans to launch them.

“The participants will identify a problem in their community and then be challenged to solve it. Not only will they come up with interesting ideas, but they will actually implement them, learn to pitch them and be able to commercialise their projects in the future,” she added.

The programme representatives and mentors are adult professional women, industry leaders and entrepreneurs who have volunteered their weekends to help a new generation of female leaders.

“The most rewarding part is seeing how the young girls get excited about what they are doing. Not only do they learn new skills, but they also build confidence that they can be part of a solution that affects and benefits many. Seeing young girls empowered, their horizons broadened, their aspirations getting bolder is motivating both for me and the mentors,” said Salpykova.

This year, the organisers are targeting girls from public schools, especially those from underrepresented communities.

“We are dedicated to lifting up those young girls who do not always have access to information, encouragement and leadership tools,” she said.

Eighty teams of three-five girls from every part of the country have entered the competition. The teams are currently working on creating solutions in education, healthcare, reducing poverty and promoting equality and peace.

The teams will compete in junior and senior categories, with 13 teams representing the capital in the semifinals in April. A local panel of judges will choose the two leading teams who will later enter an international online contest. In June, 12 teams (six in each category) among hundreds from 78 participating countries will receive a sponsorship to enter the finals in San Francisco.

Even though the programme was only introduced recently, the Kazakh tech-savvy girls have already demonstrated good results. Last year, a Kazakh team ComPote 2016 won the opportunity to visit the Silicon Valley with the mobile app Aktivnyi Almatinets (Proactive Almaty Resident). The app allows the local government to gather the most up-to-date, real-time information on infrastructure and urban planning challenges that need addressing by engaging the users to give feedback and building a strong sense of community among city residents.