Legal Market Overview
Most of the popular map projections underestimate the sheer size of Kazakhstan. In reality, it is a nation the size of Western Europe, with a headcount larger than that of the Netherlands mostly concentrated in the east of the country. The peaceful and diverse ethnic makeup of the former Soviet republic, independent following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, and relative political stability in the region, has led to major investment in the oil sector, on top of being a leading exporter of uranium and other rare earth metals. Notably, it recently attracted $900m in investment project agreements with German and French companies.
Due in part to these diverse infrastructure investments, Kazakhstan’s economy grew 4.3% in the first nine months of 2019. Furthermore, with vast mineral resources and enormous economic potential, Kazakhstan has developed a number of PPPs that are slowly coming to fruition. Over the past year, for example, there have been significant developments in the Belt and Road Initiative, called the ‘buckle’ in the Chinese ‘belt’, the BRI’s infrastructure road project linking Europe and Asia through Kazakhstan.
There have been significant developments in the Kazakhstan market as well. Launched in 2018, the Astana International Financial Centre (AIFC) is a financial centre near Nur-Sultan, similar to Dubai’s DIFC, designed to strengthen the non-natural resources sectors of the Kazakhstan economy by appealing to international business. It provides a regulatory framework for a number of financial services activities, including banking, insurance, securities, investments, and Islamic banking and financing work. Of particular interest is the Astana International Exchange, a regulated exchange platform for international investors to access capital markets in Kazakhstan. Notably, the AIFC court, designed to adjudicate disputes between AIFC participants, has recently heard its first case, and the AIFC International Arbitration Centre has increased its work in international dispute resolution.
A number of local full-service law firms including AEQUITAS, Bolotov & Partners LLP, Sayat Zholshy & Partners and AGZ / Zan Hub are leaders in key areas of the Kazakhstan market. Over the past decade, international and CIS-region law firms including Dentons, Kinstellar LLP, Baker & McKenzie – CIS, Limited, White & Case Kazakhstan LLP, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP, Integrites, GRATA International and Centil Law have entered the market and provide the full range of services to international and local clients.