The technological landscape in Central Asia continues to evolve, with fintech milestones, digital infrastructure enhancements, international collaborations, and regulatory measures shaping the region’s trajectory in the first month of 2024.
Kazakhstan: Kaspi.Kz Marks NASDAQ Debut
Kaspi.Kz, Kazakhstan’s fintech giant, has etched its name in history by becoming the country’s first NASDAQ-listed company. The expanded initial public offering (IPO) generated approximately $1bn for primary shareholders, although its market debut on January 19 was perceived as lukewarm. The LSE-listed “SuperApp” business achieved a valuation of $17.5bn on the U.S. exchange, with Kaspi.kz’s CEO, Mikheil Lomtadze, expressed the U.S. as the “natural home” for ambitious tech companies.
Operating across payments, marketplace, and fintech, the company’s diversified operations contribute to a valuation exceeding $19bn in London. Concurrently, Kazakhstan’s Air Astana announced plans to go public on the London Stock Exchange (LSE) in February, targeting around $120mn, with BAE Systems, holding a 49% stake, anticipating financial gains from the IPO.
Kyrgyzstan: World Bank Boosts Digital CASA Project with $7mn Funding
The World Bank has approved an additional $7mn in funding for the ongoing Digital Central Asia South Asia (Digital CASA) project in Kyrgyzstan. Aligned with the country’s digital transformation agenda, the project aims to narrow the digital divide in rural areas and enhance broadband connectivity. The total investment of $57mn, combining the initial project and the supplementary funding, intends to provide improved internet services to over 800,000 citizens, raising the internet penetration rate to 57%. Key activities include laying fiber-optic networks, establishing cross-border links, and building a government cloud infrastructure.
Tajikistan and Iran Collaborate on Innovation and Technology Center
Tajikistan and Iran have signed a memorandum of understanding to establish a joint innovation and technology center, fostering knowledge sharing and tech development. During an official visit by Tajikistan’s Majlisi Milli Chairman Rustam Emomali to Tehran, the agreement formalized collaboration between the two nations. Iran’s House of Innovation and Technology (IHIT) will host the center, showcasing scientific achievements and serving as a platform for knowledge sharing, networking, and technology promotion. Despite international sanctions, Iran has made significant strides in science and technology, evident in its fast-growing scientific output.
Uzbekistan: Regulatory Action Against Binance in Crypto Space
Uzbekistan’s National Agency of Perspective Projects (NAPP) has fined international crypto exchange Binance for operating without a license. The regulator identified multiple violations, including providing services to Uzbek citizens without proper licensing, transactions with anonymous crypto-assets, and non-compliance with legal requirements. The NAPP levied a fine of $8,300, stressing administrative and criminal liabilities for unlicensed activities. Binance, one of the largest crypto exchanges, faces increased scrutiny, including a US Department of Justice and IRS investigation reported in December 2023.
In Central Asia, common threads and distinctions shape the technological landscape in January 2024. A shared emphasis on digital transformation is apparent, with all countries demonstrating commitment through initiatives in fintech, broadband connectivity, and innovation collaborations. The region collectively seeks global recognition, as evidenced by NASDAQ debuts, international collaborations, and regulatory measures involving entities beyond national borders.
However, distinctive features emerge, showcasing the unique approaches of each country. Uzbekistan stands out with its stringent regulatory stance, particularly evident in actions against Binance, underscoring the importance of compliance and asserting national control over crypto transactions. Meanwhile, Tajikistan’s collaboration with Iran and Kyrgyzstan’s partnership with the World Bank underscores a regional commitment to fostering international cooperation for technological advancements. These commonalities and distinctions contribute to the nuanced and evolving technological landscape in Central Asia.