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Thoughts on Central Asia

As I am writing this, I am sitting in my hotel room in Tashkent – the vibrant and growing capital of Uzbekistan.

For several years – since I worked on Chinahub, where we connected Chinese businesses and businesses along the “New Silk Road” to businesses in Germany – I am not only fascinated by Central Asia but also in firm belief that Central Asia will very soon (again) play a crucial role in our world stage – not only in geopolitics but also in global economics.

No wonder I immediately jumped on the opportunity to visit Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan as soon I was offered the opportunity.

Now, after 1 month and thousands of kilometers visiting Astana, Almaty, and Shymkent (Kazakhstan) and Tashkent and Samarkand (Uzbekistan), I’m even more certain that both countries not only want to become a dominant player in geopolitical Central Asia but also an economic powerhouse along the “New Silk Road”.

In all 5 cities, you can feel “growth” in the air. The population is noticeably younger (!) than in Europe or the United States – but not only is the population younger, the people are also a magnitude more ambitious than what I experience in Germany and Spain.

The mix of growth and ambition make Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan so interesting for me.

But which city in Kazakhstan or Uzbekistan will become the most dominant Central Asian city within the next 30 to 50 years?

From what I can observe, the most investments flow to Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, and Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan. The question of which country and which city will dominate is – if you asked me – not about investments only, but about which country is more successful and quicker in tackling corruption.

I’ll keep an eye on both countries and visit them more frequently.

If you’d ask me where I’d want to live, the answer is Almaty. It is a vibrant and multicultural city with great restaurants of any sort, beautiful mountains close by and a working infrastructure.

If you’d ask me where I’d invest or do business, the answer is Tashkent. In Tashkent, there are still countless investment and business opportunities, there are countless things still waiting to get developed, including a more livable city.

Overall, Uzbekistan easily wins for the friendliest people in Central Asia, and also for the friendliest Russian-speaking people.

If you’d ask me to create a Top 3 list of cities in Central Asia,

For living and visiting:

  1. Almaty,
  2. Samarkand
  3. Tashkent

For business:

  1. Tashkent
  2. Astana
  3. Almaty

If you want to travel here, to get an impression, you can do it like me: Fly to Astana, take the train to Almaty, then a train to Tashkent. From here you can visit Samarkand and Bukhara.

Now I have 12 more days to explore Tashkent and to get to know the local business landscape.

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