Our economies are complementary, says Israeli ambassador to Kazakhstan
NUR-SULTAN — The economies of Kazakhstan and Israel do not compete with each other, but complement each other, Israel’s Ambassador to Kazakhstan Edwin Nathan Yabo Glusman told the Astana Times. As the two countries celebrate 30 years of diplomatic relations this year, the Israeli ambassador spoke about the dynamics of bilateral relations and how Israel sees the partnership with Kazakhstan progressing.
“For Israel, obviously, its relations with Kazakhstan are very important, since Kazakhstan is one of the most important countries in Central Asia. Relationships [were launched immediately] after the declaration of independence. In these 30 years, which is nothing, when we talk about historical processes, we talk about two young countries and the two countries complement each other. We are not in competition, we complement each other,” Yabo Glusman said, stressing that Israel sees many opportunities for cooperation with Kazakhstan.
As of December 2021, 93 active companies with Israeli participation were registered in Kazakhstan. Trade turnover in 2021 reached $264.4 million, with exports accounting for $224 million. Between January and May 2022, the two countries traded for $227.6 million.
According to Yabo Glusman, Israel has not yet “discovered Kazakhstan”. The suspension of direct flights between the two countries after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 has been a major impediment to this.
“That’s why we’re pushing for direct flights. We want direct flights, because it’s a way for people to come and go freely, and it’s the way to let people know about a country. This [referring to Kazakhstan] is a beautiful country worth visiting with amazing people and lots of cultures here,” the Ambassador said.
Yabo Glusman said the potential is huge for cooperation in water management and resources, cybersecurity and technologies, and agriculture.
The July 12 meeting of the Kazakh-Israeli Intergovernmental Commission on Trade and Economic Cooperation in Nur-Sultan discussed in detail the trade prospects. At the meeting, Kazakh Trade and Absorption Minister Bakhyt Sultanov, who co-chairs the commission, said Kazakh companies were ready to deliver 70 processed products worth $360.7 million to Israel.
Talking about the main results of this meeting, Yabo Glusman said that it is possible to conduct joint research on new types of crops.
“With what is happening in the world, food security has become a huge problem. Kazakhstan can provide a solution, at least in part, to this problem. There is huge potential for Kazakhstan and Israel to move forward and research new crops and probably a new type of wheat that can be produced here in Kazakhstan,” the ambassador said.
Water management is a common challenge for Kazakhstan and Israel. Over the years, Israel has managed to transform from a water-scarce country located in a desert to one that exports water to other countries in the region.
“In the 1990s, Israelis were told to save a lot of water, because we had no water. Now we export water to other countries in the region. It’s very interesting what you can do with water. It’s something that countries have to manage, even if you have water, you have to do it right. (…) And in Kazakhstan they are eager and willing to do it,” he said.
The first thing to do in water management, however, is to build the legal framework, in addition to technology and infrastructure.
“I think this is crucial. Kazakhstan and Israel are cooperating there. We have a field visit to Israel at the end of the year, where 10 people from Kazakhstan will go to Israel in cooperation with UNEP (Programme of United Nations Environment Agency),” he said.
Yabo Glusman is also optimistic about cooperation between Kazakhstan and Mashav, Israel’s official international development cooperation program. As part of this program, at least 700 doctors from Kazakhstan have traveled to Israel for training.
“Kazakhstan is not a beneficiary of aid from our agency, because it is a developed country. But these capacitation trainings are organized even with developed countries,” he added.
Mashav has also held talks with Kazakhstan’s official development aid agency – KazAID – as the parties discussed prospects for developing joint projects in Central Asia and Afghanistan.
Innovations are another area where Kazakhstan can benefit from cooperation with Israel, given its ambitious innovation and technology sector development goals. Israel is among the countries with the highest per capita funding for research and development in the world. In 2020, R&D expenditure represented 5.4% of the country’s gross domestic product.
“We would like to do a Kazakh-Israeli innovation day here in cooperation with the Astana hub. There are a lot of very smart people here who deal with coding and all areas related to innovation, startups and great ideas. We can cooperate and we can complement our knowledge with the knowledge here, which is really vast, try to seek international markets for capital, venture capital, and bring that capital to Kazakhstan,” he said.
However, cooperation in the field of education needs a significant boost. As Israeli universities partner with academic institutions in Kazakhstan, Yabo Glusman noted great interest from the Kazakh side in bringing Israeli universities to Kazakhstan.
For Yabo Glusman, who arrived in Kazakhstan in January, his diplomatic mission in the country became his first encounter with the Central Asian region.
“For me, it’s amazing to be here, to study and learn, a new place for me and a new culture. The acceptance of this country by Israel and vice versa is huge. I found a lot of people with great initiatives and the potential to grow. It is a young country that wants to push for political reforms and Israel supports the President’s efforts towards these political reforms, bringing more transparency and democracy to Kazakhstan. It does not there is no doubt that this country will grow geometrically and we will be happy to be there to do so and grow together,” concluded Yabo Glusman.