Total Eren reached an agreement to enter the renewables market in Uzbekistan committing EUR 150 million to fund a 100-MW solar power plant in the Samarkand region. Negotiations concluded in less than a year from the commencements of negotiations with the government. This is not Total Eren’s first project in Central Asia, as it launched two solar projects for a joint capacity of 128 MW in Kazakhstan last year.
Turkmenistan joins the Islamic Corporation for the Insurance of Investment and Export Credit, a member of the Islamic Development Bank Group. Since its accession to the IsDB, the country has received over $1 million for natural gas pipelines development and railways construction. In turn, ICIEC offers protection to exporters, banks and investors of 46 members and non-member countries alike from political and commercial risks related to their operations in Turkmenistan.
In addition, Turkmenistan is intensifying its cooperation with international trade organisations, following its meetings with UNCTAD, the International Trade Center, the UN Economic Commission for Europe and the World Trade Organisation in Geneva. Back in July this year, President Berdymukhamedov formed a special commission to prepare for WTO membership. This would enable the country to develop its trade in hydrocarbon resources, currently estimated at 71.21 billion tons of oil equivalent.
In Kyrgyzstan, efforts to boost the economy, such as issuing licenses for subsoil mining last month, are already bearing fruit. The inflow of FDI for the first 6 months of 2019 increased by 59.4% compared to the year before, coming primarily Canada, Great Britain, China and the Netherlands. The beneficiary regions were predominantly Issyk-Kul Oblast, the city of Osh, Jalal-Abad Oblast and Chui Oblast, while the remaining regions suffered from disinvestment.
Kyrgyzstan also hosted the session of Intergovernmental Council on Legal Protection and Intellectual Property, a specialised cooperation body of the CIS. Discussions over 13 topics related to the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights led to the ratification of intergovernmental agreements on the Cooperation in Countering the Production and Distribution of Counterfeit, as well as on the Formation and Development of the local intellectual property market of the nine CIS states.
In Uzbekistan, Rosatom is close to signing commercial contracts for the two VVER-1200 nuclear reactors. The construction of the two Rosatom reactors was discussed in an intergovernmental agreement with Russia last year, but the parties have yet to sign the contracts specifying the price, the construction timeline, fuel delivery and recycling. At present, most of Uzbekistan’s electricity comes from gas turbines and nuclear energy could improve the country’s self-sufficiency in the matter.
Coincidentally, Kazakhstan decides to partner with the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, shortly after the recent call to end nuclear tests. The country has about 12% of the world’s recoverable uranium, with 50 known deposits and 22 mines operated by Kazatomprom through joint ventures. To date, the country’s uranium is fully exported as raw material, but now Kazakhstan targets local production of fuel assemblies used in power reactor construction.
President Tokayev took his first official trip to Beijing, where he engaged with President Xi to envision a permanent comprehensive strategic partnership to promote China’s Silk Road Economic Belt and Kazakhstan's new economic policy titled the Bright Path. They also agreed to coordinate actions in matters of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. Considering the spreading anti-Chinese sentiment in Kazakhstan, Tokayev’s dance with China may need to be careful and well-coordinated.
Keeping to its FDI attraction plan, Kazakhstan enables investments from the Nordic Investment Bank. Given the Bank’s interest in funding energy, telecoms, agriculture and SMEs, the move is a positive sign that Kazakhstan is moving from strength to strength. The Bank has an authorized capital of over EUR 6 billion and in 2018 its total loan portfolio reached EUR 19.1 billion, 20% of which were provided to non-member countries.
At the same time, Kazakhstan sees its chromium ore mining increase by 6%, remaining the world’s third largest chromite producer, after South Africa and Turkey. In 2015, the US Geological Survey showed over 90% of the world’s chromium reserves geographically concentrated in Kazakhstan. More to the country’s benefit, a 2018 KPMG report estimated mining and production of chrome ore and ferrochrome to grow steadily over the next 5 years, as a consequence of a growing demand for stainless steel.