Welcome back to our market overview series. Today, we venture into the heart of Central Asia, a land of diverse landscapes, from sprawling steppes to towering mountains. Situated at the crossroads of Asia and Europe, Kazakhstan has been leveraging its geopolitical advantage to emerge as a regional fintech hub.
The economic tapestry of Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan, the world’s ninth-largest country by land area, is more than just an oil-rich nation. This country is an evolving economic power with an ambitious vision for the future. While oil and gas revenues continue to be significant contributors to the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP), accounting for around 35% as of 2021, the country is actively working to diversify its economic portfolio. 1
Mineral wealth beyond oil
Kazakhstan is not only rich in oil but also endowed with an extensive range of mineral resources, which notably include uranium, zinc, and copper.
The mining sector alone accounts for an estimated 17% of the country’s GDP. In 2021, hard minerals and metals made up approximately 16% of Kazakhstan’s exports by value. This level of export diversification is a strong foundation for economic resilience.
As of 2021, the country stood as the world’s leading uranium producer, accounting for 33%. This dominant position in the uranium market presents a significant opportunity for Kazakhstan to become a key player in the zero-emission energy sector. 2
Kazakhstan 2050: Economic vision for global competitiveness
Kazakhstan is laying the foundation for a future marked by economic dynamism and global competitiveness. The ‘Kazakhstan 2050’ strategy, introduced by President Nursultan Nazarbayev, envisions the nation as one of the world’s 30 most developed countries by the mid-century.
Central to this vision is:
- Innovative policies and reduced state role: A shift to innovative economic policies, including the strategic reduction of the state’s share in the economy from its current 30%-40% down to 15%. This is evident in the privatization of 400 state-owned enterprises since 2016 with plans for further privatizations in motion.
- Entrepreneurship and SMEs: Making entrepreneurship a pivotal force in the national economy, with a goal to raise the share of SMEs in GDP from 27% to 35%, aligning with global trends underscoring technology and innovation.
- Diversification and inclusion: While pushing non-primary exports from 45% to 50%, the nation is also aiming to reduce inequality, targeting an increase in the income share of the bottom 40% from 22.8% to 27% of GDP.
These benchmark metrics use standards set by OECD countries. While GDP growth remains a crucial metric, the emphasis is on a diversified and resilient economy. The vision also incorporates sectors like fintech, exemplifying the nation’s readiness to embrace global economic trends.
By 2050, the strategy aims to position Kazakhstan alongside nations like South Korea and Singapore, renowned for their technological prowess and innovation-driven economies. Given that Kazakhstan is already among the top five dynamically developing countries globally, the prospects for achieving this visionary goal are bright.
Blending contemporary insights with foresight, Kazakhstan’s economic roadmap paves the way for sustainable growth, technological integration, and amplified global significance. 3, 4
The digital wave in Kazakhstan
Emerging as a fintech hub in Central Asia, Kazakhstan is embracing a transformative wave of digital financial solutions, transitioning steadily from a cash-based society to one that relies on digital payments. The country’s journey toward digitalization is evident from the significant rise in non-cash payments, which increased by 2.5 times in 2021 compared to 2019. This acceleration is largely attributed to both behavioral shifts in consumers and the COVID-19 pandemic. 5
With the global digital payments market experiencing a surge in growth due to factors such as increasing ecommerce adoption, mobile payment preferences, contactless transactions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and innovations from fintech startups, Kazakhstan’s move toward a digital-first financial ecosystem becomes even more pronounced.
The total transaction value in the digital payments market was projected to reach €5.5 billion in 2023. Additionally, this value is expected to show an annual growth rate of 15.49%, resulting in a projected total amount of €9.8 billion by 2027. 6
The fintech landscape in Kazakhstan has not only been molded by consumer demands and global events. Fintechs like IDF Eurasia have been pivotal in driving this change. Offering a plethora of services ranging from digital payments and e-commerce to microloans, they are redefining how the Kazakh population views and interacts with money.
Reshaping financing in Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan’s financial landscape is rapidly evolving, influenced both by technology and by the considerable role of SMEs. These SMEs constitute a remarkable 96.4% of all businesses and have become a significant pillar of the country’s economy, accounting for 31.6% of GDP and employing 38.6% of the workforce as of 2020. 7
The evolving financial landscape in Kazakhstan is further exemplified by the remarkable growth of certain lending entities. One such company that stands out is IDF Eurasia under the Solva brand.
Solva’s focus on the SME sector is evident from its financial performance. Its SME portfolio witnessed a staggering growth of 102.2% in 2022, reaching €65.2 million compared to €32.6 million in the previous year. This growth not only strengthens the company’s foothold in the market, but also correlates with the national trend of SMEs constituting a crucial segment of the economy.
Moreover, IDF Eurasia’s transition towards becoming the first SME-focused bank in Kazakhstan reflects the nation’s strategic shifts in SME financing. 8
Amid these strategic shifts, technological adoptions are gaining momentum. Fueled by a younger, tech-inclined demographic, there’s a rising trend towards digital financial services. And while the economic challenges like inflation exist, the robust, resource-rich foundation of the nation assures stability in the face of adversity.
Alternative lending: The new frontier
Lending companies like IDF Eurasia are spearheading this change, bringing to the market an array of non-traditional lending options.
Notes available for investment
8.9% for forward flow
12% for short term loans
If you’re interested in exploring investment opportunities within this burgeoning market, consider Kazakhstan’s leading lending companies on Mintos.
Or, explore all our lending companies, to find one that best aligns with your investment goals.