Uzbekistan demonstrates its high investment attractiveness at Tashkent International Investment Forum 2024 

von Dr. Rudolf Thaler, former AUSSENWIRTSCHAFT AUSTRIA official representative of the Austrian economy in Central Asia and Commercial Counsellor at the Austrian Embassy

The Third Tashkent International Investment Forum (TIIF) was opened by Uzbekistan’s President, H.E. Shavkat Mirziyoyev, at the Tashkent City Congress Center. The two-day event with government ministers and business leaders around the globe, organized by the Ministry of Investment, Industry and Trade is a milestone event in driving foreign direct investment (FDI) in Uzbekistan.

TIIF 2024 gathered more than 2.500 participants from 93 countries. The special agenda of the Forum was the presentation of Uzbekistan’s investment potential – a country that, against the backdrop of economic turbulance in the world, continues to demonstrate stable growth, gradually transforming into a true investment hub of Central Asia. Agreements worth 26.6 billion USD were signed, a record number which underlines the high investment attractiveness of Uzbekistan. In comparison, agreements worth 11 billion USD were signed at TIIF last year.

More than 110 media outlets from more than 50 countries like CNN, Associated Press, Euronews or London Post covered the event, as well as SOCIETY Magazine from Austria.

“The Tashkent International Investment Forum is an opportunity for us to showcase the immense potential and diverse investment opportunities that Uzbekistan offers”, stated Laziz Kudratov, Minister of Investments, Industry and Trade of the Republic of Uzbekistan.

President Mirziyoyev: Reforms are irreversible 

“We have taken decisive steps to fundamentally improve the investment and business environment, and to eliminate obstacles step by step. In recent years, our economy has nearly doubled, last year’s growth rates reached 6 percent. We have attracted over 60 billion USD in foreign investments. More than 14 billion USD from international financial institutions have been directed to social and infrastructure projects. The volume of foreign investments nearly doubled last year. Investments are the engine of our country’s transformation and the strongest driver of our economic development”, emphasized President Mirziyoyev in his TIIF opening address. “The New Constitution will continue the reforms we started, it will make them irreversible. Our main goal is to make Uzbekistan a reliable and long-term partner for foreign investors”, stressed Uzbekistan’s President during the discussion with CNN Anchorman Richard Quest.

As former AUSSENWIRTSCHAFT AUSTRIA official representative of the Austrian economy in Central Asia and Commercial Counsellor at the Austrian Embassy, I see great potential of doing business and investing in Uzbekistan, initiated by the ambitious reforms of President Shavkat Mirziyoyev seven years ago. President Mirziyoyev put Uzbekistan on the radar of the global business community.

Why invest in Uzbekistan? 

Uzbekistan is one of the most attractive global emerging markets for investments. Uzbekistan’s economy is robust. Economic growth has remained strong in 2023. Prior to the pandemic, Uzbekistan was one of the world’s fast-growing economies and it showed a strong recovery after the COVID pandemic. FDI inflows have grown steadily in the last decade. In 2023 Uzbekistan, attracted FDI of 19.5 billion USD, a 93% rise from 2022, with foreign trade turnover at an all-time high of 62.6 billion USD. The investment volume should reach 250 billion USD by 2030.

Uzbekistan is increasingly becoming the destination of choice for investors. The large and growing market of 37 million people, the strategic location on transport corridors between Asia and Europe, the tariff-free access to the EU-market for over 6.000 products, abundant natural resources and competitive costs collectively create a compelling reason to invest, Jamshid Khodjaev, Deputy Prime Minister of Uzbekistan, points out.

Investment hub Uzbekistan – Attractive market opportunities 

The “Uzbekistan-2030” strategy continues systemic reforms to build a strong welfare state. By 2030, people’s income should be doubled and Uzbekistan should join the ranks of the upper-middle income countries.

Key sectors for investments in Uzbekistan are energy, infrastructure, food, textile, agriculture, tourism, mining, digitization, construction materials, metallurgy, pharmaceuticals, healthcare, chemistry, automotive industry, electrical engineering and electronics.

President Mirziyoyev outlined in his opening address market opportunities e.g. in the following areas:

Green energy: 

Expanding the energy sector is crucial for the prosperity of the region. Uzbekistan will continue its path towards green transition. Work is underway on 28 projects. By 2030 Uzbekistan aims to create a renewable energy capacity exceeding 20 GW and increase it’s share in the energy balance to 40 percent. Last year alone, large wind and solar power projects with a capacity of 1.4 GW were launched. During the Forum, joint projects were presented to build hydroelectric power stations in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

Banking sector: 

The government plans to increase the private sector share to 60% by 2026. An agreement was signed with EBRD to privatize one of Uzbekistan’s leading banks, Asaka Bank. The privatization of other leading banks will follow.

Uzbekistan is working on the creation of a Central Asia International Financial Center (IFC) to make Tashkent a competitive and financial hub for international business and investors, an important driver for the implementation of the ambitious goals of the Uzbekistan-2030 strategy.

Processing of critical minerals: 

Uzbekistan is rich in mineral resources and critical raw materials like gold, copper, tungsten, silver and uranium. The government is particularly interested in paying attention to the reserves of rare and rare-earth metals, including lithium, magnesium, molybdenum, germanium, vanadium, indium and others.

Digital transformation of the country: 

The export of IT services and software products has doubled within a year and should reach 5 billion USD by 2030.

– Development of transport infrastructure:

Substantial reforms are being made in the railway sector. Joint projects are being developed to build toll roads and high-speed railways. New airports are planned. The construction of  the strategic railway projects China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan and Uzbekistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan will fundamentally change the geo-economy of the region.

– A new privatization program includes the sale of state shares in 250 major companies and the privatization of 1.000 real estates.

Uzbekistan tourism: “The place to be”

Developing tourism is one of the major priorities. 10 million tourists are expected to visit Uzbekistan in 2024, in comparison to 7 million in 2023. President Mirziyoyev stressed last year in his welcome address at the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) General Assembly in Samarkand the strategic importance of Uzbekistan’s tourism sector. 800 infrastructure projects were implemented in two years during the pandemic. Over one billion (!) USD have been invested in improving tourist infrastructure in the city of Samarkand alone.

“Uzbekistan is the place to be”, stated UNWTO Secretary General Zurab Pololikashvili in Samarkand. SOCIETY covered the event (“Uzbekistan hosts 25th UNWTO General Assembly Session in Samarkand”, 13.11.2023). SOCIETY owner Gertrud Tauchhammer promotes Uzbekistan as Tourism Brand Ambassador of Uzbekistan in Austria.

Uzbekistan: Regional IT centre by 2030

Uzbekistan aims to become a regional IT centre by 2030. The elevation of Uzbekistan into a global IT outsourcing hub aims for the increase of Uzbekistan’s IT service exports to $5 billion by 2030. The discussion at the Forum highlighted Uzbekistan’s significant progress in IT infrastructure development. Sherzod Shermatov, Minister of Digital Technologies : “Yesterday we witnessed an important event – the start of the construction of the 5 billion USD Data Volt green data center, which is a major foreign direct investment project FDI. We are creating a favourable environment for IT-companies and launching the ‘Zero Risk’ programme to cover all risks associated with opening and running offices in Uzbekistan”.

At the moment, 2.000 companies are registered in the IT-Park. Registration does not mean to be present in the park, most of the companies are export-oriented.

Fintech is one of the fastest growing and innovative segments of the Uzbek economy. The use of digital wallets, e-commerce and digital banks is emerging. Uzbekistan’s capital Tashkent aims to become a fintech hub and leader in the Central Asia region.

Investing in the future means education. Over the past seven years the enrollment rate in higher education has increased from 9 percent to 42 percent. The government wants to attract foreign universities interested in establishing branches in Uzbekistan or creating dual degree programs with local universities.

First Unicorn – “Entrepreneurship is in Uzbekistan’s DNA”

Uzum, combining e-commerce, fintech and banking services for individuals and SMB’s, has attracted over $100 million, becoming the first unicorn in Uzbekistan with a valuation exceeding $1 billion. “Entrepreneurship is in Uzbekistan’s DNA”, said Nikolay Selezney, Uzum’s Head of strategy and business development and is convinced, that his company paved the way for other companies to achieve unicorn status.

New TIIF record: Agreements worth 26.6 billion USD signed

The signed agreements, worth 26.6 billion USD, demonstrate the high investment attractiveness of Uzbekistan and the success of TIIF 2024. In comparison, agreements worth 11 billion USD were signed at last year’s TIIF, in 2022 signed agreements totaled 7.8 billion USD.

– “Data Volt” from Saudi Arabia will be engaged in the construction of urban infrastructure in “New Tashkent” for the amount of 1 billion USD and the creation of a green data center worth 5 billion.

-Saudi Arabia’s Acwa Power will implement projects to build a 5 GW wind farm in the Republic of Karakalpakstan and create 2 GW of electricity storage capacity for a total of 6.2 billion USD.

– UAE based Amea Power will implement a 1.1 billion USD to build a 1.000 MW wind farm in the Republik of Karakalpakstan.

– Saudi Tabrid will start modernization of the heat supply system in Nukus, Fergana and Kuvasay at a cost of 750 million USD.

– Egypt’s Nil Shugar will grow sugar beets and produce sugar in Jizzak region at a cost of 500 million USD.

– Chinese company Shanghai Knud International will implement a project on production of textile and garment products in Namangan region for the amount of 205 million USD.

– Wilmar International company from Singapore will produce food products and confectionary in Tashkent region for the amount of 200 million USD.

Additionally, the forum reached agreements worth 6.6 billion USD with companies from Austria, Egypt, Hungary, USA, China, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Iran. The Austrian company Lasselsberger is involved in the realization of new investment projects and underlines Uzbekistan’s attractiveness for Austrian companies doing business with their Uzbek partners.