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Business Forum: Women’s Leadership Fueling Kazakhstan’s Economic Growth

Women’s leadership has been a driving force behind Kazakhstan’s economic and societal progress for many years, stated Aidan Suleimenova, President of the Ayala Charitable Foundation, during the annual Women in Business forum held in Almaty on Feb. 20, according to the forum’s press service.

The event saw participation from over 300 women entrepreneurs, public figures, representatives from development institutions, major companies, and banks. Organized by the Council of Businesswomen of Almaty, Halyk Bank, and Mastercard, the forum aimed to celebrate and empower women in the business sector.

Michelle Yerkin, the Consul General of the United States in Almaty, emphasized the crucial role of women in driving societal prosperity and economic development. She expressed a commitment to collaborating with Kazakhstan to bolster economic competitiveness by creating high-quality job opportunities for women.

Gaukhar Buribayeva, Chairwoman of the Damu Entrepreneurship Development Fund, highlighted that nearly half (47%) of the fund’s supported projects are led by women entrepreneurs. Throughout its operational history, the fund has provided support to 96,000 women-led entrepreneurship projects, amounting to 2.8 billion tenge ($6.3 million).

Alexandra Akkirman, Senior Director of Public Affairs, Communications, and Sustainability at Coca-Cola Caucasus and Central Asia, shared insights into a longstanding initiative aimed at promoting women’s businesses in rural areas of Kazakhstan.

The project, now in its 12th year, has played a pivotal role in advocating for preferential loan rates for rural entrepreneurs through collaboration with the Agriculture Ministry.

“Over the past 11 years, more than 75,000 women have benefited from free business training. Organizers report that since the onset of the pandemic, over 3,000 small businesses have been established, generating 5,000 jobs,” stated Akkirman.

Umut Shayakhmetova, CEO of Halyk Bank, expressed optimism regarding the prospect of declining interest rates in 2024. She anticipates a favorable lending environment that will facilitate continued growth, despite existing economic challenges.

Since 2018, Halyk Bank has provided hundreds of entrepreneurs across the country with preferential loans at an interest rate of 5% per annum, enabling them to initiate and expand their businesses.

Data indicates that women in Kazakhstan helm 43% of enterprises. Their entrepreneurship contributes to one-third of the total job opportunities in the small and medium-sized business sector and approximately 15% of the country’s GDP.

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