The Taliban’s pragmatic diplomacy and gradual departure from the Jihadi ideology alienate Central Asian jihadists from the Taliban and strengthen its ardent enemy, the Islamic State Khorasan (ISK). Taliban-backed Uyghur jihadists, who exploited shahids (martyr) exclusively against the Chinese authorities in the past, recently carried out a suicide attack against the Shia Hazara minority under Taliban rule.
Factionalization of IMU
The establishment “warm relations” by the Taliban’s interim government with China, Russia and Uzbekistan have sparked a negative reaction from the Uzbek and Tajik jihadi media, as they consider this trio as Taghut (idol or tyrant) regimes. During meetings with Central Asian and China’s government officials, except Tajikistan, the Taliban generously pledged that Afghan soil would not be used as a terrorist base, which is unlikely to please Central Asian veteran jihadists.
The Afghan Taliban’s ideological compromises retreating from hardline jihadi principles in pursuit of international recognition and legitimacy has cooled their relationship with al Qaeda-linked foreign jihadi groups, which have jointly resisted the US invasion over the past 20 years. Due to pragmatic concessions to ‘Taghud’ states, the Taliban are gradually losing their jihadi attractiveness in the eyes of foreign fighter groups. It is known that the Taliban and al Qaeda have always been the ideological masterminds and role models for Central Asian radical Islamists and Uyghur militants from China’s Xinjiang region, victimized to legal persecution and bloody repression by authoritarian regimes.
In the late ’90s, neighboring Afghanistan became a safe haven for Uzbek, Tajik militants of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and Uyghurs of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) swearing oath of allegiance (bay’at) to al Qaeda and the Taliban leaders. Under the leadership of the parent organizations, they acquired the global jihadi ideology and shaped the foundation of Central Asian jihadism. In exchange for the IMU’s bay`at, the Afghan Taliban provided Central Asian militants with a space for training.
Over the quarter-century jihadi relationship they have experienced ups and downs associated with the violation of the bay’at and the joining of some IMU militants led by Usmon Ghazi to the Islamic State (ISIS). After Usmon Ghazi’s faction changed its jihadi banner and openly made bay’at to IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in August, 2015, the Taliban brutally punished the Uzbek jihadists. As punishment for this betrayal, in November 2015 the Taliban killed Usmon Ghazi and about a hundred Central Asian defector at a base in Zabul Province.
The second time Central Asian jihadists were hit hard by the Afghan Taliban in the Darzab district of Jawzjan province in 2018, when the Taliban defeated the Qari Hikmatullah’s network, which was the main pillar of ISK in the northern Afghan province of Jawzjan. Qari Hekmatullah, a former Uzbek Taliban commander, joined his forces with ISK and came to lead the group’s northern territorial project for an extended period of time. He also served as the ISK’s senior foreign fighter facilitator in northern Afghanistan, poaching Central Asia fighters and the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan’s (TTP) militants.
The ideological vision of the late IMU leader Tahir Yuldash and the TTP founder Baitullah Mehsud regarding Takfiri Salafism, global jihad and worldwide Caliphate has always been close to the current views of ISK. Notably, the TTP and IMU leaders have a long history of jihadi collaboration, lived together in South Waziristan and jointly carried out transnational attacks in Lahore, Peshawar and on Karachi’s international airport in 2014. They ideologically inspired each other and, in contrast to the nationalist ideology of the Afghan Taliban, dreamed of creating a worldwide Islamic Caliphate. Even after the Taliban eliminated defectors in the IMU’s ranks, remnants of Uzbek Muhajireen [foreigner or migrant] retained their global jihadi aspirations. But they learned a bitter lesson from the past and no longer intervened in a bloody dispute between the Taliban and ISK over the future of a single Caliphate and were forced to survive in the Afghan-Pakistan border areas.
Global Jihad and Taliban Nationalism
Despite the fact that the Taliban leadership publicly denies the presence of transnational terrorist groups in the country, a recent UN report revealed that there are about 10,000 foreign fighters in Afghanistan, who are members of al Qaeda, the Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP), the Katibat Imam al-Bukhari (KIB), the Katibat al Tawhid wal Jihad (KTJ), the Islamic Jihad Union (IJU) and Jamaat Ansarullah (JA).
Now that the Taliban have achieved their long-awaited victory and are in power, ISK is trying to take over the vacant jihadi seat to poach Central Asian Muhajireen remaining without a hostile target in post-American Afghanistan. Taliban-backed Uzbek, Uyghur and Tajik jihadi groups are overwhelmed by the ISK’s sophisticated operational abilities and its high potential to conduct targeted strikes on Taliban’s vulnerable spots to undermine their legitimacy in the eyes of Afghans and the world. Since the Taliban came to power on August 15, ISK has claimed more than fifty separate attacks, including a suicide bombing at the Kabul International Airport, Shia Hazara mosques in Kunduz and Kandahar.
Along with devastating suicide attacks, the group’s strategists have successfully positioned ISK as a tough ideological adversary to the Taliban, portraying global Salafi jihadism as an irreplaceable alternative to the Taliban’s Pashtun nationalist jihadism. In its propaganda and media, ISIS continuously derides the Taliban as “apostates” and mocks their leaders as puppets of the Americans. Following the Taliban’s lightning-fast takeover of Kabul, ISIS’s al-Naba’ newsletter condemned the victory of its ideological rival as false, since it was not a conquest but a takeover of the country coordinated with the Americans as per the peace process in Doha. According to the Islamic State, “it was merely a process of peaceful transfer of power form one Taghut to another.” The al-Naba’ highlighted a “sore point” of foreign fighters, including Central Asian jihadists, noting that “American restored Taliban’s rule and granted them Kabul without firing a shot” because “Taliban left the Muhajireen (foreign fighters) and pledged that it would not allow the repeat of the ‘Manhattan mistake.’
Analysis of the jihadi media shows that the recent brutal and mysterious killing of the leading Afghan Salafi scholar, Shaikh Abu Obaidullah Mutawakil in Kabul by the Taliban has sparked lively discussion and sympathy among Central Asian Muhajireen adhering to Salafi ideology. The Taliban are suspicious of Afghan Salafists for supporting their arch-enemy of ISK. Following this event, ISK ideologues have focused on three main issues directly related to the future fate of foreign fighters and their Quranic beliefs regarding sacred jihad.
Firstly, the Islamic State emphasizes a deviation of the Afghan Taliban from the jihadi principles in alliance with the Crusaders and their diplomatic collaborations with the Taghut regimes of Central Asian states, Pakistan, Russia, and China, where the religion of Allah is persecuted. Secondly, the Taliban’s nationalist jihad distorts the goals and timing of the sacred global jihad and the scale of the creation of a single Caliphate. Thirdly, according to the ideologues of the Caliphate, the Taliban’s warm relations with the ‘Rafidha’ (rejectionist, used in a derogatory manner for the Shia) Iran is a betrayal of the Sunni Ummah. ISK views Shias as polytheists and heretics, who reject (rafiḍh) the caliphates of the first two successors of the Prophet Muḥammad: Abu Bakr and Umar.
The issues raised in the ISK propaganda networks really deeply disturb the Central Asian Salafi-Jihadi groups. Since the Taliban came to power, the Uzbek, Uyghur and Tajik militant groups are undergoing ideological shifts and rethinking the goals of Central Asian jihadism. The Pashtu nationalist jihad treads on the toes of Central Asian jihadist veterans who have long fought in Afghanistan alongside the Taliban and al Qaeda. Moreover, the Taliban’s frequent public promises about non-interference in the neighbors’ affairs and expulsions of foreign fighters cause deep concern among the Central Asian Muhajireen. Today they are worried that the Taliban, after consolidating power and international recognition, may abandon them or use them as expendable for a lucrative economic deal with China, Russia, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
Our previous report noted that al Qaeda-linked Central Asian jihadi groups warmly congratulated the Taliban on the “great historical victory”, in honor of it issued special congratulatory statements and echoed jihadi Nasheeds (chants of jihadi glory). In particular, Uzbek militants of IJU, KTJ, Uyghurs of TIP and Guraba Jamaat (GJ) and Tajik jihadists of JA heroized “the Taliban’s victory as an epic triumph”, and “the advance of Nusrat (victory) in Khorasan, promised by Allah in the Qur’an.”
Following a victorious euphoria, Central Asian militants seek their own jihadi identity between al Qaeda, ISK, TTP and the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS). Unlike the rest, only ISK attempts to lure them to break away from Taliban’s circle and join the Islamic State’s ranks. Moreover, ISK’s strategic objectives and ideological views are currently more in line with their long-term goals and interests. In addition, the Taliban’s nationalist jihad, limited only to Afghanistan, plays into the hands of ISK. For many Central Asian jihadists, their distant future probably looks more promising with an ally that promises to create a worldwide Caliphate, than one who banned the use of Afghan soil to conduct global jihad.
Perhaps, struggles may soon erupt between the Taliban and Central Asian jihadi groups. Recently, Farrukh Shami (Farrukh Furkatovitch Fayzimatov), one of the KTJ’s fundraisers, whom the US Department of the Treasury added to sanction list, urged post-Soviet Islamists not to make hijrat (migrate) to Afghanistan, but to come to the Middle East.
Foggy Future of Central Asian Jihadism
Another indicator of the defections of Central Asian jihadists to the ISK side was a suicide bomb attack on worshippers at Hazara Shia mosque in the Afghan city of Kunduz that killed at least 55, over 140 injured on October 8, 2021. In its claim of responsibility, ISK identified the suicide-bomber as “Muhammad al-Uyguri,” indicating that he belonged to China’s mainly Muslim Uyghur minority. The ISIS-linked Amaq news agency said, the attack targeted both Shias and the Taliban for their purported willingness to deport Uyghurs from Afghanistan in response to requests from China.
This indicates that the ISK ranks swelled with new Uyghur deserters of TIP, disillusioned by the Taliban’s policy towards China, which is carrying out genocide of Uyghur Muslims in the Xinjiang region. In addition, given the proximity of Kunduz to the borders of Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, ISK signals radical Salafists from Central Asia to make hijrat to Khorasan and join them, while the Taliban have pledged to expel foreign jihadists. Thus, ISK demonstrated once again that Shia Hazaras remain a desirable target of its attack, and the Taliban are unable to protect the people of Afghanistan. Now, when Uyghur militants of TIP faced with the stark reality of the Taliban’s rapprochement with China, they have only two options: martyrdom in hijrat or raising a flag of worldwide Caliphate with ISIS. The Uyghur suicide attack was a symbolic warning to China that its enormous Belt and Road Initiative would be a desirable target for ISK attacks.
It is conceivable that in the near future ISK can exploit suicide bombers from Central Asia to demonstrate its multinational face. It projects the existence of foreign fighters as proof of it being unbound by modern borders and nationalities highlighting a transnational face of Ummah. Such sophisticated attacks could target Hazara Shia minorities, Taliban’s combat units and markets in security-vulnerable provinces. To encourage desertion Central Asian Muhajireen and local Salafi community, ISK also will increase its propaganda campaign against the Taliban.
Although al Qaeda-linked Central Asian Salafi-Jihadi groups loudly praised the Taliban’s victory, it did not bring them the long-awaited and promised jihadi future. Instead, they faced the threat of fragmentation into small jamaats and the loss of the global goal of the Central Asian jihad after the Taliban’s power seizure.
The Taliban might offer Central Asian jihadists standing in Afghan territory to blend in with Uzbek, Tajik and Turkmen tribes in the northern Badakhshan, Kunduz, Jowzjan and Takhar provinces, appoint some especially trusted commanders as their overseers, as they did so recently. When the Taliban captured a strategically important security checkpoint near Afghan border with Tajikistan in July, they assigned a Tajik jihadi group Jamaat Ansarullah to raise the Taliban flag on the site. They also put JA’s leader Mahdi Arsalon in charge of security in five districts of Afghanistan’s Badakhshan Province – Kuf Ab, Khwahan, Maimay, Nusay, and Shekay – near the Tajik border. The Taliban exploited Tajik jihadists during the conquest of the northern provinces as their “hard power” and political leverage against Tajikistan, which supported Ahmad Massoud, the leader of the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan.
However, some Uzbek, Uyghur and Tajik jihadists, dissatisfied with the Taliban’s concessions to Russia, China and the Central Asian ‘Tahud’ countries, but unwilling to side with ISK or participate in ‘Talibanization’ process, may try to leave Afghanistan and migrate to Syria’s Idlib province and join their ethnic groups.
It is expected that the jihadi activities of foreign fighters remaining on Afghan soil will be strictly controlled by the Taliban’s Badri Battalion. Turns out that the Taliban have long tightly controlled the media activities of Central Asian jihadi groups forbidding them to publish about joint military operations on social networks. Analysis of the jihadi media showed that in parallel with the launch of the US-Taliban peace negotiations in Doha, Uzbek and Tajik militants sharply reduced publishing video reports on the Taliban’s al-Fath jihadi operation.
ISK Threatens the US
Recently, Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., the head of the US military’s Central Command, testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, suggested that the U.S. may not be able to prevent al Qaeda and ISIS from rebuilding in Afghanistan. His colleague, Colin Kahl, under secretary of defense policy, warned that ISK could be able to attack the United States in six months. The US military leadership’s concerns are shared by expert scholars on Afghan jihadism, warning that the Taliban cannot defeat the ISK alone.
ISIS strategists always considered the main principle of the group that the global jihad should be brought under the auspices of the Caliphate and managed by it in a more disciplined and coordinated manner. Following its strategy, if the central leadership of ISIS decides to financially strengthen its Khorasan branch of ISK, then the cross-border movement of militants and the recruitment of new fighters from Central Asia will get a new breath.
The revival of the ISK is dangerous, as the modern weapons left by the US in Afghanistan can easily fall into the hands of global jihadists. The high-profile suicide terror attacks of the ISK against the background of the country’s economic collapse and the Taliban’s failure to maintain control of their borders could turn Afghanistan into another hot spot for the ISIS’s followers from the Middle East, South and Central Asia. If the situation develops according to a scenario similar to the creation of the Caliphate in Mosul in 2014, then the intervention of the international armed forces will be required to tackle the problem posed by the ISK.
However, Moscow did not allow Central Asian countries to host U.S. or NATO military forces for “over the horizon” counterterrorism operations that would allow the U.S. military to more easily surveil and strike targets in the Taliban-controlled nation. Moscow sees the post-Soviet Central Asian region as its southern defensive flank. Russia exploits the threat of the Islamic State in Afghanistan to expand its military-political influence and cement its military CSTO bloc in the region. Thus, the resistance of authoritarian Russia and China to the US counterterrorism initiative can reduce the pressure on ISIS and revive a resurgence of transnational jihadi terrorism in the very heart of Central Asia.
In this situation, the US should signal Central Asian countries and regional powers that Washington’s decision to withdraw from Afghanistan does not mean its complete abandonment of Central Asia. The White House might play the card of economic partnership, financial support, and protection of human rights as a tool to counter the rise of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative and the affirmation of Moscow’s Eurasian Economic Union.
Kazakhstan’s Reforms and Future Perspectives Create Basis for Broader External Cooperation
Kazakhstan, one of the Russian neighbours and former Soviet republics, opens its doors for a broader external expansion. Given its geographical location and combined with current political reforms aim at transforming its economy from the Soviet system to a more modernized system infused with western culture of life, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has chosen multi-vector policies.
Reforms have begun to be implemented after the election of Kassym-Jomart Tokayev in June 2019. Tokayev has consistently advocated for more openness and improving necessary conditions for attracting foreign business and investors to participate in the various economics sectors and including the cultural and educational sectors.
“I believe that given our geopolitical situation, given the fact that we have over $500 billion involved in our economy, given that there are global companies operating in our market, we simply have to pursue a multi-vector, as they say now, foreign policy,” Tokayev said in the context of growing confrontations, contractions and emerging new world order.
The 69-year-old Tokayev took office in 2019 after Kazakhstan’s previous president resigned amid protests. After surviving unrest in January triggered by fuel price rises, Tokayev unveiled reforms – including constitutional amendments and a hike in the minimum wage – and called snap elections.
Amid popular demand for sweeping change, he has recently accelerated plans to increase the amount of Kazakh oil exported west across the Caspian Sea, avoiding Russia to the north. It currently relies heavily on the Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC), one of the world’s largest pipelines that crosses Russia to the Black Sea port of Novorossiisk. Out of total exports of 68 million tonnes a year, 53 million tonnes of Kazakh oil move through it.
In addition, late October, Tokayev said that in the coming years the authorities of the republic plan to launch a network of border trade and economic centers with Russia, China, and Central Asian countries. In September, Tokayev emphasized that Kazakhstan would make every effort to further develop allied relations with Russia, an eternal strategic partnership with China, and comprehensive cooperation with brotherly Central Asian states.
Declaring that the creation of a fair Kazakhstan as its main goal, Tokayev has emphasized that the foreign policy course must also aim at protection of national interests, strengthening of mutually beneficial cooperation with all interested states, international peace and security.
In pursuit of sharing fresh experience of nation building, the president noted the importance of better quality education and the implementation of best global practices in domestic higher educational establishments at a meeting with Almaty students and young researchers, according to the presidential press service.
“Academic cooperation with the leading foreign universities is increasing on my orders. Branches of higher educational establishments from the UK, Germany, Canada, the Netherlands, South Korea and the United States will open in Kazakhstan shortly. The integration into the global education space will bolster the competitiveness of our higher educational establishments and will raise the appeal of Kazakh higher education,” the press service quoted Tokayev as saying.
Interestingly, English language is gaining popularity among younger generation since the collapse of the Soviet Union. It however projected that the people of Kazakhstan in the future will speak three languages (Kazakh, Russian and English). As part of promoting multi-cultural and friendly society, Kazakhstan has seriously made in-bound tourism as one of its priority spheres, so it has established a visa-free regime for citizens of 54 countries, including the European Union and OECD member states, the United States, Japan, Mexico, Australia and New Zealand.
Even long before the war, Kazakhstan had resisted significant leverages, including a push by Moscow in 2020 for a single currency and joint parliament within the post-Soviet Eurasian Economic Union, as part of a five-year strategic plan.
Noteworthy to reiterate here that during the discussions in St. Petersburg Economic Forum held in June where Tokayev shared the stage with Putin, he explicitly said his government did not and would not recognize Russian-controlled regions in eastern Ukraine and that Kazakhstan upheld the inviolability of internationally recognized borders.
Kazakhstan government has noticeably pushed back publicly against territorial claims made by Russian President Vladimir Putin in Ukraine, souring relations between the former Soviet republic and Moscow. Russia and Kazakhstan share the world’s longest continuous land border, prompting concern among some Kazakhs about the security of a country with the second-biggest ethnic Russian population among ex-Soviet republics after Ukraine.
Kazakhstan has a GDP of $179.332 billion and an annual growth rate of 4.5%. Per capita, Kazakhstan’s GDP stands at $9,686. It’s increased role in global trade and central positioning on the new Silk Road gave the country the potential to open its markets to billions of people. Further to this, it joined the World Trade Organization in 2015.
According to some reports, Kazakhstan has an abundant supply of accessible mineral and fossil fuel resources. Development of petroleum, natural gas, and mineral extractions has attracted most of the over $40 billion in foreign investment in Kazakhstan since 1993 and accounts for some 57% of the nation’s industrial output (or approximately 13% of gross domestic product).
On 6 March 2020, the Concept of the Foreign Policy of Kazakhstan for 2020–2030 was announced. The document outlines the following main points:
– An open, predictable and consistent foreign policy of the country, which is progressive in nature and maintains its endurance by continuing the course of the First President – the country at a new stage of development;
– Protection of human rights, development of humanitarian diplomacy and environmental protection;
– Promotion of the country’s economic interests in the international arena, including the implementation of state policy to attract investment;
– Maintaining international peace and security;
– Development of regional and multilateral diplomacy, which primarily involves strengthening mutually beneficial ties with key partners – Russia, China, the United States, Central Asian states and the EU countries, as well as through multilateral structures – the United Nations, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the Commonwealth of Independent States, and a few others.
Kazakhstan is the world’s largest landlocked country, located in Central Asia and partly in Eastern Europe. It declared independence on 16 December 1991, thus becoming the last Soviet republic to declare political independence. Nursultan Nazarbayev became the country’s first President. Records show that he was replaced by Kassym-Jomart Tokayev.
It was the last Soviet republic to declare independence after Soviet’s collapse in 1991. With approximately 20 million population, Kazakhstan strictly recognizes its political freedom, national interest and territorial sovereignty, and is a member of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).
Kazakhstan’s Courtship of Africa Within the Context of Emerging Multipolar Order
Kazakhstan, a former Soviet republic, has been exploring and developing multifaceted relations with Africa. As an independent republic since the collapse of the Soviet-era in 1991, Kazakhstan values its freedom in choosing external partners as well as devising strategic mechanisms for bolstering and positioning its activities on regional and global stages. The Foreign Ministry offers necessary guidelines and directions, and exercises powers in accordance with the legislation of the Republic of Kazakhstan.
It has been laying the groundwork which aims at taking its geopolitical relationship unto an appreciable high level with Africa. The most dramatic sign of its courtship of Africa, however, was Nursultan Nazarbayev official visit to Africa. His trip to South Africa – his first ever bilateral visit to this African country – underscores the importance Kazakhstan attaches to building political, economic and cultural ties with the continent. (Nazarbayev did visit Johannesburg in 2002 to attend the UN summit.)
In addition to that, Kazakhstan continues taking steady strategic result-oriented steps since it opened its diplomatic representations in a few African countries including Ethiopia, Egypt, Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa, and later in 2013 obtained an observer status with the African Union. That gives it access to several meetings and multilateral conferences attended by the 54 African countries.
Erlan Idrissov was one of the foreign ministers. He served from 2012 to 2016. At the Astana Economic Forum held May 2015, Erlan Idrissov put Kazakhstan and Africa in an excellent perspectives when he said: “Kazakhstan had built a stronger economy and social safety net, we started turning a keen eye on Africa. Now is the time for Kazakhstan to pay even more attention to the continent. Africa is a continent with huge potential. It is rich in human capital and much of its population is young. It’s time to invest in them.”
During the past decade, at least Kazakhstan has taken steps to put its planned economic ties into forward-looking and result-oriented perspectives. It has also been crafting a new political and economic systems, and attempting to incorporate them in developing foreign relations with Africa.
Kazakhstan has stepped up its courtship of Africa, exploring various sectors by the common principle that if Kazakhstan and Africa strengthen their ties as planned, then the people of the continent will certainly be among the beneficiaries. It has had good political relations with a number of countries on the continent till present.
It continues looking forward to strong presence in diversified sectors and to strengthen its economic partnerships, attempting to raise trade with Africa. According to research reports, the other priority sectors for mutual cooperation and collaboration including agriculture, agro-processing, energy and industrialization, health care delivery, culture and education with Africa.
In relating to trade, it has working contacts with African countries. For instance early November 2022, the Addis Ababa Chamber of Commerce and Sectoral Association held a virtual meeting under the theme – Promoting Trade and Investment between Kazakhstan and Ethiopia – with their counterparts in Kazakhstan to discuss ways to cooperate in business and investment. The Ministry of Trade and Integration and various corporate heads of enterprises from Kazakhstan attended the meeting.
Addressing the participants, Kazakhstan Ambassador to Ethiopia, B.Sadyakov said Kazakhstan and Ethiopia have maintained “an excellent relationship” based on friendship and mutual support. According to Sadyakov both countries have “a very good prospect in all areas of cooperation” and underlined the need to grow the relationship. , said the ambassador.
Addis Ababa Chamber’s Deputy Secretary General Zekarias Assefa said that the current trade and investment ties of the two countries are promising, shows a positive signal to embark on further economic ties and must necessarily be promoted in the near future.
Statistical figures between African countries and Kazakhstan are staggering, but the above illustrates there is a huge potential for interaction that needs action between Kazakhstan and Africa. Our monitoring shows African business communities are targeting Kazakhstan as one of their trade and investment destinations in Eurasian region.
The Eurasian region comprises five members – Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan Kyrgyzstan and Russia. There are Moldova and Uzbekistan as observers from the geographical region. Of course, Kazakhstan after Russia and Belarus is cooperative in terms of business approach and has diverse business opportunities and potentials among Eurasian members.
In the context of expanding collaboration with Africa, there are good prospects for establishing mutually beneficial relations in agriculture and mining, as well as the participation of Kazakh companies in implementing infrastructure projects. Africa is also a huge market for the possible export of Kazakhstan’s grain.
Kazakhstan is one of the world’s top 10 exporters of grain, but has had limited sales in Africa. Egypt, the world’s largest grain importer, has been the only African country to make substantial purchases from Kazakhstan. It however hopes to change that with stepped-up marketing campaigns and new transportation routes to the continent. One of the routes is a rail line that can carry Kazakhstan gain through Turkmenistan to Persian Gulf ports in Iran, where it can be shipped for Africa.
Kazakhstan’s economic relations with South Africa, a BRICS member, are developing faster than with any other sub-Saharan African country. South Africa exported only $3.5 million worth of goods to Kazakhstan. The main items were fruits and vegetables. Meanwhile, Kazakhstan exported even less to South Africa – $1.8 million in goods. Chemicals accounted for almost all of it.
During Nazarbayev’s visit to Pretoria, the economic deals signed between Kazakhstan and South Africa hoped to see more of military-vehicles and bus-making joint venture. The venture, whose partners are Paramount Group, Kazakhstan Engineering and Kazakhstan Engineering Distribution, agreed to assemble vehicles at a renovated plant in Kazakhstan’s capital, Astana.
The facility cranked out up to 360 vehicles late 2015. Kazakhstan said the plant should meet the bulk of its military-vehicle needs. Plans are for a sizable percentage of the output to be exported. That compared, Kazakhstan’s economic ties with three of the other BRICS nations – Russia, China and India – are in the hundreds of millions to billions of dollars. As with South Africa, ties between Kazakhstan and Brazil are still developing.
In addition to trade and investment, Kazakhstan offers education and training for African students. “A few years ago we started turning a keen eye on Africa. We believe it is a historic time when Africa should receive a full focus,” Erlan Idrissov stressed as far back in 2015. “We recognise that Africa is a continent with huge potential. It has enormous human capital and a large, young population. Everything depends on people, especially investment in people.”
According the latest information obtained for this article from the Ministry of Education, the report highlighted that Kazakhstan-financed educational courses are offered to students from the African continent. The groups study in the fields of energy, medicine and agriculture. There are estimated 5,000 African students in various institutes and universities in Almaty and Astana. Among the projects in the cultural sphere is to improve the performance and quality of teaching in Nur-Mubarak University in Almaty, so its graduates can be granted the right to enrol directly into master’s courses at Al-Azhar University in Cairo.
Meanwhile, Kazakh universities have been consolidating their positions on the world stage year by year. QS World University Rankings 2022 included 14 Kazakh universities in the list, and Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2022 included three universities.
The number of educational programs in English has increased within the country, with the number of qualified foreign specialists rising as a result. They share their experience with local educators, and also teach students new technologies and research methods. Nazarbayev University (NU) is very popular among foreign students from the United States, Europe, Africa and Middle East countries.
Reports indicate that Egyptian authorities are promoting a series of activities aimed at promoting Egyptian tourist destinations among the citizens of Kazakhstan. Another exciting prospect is regular Sharm el-Sheikh-Almaty-Sharm el-Sheikh flights and also Cairo-Astana-Cairo flights.
Humanitarian questions are also high on the agenda. It raises concern about the persistent conflicts on the continent, especially in the Horn of Africa and the sub-Saharan Sahel. Interesting to note that Astana is a supporter of the active interaction of the OIC (Organisation of Islamic Cooperation) and African Union with questions related to African conflict resolution and ensuring interethnic and inter-religious dialogue, poverty eradication and illiteracy, as well as the fight against a variety of illnesses and diseases.
Nevertheless, Kazakhstan has shown concern about the continent’s humanitarian challenges by providing food relief to Somalia and donating $350,000 to an international fund to fight Ebola. This one tip of the ice-berg. In the process of forging a closer relations, Kazakhstan has identified obstacles, including geographic remoteness of the countries, absence of direct transport links and lack of information about one other.
Despite these, the relations are still advancing. Kazakhstan’s political stability and achievements in the fields of agriculture, technologies and finance, however, can ensure future successful cooperation between the country and the continent. Kazakhstan is creating a sub-regional hub for multilateral diplomacy in its southern capital of Almaty. As a result, interregional cooperation could be initiated between Central Asia and Africa.
In broader terms, Kazakhstan has been an active participant in South-South cooperation. Its efforts in the areas of development exchange and cooperation provide a good opportunity for African countries, said UNDP Regional Bureau for Africa (RBA) Strategy and Analysis Team Chief Ayodele Odusola.
“One thing that is very clear to us as a key partner with the Kazakh government is that South-South cooperation has become an effective strategy of development solutions in developing countries, especially in Africa. We feel it is quite important for us to move this issue of South-South cooperation to the next level,” he noted.
Odusola added statistics indicate Africa will contribute 54 percent of the total population growth expected worldwide by 2050 and 82 percent by 2100, which, in turn, requires consolidating efforts.
“There are a number of lessons and experiences that can be shared between Kazakhstan and many African countries, essentially in the areas where Kazakhstan is doing very well when it comes to the issues of industrialisation and mechanised agriculture,” he told The Astana Times, and added that that Kazakhstan and many African countries have similarities in the structure of economy.
Under Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, the new Foreign Policy Concept of Kazakhstan indicates Africa as one of the top priorities regions, and plans to establish more diplomatic relations with the majority of African countries. The document says that Astana is observing the current political and economic transformations with great interest in Africa.
“We can see a serious geopolitical struggle between the major powers of the world for its rich natural resources. At the same time, it is a rather complex region where peace, stability and security have been significantly undermined. Kazakhstan intends to significantly contribute to the establishment of safety on the continent and further support the process of attaining sustainable development,” it says in part.
Kazakhstan and Africa coordinate well at the African Union, and similarly at the United Nations. Some African countries are doing their individual homework and trying to become a real partnering force, as Kazakhstan is transforming in the 2050 development programme set for itself, so also the continent has its own 2063 Agenda fixed by the African Union.
2022 Organization of Turkic States Summit
The meeting of the Council of Heads of State of the Organization of Turkic States Summit was held on November 11, 2022 in Samarkand amid increasingly frequent statements from the European Union and the United States America that the countries of Central Asia should get rid of the influence of the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China.
Prior to the summit, negotiations were held between the Ministers of Economy of the Member States, discussing the creation of the Turkic Investment Fund, the opening of joint trading houses and the formation of the special economic zone “TURANCEZ”. Meetings were also held between the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Member States
The summit was chaired ин the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev. The summit was held under the slogan: “A new era of Turkic civilization: Towards Common Development and Prosperity.”
The Organization of Turkic States, formerly known as the Cooperation Council of Turkic Speaking States (Turkic Council), was established on October 3, 2009. The members of the Organization of Turkic States are Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkey and Uzbekistan. Hungary and Turkmenistan have observer status.
The summit was also attended by the leaders of the International Organization of Turkic Culture (TÜRKSOY), the Parliamentary Assembly of Turkic Speaking Countries (TURKPA), the International Turkic Academy of the Turkic Culture and Heritage Foundation
The President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev began a meeting of the Council of Heads of State. He welcomed the guests and delivered a speech. In his speech, he mentioned the issues concerned, spoke about the goals and prospects for expanding cooperation between the Turkic countries.
Highlights from speech of the President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev
- Strengthening the bases of trade and economic cooperation;
- Proposed to hold annually the Turkic Economic Forum in the format of the state and business in order to ensure its single promotion of trade and investment;
- Expansion of transit corridors and creation of transport infrastructure;
- Ensuring access to the foreign market and the creation of an efficient food supply system;
- Build partnerships with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations;
- Regularly hold the Turkic Agro Forum and organize an international exhibition of agriculture;
Highlights from speech of the President of the Republic Turkey Recep Tayyip
- Proposed the establishment of an Investment Fund;
- Implementation of joint energy projects;
- Turkey is ready for active cooperation with the Turkic states in all areas;
- Expanding cooperation in the prevention and regulation of illegal migration;
- Cancellation or reduction of customs payments on the route passing through the Middle Corridor, as well as simplification of transit cargo transportation;
- Congratulated Azerbaijan on the occasion of the second anniversary of Victory in the Patriotic War.
- Highlighted that Turkey supports Azerbaijan in its aspiration for a peaceful settlement of the Karabakh issue;
Highlights from speech of the President of the Republic Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev
- “Green economy” development;
- Development of the transport and logistics industry between countries;
- Strengthening the scientific and educational connection of the Turkic countries;
- Compliance with the Charter of the United Nations on the issue of territorial integrity;
- Proposed to create a Center for Digitalization of the Organization of Turkic States on the basis of the International Technopark “Astana Hub”;
- Proposed to create in 2023 a unified network of universities of the Turkic countries, which will allow students to study Turkic languages and get acquainted with the history and culture of the Turkic nations;
Highlights from speech of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev
- Called on countries to intensify cooperation in the field of security, defense, defense industry;
- Pay attention to the issue of human rights, security, preservation of national identity and assimilation of compatriots living outside the countries of the members of the Organization of Turkic States;
- The President of Azerbaijan invited Heads of State of the Organization of Turkic States to visit the Karabakh and East Zangezur economic regions;
Chairman of the People’s Council of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly said that the Samarkand summit made a significant contribution to the development of relations between the Turkish states and stressed the importance of expanding cooperation.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban noted the important role of Azerbaijan in ensuring the energy security of Europe.
The President of Kyrgyzstan Sadyr Japarov said that relations with Azerbaijan are reaching a new level.
Bagdad Amreev, Secretary General of the Organization of Turkic States, said that the organization has always supported the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. And that cooperation and the political arena have developed significantly. The countries demonstrated unity in supporting Baku in the struggle for the liberation of their lands from occupation and the restoration of territorial integrity.
- A strategic plan was adopted for the next 5 years;
- The Organization of the Turkic States declared 2023 as Year of Rise of Turkic Civilization;
- Member States signed a final declaration (the Samarkand Declaration) and a number of other documents, including protocols on amending the Nakhchivan Agreement on the establishment of the Cooperation Council of Turkic Speaking States;
- Decision on the adoption of the rules of procedure for the establishment of the Turkic Investment Fund;
- The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) has been granted observer status.
- Representative of Kyrgyzstan Kubanychbek Omuraliev has been appointed Secretary General of the Organization of Turkic States, who replaced Bagdad Amreev in this position;
- At the initiative of the President of Uzbekistan, the Ali-Shir Nava’I International Prize was established. The first winner of The Ali-Shir Nava’I International Prize was the famous Kyrgyz writer Chinghiz Aitmatov in recognition of his contributions to the unity and development of the Turkic world. His award was presented to the President of the Republic of Kyrgyzstan Sadyr Japarov;
- President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev awarded President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Chairman of the People’s Council of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly with the Supreme Order of Turkic World;
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