Dear Members and Friends,
Last week I led a Trade Mission to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. This was my second time in Bishkek, having accompanied the first ever UK trade delegation to Kyrgyzstan last year. Conditions were good for us to conduct a follow up visit soon after the first, and even the weather favoured us – it was glorious and sunny most days, with temperatures rising above +15°C during the day (though still closer to zero at night).
The delegation included a range of companies, bringing international experience in the provision of E-Government, identity data management solutions, supply chain, fund management, supply of mineral processing solutions, education, consultancy and policy development, delivery of engineering solutions, high end solutions in media and IT, and legal services.
Our programme began with a briefing from the Ambassador, His Excellency Robin Ord-Smith and his team at the British Embassy of Bishkek, who did a wonderful job in putting together our programme for the week; we were joined by Head of DFID Central Asia, Peter Fernandes Cardy, who had flown in from Dushanbe. They confirmed that there is a big focus on transitioning to self-financing in the Central Asia region as a whole, and Kyrgyzstan is certainly no exception. The government’s wide-ranging reforms concern many areas including transparency, anti-bribery, and digitalisation of services; as well as a liberal taxation policy to help increase FDI. Kyrgyzstan is a good option for companies looking for a staging post to do business with the rest of the Eurasian Economic Union.
After the initial Embassy briefing, we had a very useful and informative roundtable meeting with the Kyrgyz Minister of Economy, Artem Novikov. He highlighted how furthering economic cooperation with international partners is one of the top priorities of Kyrgyzstan’s economic policy. Trade with the UK has increased fivefold in 2017 compared to 2016, with a significant share of gold and precious metals. The minister expressed the hope that trade between the two countries will also develop in other sectors. Kyrgyzstan’s digital transformation strategy, ‘Taza Koom’ (Smart Nation) was a big theme during the Q&A with delegates – this is a big project that involves almost every sector of the economy, and the Minister underlined how he hopes to attract many British investors and companies to realise it. Other than Taza Koom, the Kyrgyz government’s other current major priorities are strengthening exports and regional development.
Over the course of the next two days, the delegates had a busy programme of B2B and B2G meetings. To list just the government agencies other than the Ministry for Economy, we met with ministers and senior officials from the Ministry of Education and Science; State Committee of Industry and Subsoil Use; State Agency for Architecture, Housing, and Communal Services; Agency on Banks Reorganization and Debt Restructuring (DEBRA); and Ministry of Culture, Information and Tourism.
British Expertise International looks forward to supporting the Trade Mission delegates in following up on the various opportunities that have arisen from our visit. The potential of our discussions strengthening economic ties between our two countries is truly exciting. Our short visit has hopefully laid foundations for many new relationships that will continue to bear fruit and strengthen ties between the United Kingdom and Kyrgyzstan in the years to come, and I look forward to returning to Bishkek in the near future.
Alexandra Barnes – Development Director