Uzbekistan gets foreign investment

Uzbek start-ups in fintech, e-commerce, and software are benefiting from foreign investment due to green economy strategies, public-private partnership laws, and the privatisation of Uzbek banks. This has resulted in international investment in Uzbekistan increasing tenfold in the last six years. The government reforms, which began in 2017, have opened up the economy and attracted foreign capital to the Central Asian country.

An American-Uzbek joint venture, Silverleafe, is growing cotton in the Jizzakh region, northeast of Samarkand, with the whole process from seeding to harvest being 100% automated. This year, Silverleafe is introducing new technology in Uzbekistan to provide a digital footprint for tracking and tracing machine-harvested cotton. All the equipment was brought from the US. The new technology includes GPS that keeps the tractor online, tied to the satellite system within one or two centimetres of accuracy.

Over the last five years, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has committed over €3 billion to key sectors within the Uzbek economy. Sustainable energy is a top priority, with the EBRD giving a loan to one of the first privately-owned solar stations in Uzbekistan. Public-private partnership law reforms, Uzbekistan’s green economy strategy for 2030, and the privatisation of state-owned banks are all reasons why investment is going from strength to strength.

Uzbekistan’s tech scene is now very attractive to foreign investors, and London-based investment firm Sturgeon Capital was the first to invest in Uzbekistan’s start-ups and digital infrastructure through a dedicated €22.65 million fund in 2020. The three areas of focus are fintech, marketplaces, and software, with companies seeing their revenue grow nearly three times since the investment. Rustam Khamdamov, the co-founder and CEO of BILLZ, the first Uzbek start-up to secure investment from Sturgeon Capital, said it was much easier to find funding than five years ago.

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