In July 2023, diplomatic relations between Kazakhstan and Qatar will mark 30 years. In December 2022, during a telephone conversation with the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev expressed confidence that as a result of joint work, Qatar would be able to enter the top ten largest investors in Kazakhstan. According to the director of the Institute of Geopolitical Research, Asylbek Izbairov, in today’s geopolitical conditions, Kazakhstan is becoming “profitable” for Qatari investors. And fintech, healthcare, tourism, transport and logistics activities are interesting points of contact for the two states, reports a correspondent for the business information center Kapital.kz.
“First of all, we need to proceed from the fact that we can offer the Qatari side with real benefits for the investor. Unfortunately, our trade routes remain undiversified, and we can deliver our products to world markets mainly through Russian territory, which is subject to increasingly suffocating sanctions. This factor cannot be ignored. And, first of all, this applies to areas where profits come from the export of raw materials – mining and agriculture. Here everything will greatly depend on the decisions of third parties, which are still difficult to predict and mostly incur losses for domestic trade,” noted Asylbek Izbairov.
The basic structures of the national economies of Qatar and Kazakhstan, the expert says, are similar and mainly rely on raw materials. However, both countries are looking for opportunities to diversify their income. Therefore, interesting points of contact can be found in the fields of healthcare and finance. “Thanks to advanced fintech solutions, the Kazakh market is flexible and interesting enough for the development of new types of financial services. Especially in the field of Islamic banking, which has not yet reached a leading position in Kazakhstan, which can be expected against the backdrop of the rapid growth of its potential clientele in our country,” the expert is confident.
Another area is tourism. According to Asylbek Izbairov, for residents of the Middle East, Central Asia, especially in conditions “when Ukraine has already closed to travelers, and Georgia and Turkey are fed up,” has become an attractive destination.
“We can receive mass tourists from Arab countries, and not just a few hunting parties. To do this, we need to develop halal standards, transport infrastructure, and pursue a thoughtful policy in the field of conservation of natural resources. In each of the points I have listed, conditions can be created for foreign investment, and in particular from Qatar,” the expert believes.
The air transportation sector in Kazakhstan, according to the director of the Institute of Geopolitical Research, is also attractive for investment.
“Thanks to the same sanctions, I believe we still have options to intercept air traffic between Western Europe and Southeast Asia. It is clear that this will require large investments in the infrastructure of our sky. And here it is Qatar – a major investor and owner of a powerful airline. I believe that if experts from both sides sit down at the table to study this project, we can get a very good joint project that could really replenish our treasury and raise air transportation to a fundamentally new level,” Asylbek Izbairov is sure.
Maritime infrastructure. Qatar, as the largest owner of a fleet of gas tankers, has extensive experience in the development of this area. Moreover, it is very important for Kazakhstan to diversify oil exports using the Trans-Caspian international transport route and expand the capacity of the Aktau seaport.
“Today, the Khalij countries remain the largest international investors. And, of course, it is extremely beneficial for us to involve them in multi-year projects with a multiplier effect. As for humanitarian and cultural cooperation, we all belong to the Muslim Ummah, the Sunni majority, and in this regard, the development of our relations has long been bearing fruit. Expanding cultural and spiritual contacts under the strict guidance of the state can bring funding for the development of our scientific and educational base in the field of science and religion, and give impetus to the development of our theology and spirituality. Well, spiritual exchange will always enrich both sides,” he emphasized.
We must not forget, the expert says, that Kazakhstan is becoming attractive for venture capital investments from Qatar. “Our specialists in the field of IT and fintech have already proven themselves at the international level. I think they have something to offer Qatari business,” the specialist added.
International trade expert Dias Kumarbekov highlighted another area – the banking sector. “If the Qataris see that any acquired bank in Kazakhstan will generate income in the long term, then perhaps new Arab investments in energy and infrastructure projects, in which China is more interested, will flow into the country. However, everything can change,” he believes.
Let us note that despite the long period of diplomatic relations, until recently cooperation between the countries did not develop so actively. According to the Qatar Embassy in Kazakhstan, an influx of investments into our country amounted to $30 million in 2015 and $13.1 million in 2022. But there is potential, and the governments of the two countries also see it. “Kazakhstan and Qatar in their bilateral relations focus on trade, economic and investment cooperation. However, the coronavirus epidemic and the geopolitical situation did not allow us to fully exploit our existing potential. In connection with this, our trade turnover has slowed down in recent years. Therefore, we set a goal to revive trade between the two countries,” Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said at a briefing after negotiations with the Qatari delegation in the fall of 2022.