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Kazakhstan Seeks Support From Singapore As It Develops Digital Trade

By Azamat Batyrov November 29, 2020

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Singapore is acknowledged to be Asia’s top logistics hub for a decade, offering world-class connectivity to the region and beyond.

As Kazakhstan pushes ahead with plans to accelerate the development of digital trade amid an ongoing crisis spurred by the global COVID-19 pandemic, officials in Nur-Sultan are looking to implement best practices from Singapore.

On Friday, officials from Kazakhstan's Ministry of Trade and Integration (MTI) signed a memorandum of understanding on scientific and technological cooperation with the Singapore Cooperation Enterprise (SCE), to develop digital trade and e-commerce in what is Central Asia’s wealthiest country.

The partnership is poised to develop and implement local projects and initiatives in the realm of digital trade and e-commerce using existing Singaporean solutions.

“The role of international cooperation and partnership in the development of e-commerce has always been and remains significant,” said Assel Zhanassova, Kazakhstan’s Vice Minister of Trade and Integration, according to a report issued by the ministry’s official website. 

“We are open to new initiatives in this area and look forward to a productive cooperation with one of our most important partners,” she added. 

The Singapore Cooperation Enterprise (SCE) was founded in 2006 by the Ministry of Trade and Industry and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Singapore to lead in public sector collaboration projects with foreign countries interested in Singapore’s development experience. SCE is currently an integrated arm of Enterprise Singapore, the government agency engaged in enterprise development and supporting the growth of the country as a hub for global trading and startups.

Singapore is renowned for being an open economy with prudent monetary and fiscal policies, and a transparent legal framework. At the same time, the small island country is Asia’s top logistics hub, offering world-class connectivity to the region and beyond.

But things have changed extremely and Singapore’s economy turned out to be vulnerable in the face of new challenges tied to the pandemic. 

Now, the country’s government sees digitalization of trade as a strategy to prepare the country for a new future. Last year, Singapore launched a company, Contour, which uses blockchain technology to simplify trade finance. In addition, the government developed a project dubbed “TradeTrust” to simplify and speed up procedures through the exchange of digital trade documentation. 

The developments in Singapore have attracted the attention of other countries, including Australia, New Zealand, and Chile, that are eager to explore ways to generate their own digital ecosystems, and Kazakhstan is no exception. 

The development of digital trade in Kazakhstan is one of the priority tasks set by the government who adopted the roadmap for the development of e-commerce to cover the period of 2019-2025. Government officials in Kazakhstan are planning to increase the share of e-commerce in total trade up to 15 percent by 2025 as part of the initiative. 

To make this happen, the government will work to improve the infrastructure of e-commerce and develop “electronic export” of Kazakhstani goods. Last year, the country’s trade and integration ministry has selected 50 companies to be awarded Gold Supplier status on the Alibaba.com platform.

“This premium status provides access to a global audience, the possibility of comprehensive promotion within the marketplace. To date, Kazakhstani entrepreneurs have concluded export contracts worth more than $1.7 million, or 700 million tenge, and interest in Kazakhstani goods keeps growing every day,” Kazakhstan’s Minister of Trade and Integration Bakhyt Sultanov said, according to Kapital.kz.

The ministry is now working to bring Kazakhstani companies to international platforms, such as Shopify, Wildberries, Ozon, and Amazon.

As part of the initiative, the law was adopted to develop business environment and regulate trade activities to further simplify e-commerce operations with other countries. In addition, the government has launched various training programs for local entrepreneurs. In early 2019, Kazakhstan national postal operator Kazpost launched four e-commerce centers where over 1,500 entrepreneurs were trained to trade online and create online shops.