The Central Asia Investment Forum took place in Beijing on November 14.   The event was organized by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the People’s Bank of China (PBoC) with sponsorship by the Industrial and Commercial Bank 

Speaking at the opening of the Forum, EBRD President Suma Chakrabarti noted that successful diversification is the way forward for the economies of Central Asia as the region reassumes its ancient role as a bridge joining Europe with the Far East, according to press release issued by the EBRD.   

“I am optimistic about Central Asia’s future,” President Chakrabarti stressed.

“The opportunities for you to be involved in the success story that is Central Asia have, to my mind, never looked more attractive,” he told investors.

With an overall growth rate of 4.6 per cent forecast this year, Central Asia is reportedly growing faster than any of the regions where the EBRD operates.  For a long time economic development was mostly reliant on the region’s abundant resources in oil and gas.  But today this is changing and President Chakrabarti stated: “There is much more to Central Asia than traditional carbon energy.”

He listed strengthening the financial sector, pioneering renewables, promoting energy efficiency, modernizing infrastructure, boosting small businesses and advancing the cause of inclusion as key tasks for the region’s further development.

“In this the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) could be a “significant factor in helping the EBRD and the countries where we invest build the open market economies our mandate commits us to, as well as delivering the Sustainable Development Goals we want to achieve by 2030,” said President Chakrabarti.  “The EBRD expects BRI investment in infrastructure to boost growth in the Central Asian countries and “provided Belt and Road investments meet the highest standards, such progress will translate very quickly into real improvements in people’s lives and wellbeing.

The EBRD is the largest single investor in Central Asia with a total investment of US$ 14 billion to date. Through its network of local offices the Bank has built a strong presence in the region which combines financing with policy reform.

For instance, the EBRD is financing wind and solar power in Kazakhstan and Mongolia, providing credit lines and empowering female entrepreneurs in Tajikistan, piloting a cultural heritage program in Uzbekistan to promote sustainable tourism, enhancing access to health care in the Kyrgyz Republic and helping small businesses in Turkmenistan.

Meanwhile, the EBRD plans to step up its cooperation with China and the European Union (EU) in order to deliver increased levels of high-quality investment in Central Asia and beyond.

The EBRD made this commitment during a meeting attended by EBRD President Suma Chakrabarti, the European Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, Neven Mimica, and the Deputy Governor of the People’s Bank of China, Chen Yulu, at the Central Asia Investment Forum in Beijing on November 14.  

At that meeting, the three parties reportedly agreed to work to increase both the quantity and the quality of investments, in line with the priorities of the countries involved. They emphasized the need for sustainable investment with market-oriented partners, with a focus on private sector solutions.