Monochrome by Centil Law: Eager to be good

Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan are pushing to be greener and boost SMEs, but their economies still need to tick, while Turkmenistan still eager to impress.

Baiterek Holding's new VC fund, QazTech Ventures, to invest $10m in V Global Fund, a $150m US VC fund managed by 500 Stratups. QazTech is the first financial institution in Kazakhstan to receive an ESG rating for its sustainable development goals. In addition, Baiterek’s other subsidiary, Kazakhstan Development Bank prepares to issue loans of $18.3m in sectors like manufacturing, logistics and non-oil energy.

To support the growth of small and mid-level entrepreneurship in the economy, President Tokayev signed a law exempting SMEs from taxes for three years. Overall the Kazakh government will allocate over $650m to address the issue, including increasing efficiency of government interaction, support in the acceleration of the rehabilitation of local economy and the prevention of bankruptcy.

Clean Invest Africa Plc contemplates entry into the Uzbek market with a $16m project for the processing of coal fines into coal pellets. While coal extraction is one of its largest industries, the country is also looking to adopt cleaner technologies. Should the initial feasibility studies prove successful, the project will be led by Clean Invest's joint venture Coaltech Sarl, the Ministry of Innovation and the national railway company of Uzbekistan.

In addition, Kazakhstan anticipates works with Bitfury and the UNDP to create a forestland in Pavlodar. This way, the blockchain company plans to compensate for its carbon footprint. The project will map unaccounted forests and mediate the most pressing threats, which are illegal logging, forest fires and changes in land-use. The government will aim to introduce stricter legal measures to protect forest areas.

Uzbekistan is launching its first crypto-exchange UZNEX, which will be run by the South Korean Kobea Group. Newly adopted legislation stipulates strict regulations of all crypto-related activity, banning any anonymous transactions and allowing Uzbek residents to sell crypto assets only to foreign nationals on the country’s licensed exchanges. However, the exchange may determine its own criteria when onboarding new clients.

The (in)famous Uzbekistan GTL, the first synthetic liquid fuel plant, is set to start production by year end, in line with President Mirziyoyev’s Investment Strategy for 2020-2022. The plant will process 3.6bn cubic meters of gas and produce about 1.5m tons of jet fuel, diesel fuel, naphtha and liquefied gas. The $3.6bn project is co-funded by 11 financial institutions and organisations from China, South Korea, Japan, Russia and Europe. 

Following its unveiling in June 2019, Turkmenistan's unique natural gas-to-gasoline complex is now coupled with the world’s largest methanol plant based on autothermal reforming. Danish Haldor Topsoe launched the production and affirmed that the use of its signature SynCOR solution in combination with synthetic gasoline makes the most cost-efficient and ecological large-scale methanol technology to date. 

Uzbekistan Hydrogen Peroxide, a deep gas processing manufacturer, will implement a $40m plant in Navoi SEZ jointly with the Ministry of Energy. The first stage seeks a production capacity of 50,000 tonnes of hydrogen peroxide to ensure import substitution and exports to CIS states, while the second stage will implement the production of sodium percarbonate. The plant’s official launch is scheduled for the spring of 2021.

While Uzbekistan is actively preparing its membership application, Turkmenistan considers joining the WTO. Turkmenistan’s Deputy PM and Minister of Foreign Affairs met with the UNCTAD Regional Coordinator for Central Asia to examine the accession process, emphasising the importance of attracting investments, as well as modernising the customs service, transportation and logistics sectors. 

On the downside, the TAPI Pipeline project faces new obstacles as its two intended gas purchasers, India and Pakistan, separately press Turkmenistan to cut gas prices. At the same time, tensions between the US and the Afghan parties are expected to negatively impact the chances of attracting investment to cover the $8bn cost of the 1820km pipeline, projected to transport 1.3bn cubic feet of natural gas daily. 

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