BISHKEK (TCA) — From February 27 through March 1, the United Kingdom undertook its first, historical Trade Mission to Bishkek. The delegation of sixteen UK companies, led by British Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan Robin Ord-Smith and Nigel Peters, the director of London based consultancy firm British Expertise, took part in the Kyrgyz-British Forum, “A World of Opportunities,” on February 28 and met with representatives of Kyrgyz businesses, ministries and international organizations in Kyrgyzstan.
The business forum was organized by the Investment and Export Promotion Agency under the Ministry of Economy of the Kyrgyz Republic and the British Embassy in Kyrgyzstan. The forum aimed to familiarize the participants of the British Trade Mission with the investment opportunities of Kyrgyzstan and establish mutually beneficial contacts between the business circles of the two countries.
Kyrgyzstan attaches great importance to developing economic and trade relations with the United Kingdom, Kyrgyzstan’s Economy Minister Arzybek Kojoshev said at the forum. In 2016, trade between Kyrgyzstan and Great Britain amounted to $41.2 million and increased 2.8-fold compared to 2015. Kyrgyzstan’s exports increased 17.8-fold (due to the export of gold) and amounted to $1.8 million.
The minister told the guests that since January 2016, Kyrgyzstan has been the only country in Central Asia enjoying the European Union’s Generalized System of Preferences (GSP+), according to which more than 6000 kinds of Kyrgyzstan’s products that meet the EU requirements can be imported to the EU member countries without customs duties.
Kyrgyzstan also has the most liberal tax regime in the region. The income tax of 10% and VAT of 12% are lower than in Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and China. Kyrgyz electricity rates are the lowest among the CIS countries.
To attract investments in the tourism sector, changes have been made to the legislation in terms of investment policy, and a visa-free regime for citizens of 61 states for up to 60 days has been introduced. According to the World Bank’s Doing Business report, Kyrgyzstan occupies a leading place among the CIS countries in the “Protecting investors” indicator, Kojoshev added.
The minister said that the Economy Ministry and its Investment and Export Promotion Agency are ready to provide all the necessary assistance to British companies if they come to Kyrgyzstan.
Understanding the Kyrgyz market
The UK was the world’s 5th largest economy and the second fastest growing economy in 2016. The UK is ranked in the top six as a place to do business and the 6th among global manufacturers.
“We have a strong economy and are confident and optimistic of the opportunities for UK companies to trade with the world. The UK government wishes to build the strongest possible economic links with partners around the world, including the Kyrgyz Republic. My hope is that this first Trade Mission to Bishkek will act as a catalyst for an increase in business traffic resulting in greater trade, investment and ultimately more jobs and prosperity for both our countries,” British Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan Robin Ord-Smith said.
The 16 companies participating in the Mission seek to understand the Kyrgyz market, make introductions and build strong and sustainable business partnerships with Kyrgyz enterprises that will help to fully realize the potential for increased two-way business, the Ambassador added.
According to the head of the UK Trade Mission, Nigel Peters, the director of the British Expertise International, British companies want to develop relationships with both the private sector and government organizations.
“The B2B meeting attracted great interest of British companies. This shows that not only neighboring countries, including Russia and China, as well as Iran and India, show interest in cooperation with our country, but also western business,” Executive Director of the International Business Council based in Bishkek, Askar Sydykov, said. He moderated B2B meetings of business representatives in mining, power, infrastructure, manufacturing, and tourism.
Among the forum participants, there were worldwide known companies that provide flexible modular power and temperature control to businesses in utilities, oil & gas and mining (Aggreko, Plc) and those producing a fully optimized range of diesel generating sets for use in hospitals, banks, supermarkets, and hotels (AJ Power Ltd).
Mabey Bridge and Mott MacDonald (MMD) also aim to explore new opportunities in the area and meet potential partners in Kyrgyzstan. Mabey Bridge has supplied modular bridging solutions to over 140 countries worldwide. In the region, the company has supplied stock bridging to the Georgian military and Road Administration, and bridges for mining operations in Tajikistan.
Mott MacDonald (MMD), a US$2bn global management, engineering and development consultancy is working in 140 countries. It has been operating in the CIS for more than 20 years. MMD designs and manufactures innovative material processing equipment for both surface and underground mining operations.
According to Sydykov, interesting projects were presented by the UK companies operating in the tourism sector.
KSE Solutions, a travel and tourism consultancy and training company, is ready to develop close relationships with the Central Asian countries. In 2015, the company took part the 23rd Shymkent Tourism Forum in Kazakhstan, and it is currently working with Tajikistan on its Year of Sustainable Tourism initiative for 2017.
“Our intention is to occupy a segment of the market not yet exploited in Kyrgyzstan — the luxury yurt adventure holidays. Using the banner ‘Why go on holiday when you can go on an adventure,’ we will seek to provide European luxury coupled with Eastern Adventure,” Roderick Davidson, Nomad’s Way CEO, said. “Luxury yurts with luxury bathrooms, thermal pool, excellent horse and foot trekking, delicious food and a host of adventures from helicopter skiing to eagle hunting and white water rafting will be available in the beautiful country that is Kyrgyzstan.”
First, the company plans to provide yurts clustered around a luxury dining area. “It will provide employment for local people and attract wealthy clients from all over the world.” The business model is dependent on receiving a grant or loan coupled with Nomads Way‘s own capital injection.
The diverse and busy program of the forum was a drive to strengthen partnership between British businesses and Kyrgyzstan. The event ideally highlighted celebration of 25 years of bilateral relations between the countries, British Ambassador Robin Ord-Smith believes.