Kazakhstan is planning to promote its new Astana International Financial Centre (AIFC) as a leading regional platform for the spread of Islamic finance and banking across the CIS region, the centre’s governor Kairat Kelimbetov confirmed this week. “Astana has become the first place to discuss [Islamic finance] within the CIS market,” he told a forum in Astana this week. “We would like to position ourselves as one of the leading platforms for the development of Islamic finance. In general, Islamic financing is one of [our] priorities.”
Due to start operating at the beginning of next year using the facilities that have already been prepared for EXPO-2017 which runs for three months beginning this June, the AIFC has been modelled on Dubai’s financial centre and will house both the National Bank and the Kazakhstan Stock Exchange on their relocation from Almaty to Astana. Islamic finance is seen as another core pillar of its development, along with capital markets, asset management, private banking, financial technology and green finance.
The global market for Islamic finance currently stands at around two trillion dollars, Kelimbetov added, and now includes ‘Western’ countries including the UK, Luxembourg, Japan and Hong Kong, as well as its traditional strongholds in the Middle East and Malaysia.
“We expect that there will be a lot of applications for Islamic financing licenses,” he predicted. “We can confirm that in the next two years, the Islamic Development Bank plans to invest $300m in Kazakhstan through both Islamic institutions and other tools. We, as the AIFC, would like to be become the window for these investments.”