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Donald Lu: Kyrgyzstan may become a hub for IT companies

The Kyrgyz-American Business Forum — International Franchise and Trade Expo — is held in Bishkek. U.S. entrepreneurs came to the republic to get acquainted with investment opportunities of Kyrgyzstan.

The day before, the U.S. Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Kyrgyz Republic Donald Lu told 24.kg news agency about the possibilities of trade cooperation and promising areas of the U.S.-Kyrgyz business.

— What is the current trade relationship between the United States and Kyrgyzstan? Does current trade reflect real opportunities?

— Economic cooperation between the USA and Kyrgyzstan has risen to a new level this year. The Embassy took a number of measures to increase the presence of international companies, create opportunities for Kyrgyz entrepreneurs and businessmen, provide additional financial opportunities with the help of American institutions such as the Export-Import Bank of the United States and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) to accelerate business development and economic growth.

I had the honor to work in Bishkek more than ten years ago, and, upon return, I was amazed at how much the trade had progressed since 2006, when I left.

Donald Lu

I see that there is potential for expanding the economy of Kyrgyzstan in many sectors and industries. Although trade volume fluctuates from year to year, support of the U.S. government is growing steadily through commercial development projects, English language courses for professionals, business leaders trips to the United States for exchange of experience, and training for government officials to improve the regulatory environment for businesses.

— What promising areas of cooperation can you point out?

— I see the potential of the Kyrgyz Republic in becoming a hub for information technology firms looking for educated and qualified employees to serve clients, who need computer programs or software solutions for business or government agencies.

The fact that Kyrgyzstan has no access to the sea, when the nearest seaport is thousands of miles from here, suggests that the cost of transportation of Kyrgyz products to the West is often excessively high.

Donald Lu

This significantly reduces or completely eats up company’s profits. When exporting IT services, companies practically do not incur expenses associated with delivery, customs clearance. And the delivery of a product is almost instant.

— Are there enough specialists to develop this area in Kyrgyzstan?

— When I talk with representatives of IT companies in Bishkek, they explain that there is an endless line of customers around the world, who need a range of software products and services. Local firms are constantly looking for qualified software developers and programmers here in Kyrgyzstan to meet the demand.

Lack of skilled labor force limits the growth of the IT sector in Kyrgyzstan.

Donald Lu

Enhancement of capabilities of universities, institutes and training centers in preparing Kyrgyz youth to meet the need for qualified IT specialists, the existing liberal business environment gives Kyrgyzstan an opportunity to become an information technology center for entire Central Asia.

— Why did you decide to bring American business to Kyrgyzstan?

— Like the whole world competing for companies and investors from the USA, Kyrgyzstan, as a small market, must constantly strive for increasing the confidence of international investors.

Entry of many American companies into the Kyrgyz market will create a positive side effect that Kyrgyz firms will benefit from.

Donald Lu

— What do you mean?

— I believe that most American companies adhere to very high standards of doing business, including the use of transparent accounting and tax payments, implementation of well-founded business plans and application of corporate governance — these are just some of them. By encouraging partnerships between U.S. and Kyrgyz firms, whether in the form of franchising, distribution, or trade representation, there will be a natural exchange of knowledge and experience, which will raise the level of business standards and practices in the Kyrgyz market.

I admit that American companies are underrepresented in the republic. But those already operating in the country have a positive impact on the local business landscape, introducing innovative technologies and high-quality products and services.

Donald Lu

I would add that local companies are increasingly looking for suppliers of US-made equipment and technology, which provides a long-term guarantee of quality and safety compared to cheaper, but less reliable alternatives.

By improving the regulatory and technical infrastructure for local businesses, the Kyrgyz business community can develop know-how and doing business opportunities with American and international firms. The U.S. Embassy will contribute to it.

— What companies participate in today’s meeting? What franchising opportunities can they offer Kyrgyz business?

— We expect dozens of American, European, South Korean and other foreign companies to take part in the International Franchising and Trade Expo. Companies working in the field of food and beverage production, information technology, agricultural technology, green technologies and heavy equipment, and many others have registered to demonstrate their products and services.

I imagine Expo as the largest commercial event of the year and expect that more than a thousand participants from all over Kyrgyzstan and the countries of Central Asia will establish ties with our international companies.

Donald Lu

In addition, we organized a schedule of presentations and workshops. They will allow our foreign guests to promote their latest technologies and services, the U.S. Export-Import Bank — to demonstrate various financial products, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) — to tell about its projects to support economic growth, and the Embassy’s Consular Department — to tell about visas for business trips to USA. I expect that the exhibition will be effective and productive for all its participants and visitors.

— Do you plan any other activities for development of trade between Kyrgyzstan and the USA?

— We will continue to build up the capacity of the business community and promote development of bilateral trade through the implementation of USAID’s commercial development programs.

We intend to launch exchange programs for Kyrgyz entrepreneurs in the future, which will allow them to travel to the United States in order to fully experience the American spirit of free entrepreneurship and meet with successful business leaders.

Donald Lu

We consider opportunities to contribute to the development of the emerging IT sector, which may become crucial for the future of Kyrgyzstan.