For some time, Kazakhstanis have tended to buy their clothing from importers. The likely causes for this are a widespread lack of confidence in the quality of local products, as well as a misunderstanding and a lack of information about Kazakh products. President Nursultan Nazarbayev has called himself “a walking advert of Kazakh products.“ He wears suits, shoes, and a number of other items that are made in Kazakhstan as a means to advertise local industry. This might be one of the reasons that the Made in Kazakhstan products are gaining a stronger and better-established reputation among international brands. Among local producers, it is believed that unifying with the Made in Kazakhstan campaign will make products more attractive to buyers.
In 2015, Astana and Almaty held the first ever Made in Kazakhstan exhibition with the purpose of showcasing Kazakh producers and their wide range of local products to Kazakhstan and the world. At the exhibition, local entrepreneurs brought with them a variety of Kazakh products, such as clothing, food, supplies, and pastries, among many others. The government now plans to hold Made in Astana every year, with the support of the Damu Fund. President Nazarbayev even suggested Made in Kazakhstan be opened in the stock market. He also urged that distribution networks in the country be designed in a way that creates simplified conditions for Kazakh citizens to purchase local products.
One of the attendees of the event was the Akim, or head of the local government, of Almaty, Bauyrzhan Baibek, who highlighted the importance of the exhibition. Like other events similar to it, he praised the exhibition’s ability to help local entrepreneurs share their experiences of producing and selling Kazakh goods and learn from each other. Baibek also stated that it was no accident the exhibition was held in Almaty. Around 15% of all Kazakh SMEs are located in the city, employing more than half a million people.
In total, there were more than 100 producers from every locale of the country who attended the event and showcased their products. All who presented their business received support from the Damu Fund, proving that domestic production can be competitive, both by quality standards as well as prices. The exhibition was the first large-scale gathering designed to support the budding Made in Kazakhstan campaign. Lyazzat Ibragimova, the Chairwoman of the Board for Damu, attended the event and shared with attendees some numbers about the Fund. Since 2010, Damu has issued 1,392 guarantees to entrepreneurs, and in just the first ten months of 2015, has issued nearly 700 guarantees. Through its guarantees, the Damu Fund was responsible for 5% of all loans issued in the country in 2015.
Following Ibragimova’s presentatin, negotiations began between participants of the Kazakhstan 2050 movement and large retail networks. Participants talked with some of Kazakhstan’s largest stores and retail networks from across the country. As part of the successes from the negations, a supermarket chain offered to start stocking Made in Kazakhstan products in one of its stores. The movement has been responsible for the expansion of the Made in Kazakhstan label and has brought access to local products to more and more citizens.
When the exhibition ended, a memorandum on cooperation was signed between Baiterek Holding and the Akim of Almaty. The memorandum was aimed at catalyzing the implementation of industrial, innovation and infrastructure projects, allowing for a more efficient network of local products to be made and distributed throughout the country.
The new and encouraging emphasis on Kazakh products and the Made in Kazakhstan campaign has put the country on the right path to diversifying its economy and elevating the reputation of its products.