AmCham Director John Woodham, General Director of AES Silk Road and to his left Doris Bradbury, Executive Director of AmCham in Kazakhstan
AMCHAM IN KAZAKHSTAN: STATUS REPORT
The American Chamber of Commerce in Kazakhstan is going through a dynamic period of growth for the country’s investment and trade community, both foreign and domestic, and for the Chamber itself. The Chamber’s membership has grown roughly twenty per-cent in 2006 and is expected to reach two hundred members by summer 2007. Kazakhstan has been blessed with abundant natural resources, particularly in the oil and gas sector, which has fuelled growth exponentially over the past decade.
However, the Chamber’s membership is not exclusively focused in the energy sector. Our major membership sectors, apart from energy, are information technology, banking and financial institutions, and consumer products. As might be expected we also have a large number of members among law firms and in the hotels/tourism/service industry.
Our members are spread out across Kazakhstan, as a result of which the Chamber has expanded its presence to include regular events in Astana and Atyrau and has sought to identify priority issues for each of these locations. AmCham now has an Atyrau Resident Representative and is about to appoint an Astana Resident Representative, both from the foreign investor community. With the relocation of the U.S. Embassy to Astana to join the rest of the diplomatic community, it became essential for AmCham to schedule events in the capital city that feature Kazakhstan government speakers and bring together diplomats, as well as member companies. As Kazakhstan’s oil and gas capital, Atyrau has its own issues centered on operational issues – customs and labor have been recent issues. AmCham maintains a dynamic calendar of Working Group (WG) meetings in Almaty, where there are now six WGs (IT&T, Human Resources, Foreign Investment, Funding Growth, Taxation, and Corporate Social Responsibility) with two WGs about to begin in Atyrau (Customs and Taxation) and, it is hoped, one or two soon to begin in Astana. The regional dimension is very important for the Chamber and for its Board, which has recently added Atyrau and Astana Board members.
Over the past six months AmCham has redesigned and significantly expanded its magazine, Investors Voice, which now has a strong thematic focus for each issue with a cluster of foreign policy and business/economic articles around this theme. In addition to covering AmCham events – speaker events, social, sports, and arts events – the magazine seeks to inform its readers (nearly 4,000 worldwide) about important issues facing Kazakhstan and the region. The February 2007 issue is focused on Kazakhstan’s impending WTO accession and its anticipated impact on the country’s economy.
As another example of outreach, in 2006 the Chamber joined Eurasia Business Platform, an initiative spearheaded by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which acts to promote investment and trade throughout Central Asia, the Caucasus, and Turkey. Together with AmCham in Uzbekistan and the other regional AmChams we are planning joint activities over the next year to raise the region’s profile in the U.S. and to press for solutions to problems hindering the full potential for foreign investment in the region.
We are seeking to expand our links everywhere that might be beneficial to the promotion of business development in this region. AmCham in Kazakhstan has member companies based in Europe, the Middle East, and throughout Asia. Economic and political links between Kazakhstan and Russia continue to be strong, and the Turkish business presence in Kazakhstan is a feature specific to this region. In this light, the Chamber is working to deepen its relationship with AmChams in these countries.
Kenneth Mack, President AmCham in Kazakhstan