The Astana International Financial Center (AIFC), Kazakhstan’s regional financial hub, has geared itself up to become a key financial platform of the Belt & Road Initiative (BRI).
The AIFC was officially launched in January 2018 under the initiative of Nursultan Nazarbayev, first president of Kazakhstan. With independent management and judicial bodies, the centre has received 250 companies by September.
The AIFC regards the BRI as a clear and important priority for its development, said AIFC Governor Kairat Kelimbetov, noting that the BRI opens up a new prospect for financial cooperation between Kazakhstan and China.
In support of the BRI, the AIFC has set up a “Belt Economics Department,” which works with various financial institutions to develop investment models for the Belt and Road projects in Kazakhstan and beyond.
As one of the 55 China-Kazakhstan production capacity cooperation programs, the Astana International Exchange (AIX), with Shanghai Stock Exchange and the Silk Road Fund among the shareholders, is a major participant of the AIFC.
A key innovation of the AIX is the establishment of “Belt and Road market,” in which the RMB is the most important trading currency. Money raised on the market will be used to support projects under Kazakhstan’s Bright Path new economic policy and the BRI, China-Kazakhstan production capacity cooperation programs, and the Kazakh privatisation programs.
Related stocks and bonds are expected to be listed on the AIX in 2020, said Deputy CEO of the AIX Wan Jianqiang, adding that thanks to the close cooperation and the support of the two countries in expanding local currency settlement, “it is believed that the RMB has great potential of use in Kazakhstan.”
“China-Kazakhstan cooperation has greatly expanded and deepened in the past years, showing high complementarity of the two economies,” Wan said.
Since its founding, the AIFC has been in extensive cooperation with Chinese financial institutions.
The AIFC signed a regulatory memorandum with the China Securities Regulatory Commission and the China Banking Regulatory Commission. It also established strategic partnership with the Shanghai Stock Exchange, Silk Road Fund, China Development Bank, China Construction Bank, China CITIC Bank and CITIC Securities.
China Development Bank is the first Chinese institution which opened a representative office in the AIFC. Over the years, it has funded dozens of projects in such areas as oil and gas, minerals, electric power, chemical industry, finance and cross-border infrastructure.
Many other top Chinese banks are following suit. The Altyn Bank, a subsidiary of China CITIC Bank, registered in the AIFC in December 2018 and has become an indirect participant of the RMB Cross-Border Interbank Payment System (CIPS).
As the latest result of China-Kazakhstan Financial Cooperation, China Construction Bank has registered in the AIFC and officially opened its branch on Monday.
Earlier this month, China and Kazakhstan decided to develop a permanent comprehensive strategic partnership during Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev’s state visit to China.
In a joint statement during the visit, the two countries agreed to deepen cooperation in the financial sector, notably support the development and operation of the AIFC and expand the use of local currency for settlement.
Over the past years, from regulatory bodies to commercial banks, from stock exchanges to securities dealers, all-round financial cooperation between the two countries has been developing on the fast track.