The Almaty-Bishkek Economic Corridor Initiative
Kazakhstan and the Kyrgyz Republic are following a bold vision in the heart of Central Asia: to see the potential of the dense economic centers –Bishkek and Almaty– and the area around them as a single economic space. The two cities are only 240 kilometers apart but, at the moment, traveling from one city to the other takes around five hours, including a cumbersome border crossing in between. This makes exchange difficult and renders trade below potential.
The concept is straightforward. The two city regions can achieve far more together than what can be achieved by either alone. The Almaty–Bishkek Economic Corridor (ABEC), which emanated from the Almaty Bishkek Corridor Initiative (ABCI), transforms the area into a single space where exchange of ideas and movement of goods and people is fast, easy and free of barriers. The cross-border agglomeration will allow businesses to specialize more, operate at a larger scale and achieve greater diversification and competitiveness with the purpose of exporting goods and services to the world.
ABEC gives both countries the chance to design cooperation and coordinate the steps toward each other – a process that is guided by growing mutual trust in the benefits for both sides. To begin the implementation of the corridor, both countries have agreed to coordinate ABEC at the highest level through the Intergovernmental Council, which is chaired by the two Prime Ministers. With continuous support from the Asian Development Bank, sectoral working groups are being formed to implement pilot projects in agriculture and tourism sectors, while the institutional setup and projects in other sectors like health, education, and transport are in preparation.