The Astana International Financial Centre (AIFC) serves as a trading and financial hub based on global practices within a financial free zone. From the 27th to the 29th of June this year, the AIFC hosted the fifth Astana Finance Days Conference, in which the offshore financial centre focused on sustainability, social responsibility and growth. During the conference the AIFC remarked on the achievements of the institution since its inception and launched several new and ambitious projects it shall undertake in the following years.
With $6.6 billion invested in it since its inception and over 1400 companies registered, the AIFC is on track to reach its goal of $10 billion of investments and the registration of over 2000 companies under its supervision by 2025. Company registration has become markedly more efficient with completion in under three hours and the Digital Residency program and E-Justice systems have flourished post-pandemic. The AIFC Court and International Arbitration Centre (IAC) have also been successful in resolving 1099 commercial disputes with parties from more than 20 countries. The AIFC has also strengthened its relationships with the Economic Policy Council and the Supreme Council for Reforms. The AIFC Governor Kairat Kelimbetov, remarked that these improvements are in line with the new economic policy and new Kazakhstani regime.
In addition to reflecting on the successes of the AIFC in digital innovation, digitalisation and FinTech development, the conference was marked by the launch of several ambitious projects aimed at further expanding the scope and influence of the AIFC as a leading financial centre in Asia.
In a panel session aimed at the “Development of Financial Services in Central Asia”, speakers shared their views on how they could continue to make central Asia attractive to investors. Through the facilitation of cross-border financial services, improving capital flows and integration of FinTech in the market, it was suggested that Central Asia would become significantly more profitable and thus a more attractive investment. A Joint Declaration between financial regulators of AIFC’s independent jurisdiction, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan as well as many international financial organisations was adopted to foster cross border economic initiatives in order to both attract international investment and to strengthen cooperation in the region.
The Astana International Exchange announced a new subscription platform, in which Kazakh citizens can purchase shares in national companies as part of the Privatization Program of Samruk Kazyna Sovereign Wealth Fund.
The Belt and Road Initiative Investment Council was created to aid in the development of the Kazakh economy and to promote Kazakhstan as an influential player in the creation and expansion of transportation infrastructure across Asia.
Cryptocurrency was another important talking point in this year’s conference. A pilot project was launched to attempt to regulate the AIFC crypto exchanges and banks in Kazakhstan, providing a regulatory framework for crypto trade in the country, with hopes of materialising into a regional crypto hub in the coming years.
In respect of the AIFC Court and International Arbitration Centre, a new Centre for English Language Learning has been launched to provide English language support, focused on English for English Law, English for finance and IELTS preparation courses.
Arguably the most significant announcements of the conference were made in respect of women in business, in which influential female businesswomen, politicians and legal practitioners met to discuss female entrepreneurship, female-run enterprises and women in tech. Much focus was placed on the growing interest and participation of women in the IT industry and female-led technological start-ups and digital product launches. In addition to Central Asia’s pre-existing international initiatives to support female entrepreneurs, Visa announced its intention to relaunch the ‘She’s Next’ program, aimed at supporting female business owners in managing and financing their own businesses or in starting new ones. The future for women in business, particularly in the digital world, seems to be becoming increasingly promising.
The Astana Finance Days 2022 not only highlighted the successes of the AIFC as a prominent player in the financial world in Central Asia but reinforced the AIFC’s goals to continually expand its influence in the economic and legal sectors of the Kazakhstan economy. With plans to promote international investment and women in business, the conference can be regarded as an ambitious yet successful event.
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