KazAID Offers a Way for Kazakhstan to Promote Its Foreign Policy Objectives
Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced plans August 19 to create the Kazakhstan International Development Agency, or KazAID, to establish a systematic approach for official development assistance (ODA) in Central Asia. This action is grounded in the 2014 Law on ODA that commissions the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to create an aid agency. KazAID seeks to position itself as the main body for overseeing the flow of aid supplies provided to countries in Central Asia and so allow for more effective management of resources. The Kazakhstani government intends for the agency to be a critical tool for promoting Kazakhstan’s foreign policy objectives and maintaining regional stability. According to official statements, the formation of the agency should be complete no later than mid-September 2020.
As the Deputy Foreign Minister Yerzhan Ashikbayev also mentioned during the briefing, “KazAID is all about trilateral partnership, wherein the funding is provided from the outside, Kazakhstan plays the role of an implementing agent, and there is a beneficiary country that receives assistance.” KazAID will have an initial capital infusion of 138 million tenge ($328,000) and could charge a 7 percent commission for its services, depending on the size of projects.
Despite only recently announcing the creation of the ODA agency, Kazakhstan has long been active in providing assistance to other countries, having spent around $500 million in this manner over the last 30 years. Transitioning from aid-recipient to donor status is an important component of Kazakhstan’s effort to stimulate development and prosperity of the region as well as to further needed cooperation among the region’s countries.
According to local news agencies, segments of Kazakhstan’s public are not enthusiastic about this new initiative and question its relevance, arguing Kazakhstan is not ready to become a regional donor, especially when still facing internal challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Responding to these concerns, Deputy Foreign Minister Ashikbayev acknowledges that while the pandemic is not the best time for promoting this agency, the ongoing health crisis “reaffirms the importance of cooperation and finding solutions to shared challenges.” Moreover, as the creators of the project emphasize, KazAID is not simply about giving away money, but rather is a strategically important tool for Kazakhstan’s foreign policy objectives regarding the region’s long-term development. For example, stabilizing the political and socio-economic landscape as well as preventing terrorism and extremism in the recipient countries are the main priorities of KazAID projects. By fulfilling these objectives, the program aims to help Kazakhstan maintain its own security and economic development.
International organizations have also shown their support for Kazakhstan’s new assistance initiative. USAID is particularly interested in partnering with KazAID and supporting its operations, notably on water management and connectivity projects. Representatives from the United Nations also recognized the relevance of the agency in the region and highlight how important it is for Kazakhstan, Central Asia’s most developed state, to share its resources, expertise, and knowledge with its regional neighbors.