Prospects of Slovenian Companies Operation on the Kazakhstan Market: Interview with Gorazd Šifrer

Several Slovenian companies are already working on the Kazakhstan market. However, the Honorary Consul of Kazakhstan in Slovenia Gorazd Šifrer believes that the interest of this Asian country in cooperation with Slovenia is far from being exhausted.

The commodity exchange between Slovenia and Kazakhstan in 2015 was 87 million euros. Exports from Slovenia to Kazakhstan is estimated at 63 million euros, the ¾ of which are the pharmaceutical products. Electrical appliances and equipment take the second position. At the same time, Kazakhstan mainly exports to Slovenia mineral fuel and oils (55%), aluminium and aluminium products (26%).

The economic development of Kazakhstan is mainly based on its rich hydrocarbon reserves (75% of all oil and natural gas deposits of the Caspian region). In general, the state controls 3% of the world’s oil reserves and 1.7% of the world’s natural gas reserves.

Gorazd Šifrer, who has been the honorary consul of Kazakhstan in Slovenia since 2016, believes that the opportunities for expanding Slovenian exports to Kazakhstan exist in various sectors of the economy.

In what sectors do the Slovenian companies have new opportunities for a breakthrough to the Kazakhstan market?

“I see great prospects here. We have considerable experience that will be useful to Kazakhstan. For example, we already cooperate with the University of Maribor. Kazakhstan seeks to become one of the world’s thirty most developed countries until 2050, while serious attention will be paid to food production. ​​Slovenia has much to offer in this sphere. Kazakhstan has large reserves of water resources and forested areas. Slovenia can share its experience in this sector as well. There are prospects for cooperation in the field of culture and sports as well. We have contacted the Association of Ski Sports of Slovenia to discuss the possibility of holding a training camp in Kazakhstan, which offers extremely great conditions for training.”

Some Slovenian companies already work in the Kazakhstan market. Can you, as an honorary consul, help them find entrepreneurship opportunities?

“Of course, I will contribute to the establishment of contacts, opening of doors, consult in launching a new business, give reliable information on investment opportunities, tax incentives for foreign investors, and conditions for the establishment of companies. Kazakhstan is of strategic interest for Slovenian export companies.

It provides prospects for both small companies and such giants as Gorenje, Lek and Krka. Let me just give you an example. One company in Maribor has already opened a representative office in Kazakhstan. It is engaged in cleaning a riverbed. Some employees were hired in Kazakhstan. However, the Slovenes perform most of the work.”

One cannot but take into account that Kazakhstan becomes the economic leader of the Eurasia region, and Astana is a major financial centre. The country’s economy is developing steadily, and new investors will soon come here. In addition, the government of Kazakhstan is interested in developing alternative energy sources, despite the existing rich oil and natural gas deposits. It encourages innovation in all areas. Besides, it is necessary to consider the sphere of tourism. Kazakhstan wants to attract as many tourists as possible, and the people of Kazakhstan are trying to discover new tourist routes for themselves as well.

There are enough opportunities. However, to what extent is the Kazakhstan market open to foreign companies?

“It is not that easy to enter the market of Kazakhstan. Major official permits are required (at the level of both ministries and local authorities). Therefore, small companies face a number of difficulties in accessing the market. Regions of Kazakhstan enjoy a certain autonomy. There are free economic zones for foreign investors across the country, where they have a number of privileges, including tax relief schemes. The obligatory condition is the employment of local residents.”

China plans to revive the Silk Road project, which once passed through the territory of present-day Kazakhstan. Is there any interest in this idea nowadays?

“Yes, Kazakhstan will participate in the implementation of this trade route. A number of documents have already been signed. Now several infrastructure projects are being prepared. We talk about telecommunications networks, equipment for logistics centres, equipment for the production of medicines and medical devices, environmental projects, consumer goods, and financial services. There are also plenty of opportunities for Slovenian companies-exporters.