One of the great privileges of our job is having the opportunity to travel to other countries, meet local businesses in their home territories and hear about their opportunities and ambitions. This invariably leads to comparisons with our own UK business ecosystem and an understanding of the similarities and differences around enterprise and innovation wherever you are in the world.
We were therefore especially pleased to have had the opportunity to visit Kazakhstan, a country and region (Central Asia) about which we knew incredibly little – shameful when you consider it is the ninth largest country in the world with some interesting neighbours including Russia and China as well as Kyrgyztan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.
Our visit introduced us to the country’s incredible education system, particularly the impressive, modern Nazarbayev University whose President Shigeo Katsu very neatly described Kazakhstan not as land-locked but land-linked. And for a country “thirty years young” (it is about to celebrate its 30th anniversary of independence from the USSR on 16 December 2021) you really did get a sense of progress, optimism and future vision.
We had the opportunity to meet some of Kazakhstan’s entrepreneurial ecosystem including the Astana Hub and QAZInnovations, individual tech businesses which had benefited from the former’s help or from Nazarbayev University’s innovation clusters as well as some social entrepreneurs tackling many of the same issues we face here in the UK – from smart cities to greentech. Add to this, the great service and success of Air Astana and you sense a country that is definitely going places.
Our visit only extended to the capital Nursultan but the amazing architecture was a feast for the eyes. And the people, because after all it is people with whom we do business were extremely hospitable and generous with both their time and thoughts.
Let’s hope our bilateral trade continues to grow and that we, the UK, extend just as much of a welcoming and helpful stance to any Kazakhstani businesses looking to expand to the UK.