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Shaping a More Competitive Kazakhstan

Shaping a More Competitive Kazakhstan

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Map of KazakhstanThe Center on Globalization, Governance & Competitiveness (CGGC) at Duke University has partnered with the National Analytical Center (NAC) in Astana, Kazakhstan in an effort to guide economic development in the oil-rich nation. Long-term goals for the partnership include establishing an economic research center affiliated with Nazarbayev University in Astana, a research center that will be modeled after CGGC.

The 3-year agreement, which CGGC Assistant Director Mike Hensen describes as one of “assistance and training rather than research” is guided by CGGC Director and Duke Professor of Sociology Gary Gereffi’s innovative Global Value Chains (GVC) framework. The framework emphasizes the importance of capturing value along the entire chain of an industry or product from conception to use. This same GVC lens will be harnessed initially to analyze opportunities for economic growth and diversification in the wheat and oil and gas industries in Kazakhstan. Other sectors of this economy will be the focus of further research during the life of this agreement.

As a part of this new venture, researchers from CGGC recently visited Astana to foster relationships and build connections that will bridge the geographical divide between partner institutions. And although Hensen himself is a seasoned international businessman, his enthusiasm when he speaks of his trip — and the work the center is doing — is clear.

While it is still early in the collaboration, this idea of capturing value has already begun to shape the overall approach to the partnership. Productive discussions and research are ongoing, and, with the recent trip to Astana, researchers have connected with one another on a personal level too. “To deliver this kind of value through partnership with another unit of the government and the university in Kazakhstan has been and will continue to be a real privilege for us at CGGC,” Hensen says.

Calling Astana “the Dubai of Central Asia” Hensen was impressed by the capital city, its people and its presence — a city that has only been the Kazakh capital since 1997, he reminds. President Nazarbayev moved the capital to a more central location within the country, and with that move came opportunities to establish the city’s identity as a cultural and financial hub in the region. The National Analytical Center, by reaching out to the CGGC, will further these efforts.

Looking forward, there is still much work to be done. In September, Hensen, Gereffi, and their team will host representatives from Astana in Durham, introducing Kazakh officials to the day-to-day operations of the CGGC at Duke. The itinerary includes training workshops, seminars, tours of Duke and Durham, and more informal discussions among CGGC and NAC researchers as to how the economic research can be operationalized. It will also provide more opportunities for the respective team members to get to know one another better both personally and professionally.

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