Located between Russia, China, and Iran, Central Asia has played a strategic role in global trade. Once part of the Soviet Union, the region gained independence in 1991, allowing Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan to become sovereign states. Today, Central Asia is a dynamic and vast region rich in natural resources and potential. It is home to nearly 72 million people with diverse ethnicities, languages, and religions. With a rapidly growing private sector, the enormous potential of youth in the region, and recent leadership changes resulting in a shift in political will, Central Asia is well-positioned to improve its business environment and attract foreign investment.
CIPE’s Objectives in the Region
In Central Asia, CIPE works with business organizations, civil society, and think tanks to:
- Foster cultures of integrity in the business community
- Facilitate grassroots public-private dialogue on regulatory reform
- Advocate for policies that increase economic opportunity, trade, and investment
CIPE’s Central Asia programs focus on private sector-led advocacy, business integrity, and good governance. Since 2018, CIPE has implemented and run an association management capacity-building program for business associations in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. This program builds associations’ organizational capacity and advocacy skills to represent their members’ interests to governments effectively. Additionally, CIPE supports a regional network of business associations in Central Asia to promote governance norms, trade, and intra-regional cooperation. As a part of CIPE’s corrosive and constructive capital initiative, CIPE works with economic think tanks and independent researchers across the region to analyze governance gaps, capital inflows, investment climate, and trade relations.
In April 2021, as part of the Women and Girls Empowered (WAGE) consortium funded by the U.S. Department of State Office of Global Women’s Issues, CIPE launched the “National Women’s Business Agendas for Central Asia” project in partnership with the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) and Search for Common Ground. This program brings together a broad and diverse coalition of women’s business associations, women’s civil society organizations, and women entrepreneurs from all five Central Asian countries to examine and address social, policy, and other barriers to women’s equal participation in the economy, including gender-based violence; advocate policy recommendations to national governments through public-private dialogue; and promote the message of women entrepreneurs’ essential role in the economy through public outreach campaigns. Through this work CIPE, ABA ROLI, and Search for Common Ground seek to create an inclusive economic environment enabling Central Asian women to lead more resilient, independent, and economically sustainable lives. More information about the program can be found in English on the WAGE Global website and in Russian on the WAGE Central Asia website.
Recent developments in Uzbekistan have demonstrated the government’s readiness to consult the private sector on specific policy issues. CIPE supports the AmCham Uzbekistan and other private sector actors to bolster their platforms for policy dialogue with the government. A significant number of policy recommendations submitted to relevant government ministries by the AmCham’s Tax and Accounting Committee and Human Resources Committee have been considered and incorporated into tax and labor legislation, respectively. Since 2018, CIPE has supported AmCham Uzbekistan’s organizational development and strategic planning, equipping the association to attract new members and increase its dues collection during the global pandemic. Additionally, CIPE works with the Central Asian Development Institute (CADI) based in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, to research the status of economic reforms, governance practices and limitations, and the impact of these policies on the private sector in Central Asia.
As the expectations for compliance in recent amendments to anti-corruption legislation in Kazakhstan continue to expand to more market players, CIPE is working with organizations to strengthen SMEs’ corporate governance and business ethics practices to ensure their competitiveness and participation in rule of law discussions and initiatives. Additionally, CIPE has worked with local organizations to develop ethics and compliance training curriculums for public and private sector stakeholders. CIPE and its partners support the implementation of corporate governance and compliance trainings for independent directors and entrepreneurs and build networks of compliance experts and like-minded private sector actors to promote good governance norms as an essential aspect of competitive business in Kazakhstan. CIPE also works with the Economics and Management Consulting Group (EMCG) to research the scope and impact of trade initiatives and investment inflows from actors like China into the Kazakhstani market. Recently, EMCG published a report on the financial and economic effects of Eurasian economic integration through the Eurasian Economic Union.
CIPE works to build the capacity of business associations in Kyrgyzstan, facilitate cross-regional learning, and advocate for business priorities. CIPE supports the American Chamber of Commerce in Kyrgyzstan to enhance its internal compliance capacity and strengthen understanding and support for business integrity and ethics for domestic enterprises and larger businesses operating in Kyrgyzstan. Through targeted capacity-building trainings with associations management experts, CIPE has strengthened AmCham Kyrgyzstan’s role as a leader of good governance norms and advocate of Kyrgyzstan’s business community.
CIPE works with the National Association of Small and Medium Business (NASMB) in Tajikistan to develop its organizational capacity as a leading business association to better represent its members and advocate their interests, as well as its internal research capacity and understanding of the challenges facing SMEs and business associations and the overall investment climate in Tajikistan. Working with the American Chamber of Commerce in Tajikistan’s Tax Committee, CIPE increased the organization’s capacity to engage in specific and constructive advocacy on tax reform. With CIPE support, the AmCham surveyed Tajik firms’ perspectives on the tax code and submitted consolidated recommendations for government consideration during public consultation.
CIPE has been active in the Central Asia region for nearly two decades. Some recent highlights of CIPE’s work in the region include:
- CIPE continues to bolster business associations’ unique platforms bridging the local private sector and government and their role as sources of data-driven, business-focused policy analysis and recommendations for the government. Associations in Central Asia, including the American Chambers of Commerce in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan and the National Association of Small and Medium Business in Tajikistan, advocate their members’ interests to their governments through legislative analysis and roundtables with the overarching goal of creating an enabling environment for domestic business and foreign investment.
- In December 2020, CIPE launched a new resource series, “Joining the Eurasian Economic Union: Perspectives from the Eurasian Business Community.” This series featured case study perspectives on EAEU membership from CIPE partners in Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Uzbekistan. From October 2020 to February 2021, CIPE and local partners organized five outreach events to share research findings and trends with private and public sector stakeholders in Washington, D.C., and Central Asia.
- In partnership with BizExpert, CIPE supported business associations in Kyrgyzstan to develop, advocate, and monitor evidence-based policy recommendations through a National Business Agenda, a vital CIPE advocacy tool. Additionally, CIPE and BizExpert introduced a fellowship program for youth to gain experience in the advocacy and national policymaking process and to equip them with the knowledge to increase economic opportunities at home later in their careers.
- CIPE has also helped create and build the National Alliance of Business Associations (NABA) capacity, representing 59 associations and over 80,000 SMEs. This alliance provides capacity-building support to improve associations’ management and advocacy skills, training public and private sector stakeholders on tools to analyze regulations, and developing a corporate governance training program.
- Kalea Power, Program Officer, Central Asia
- Sobir Kurbanov, Program Officer, Central Asia