On January 20, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) marked the successful completion of its five-year, regional Competitiveness, Trade, and Jobs Activity. The activity facilitated Central Asian exports and increased employment in horticulture, transport and logistics services, and tourism industries. The activity successfully increased competitiveness and expanded trade in these sectors within the region and beyond.
Across Central Asia, USAID invested $1.97 million in 34 innovation projects co-financed through an Innovation Fund, established to incentivize partners to undertake innovative initiatives in the horticulture, transportation and logistics, and tourism sectors to increase their exports, grow their businesses, and create new jobs. The Innovation Fund leveraged $5.89 million in private sector investment, which resulted in 23 companies creating 634 new jobs and 13 firms exporting products to 37 new markets.
USAID also supported significant strides in Central Asian horticulture. For example, it supported development of the “Taste of Central Asia” brand to promote the region and its products. It also created a virtual guide featuring Central Asian horticulture growers and exporters and attracted European and Asian buyers to meet and negotiate with these Central Asian businesses. These business-to-business events resulted in $17.5 million in contracts.
USAID worked in close partnership with tourism associations, national tourism committees, and more than 400 private sector representatives to create and promote a regional tourism brand to visit Central Asia, which received over 24 million views worldwide. USAID partnered with WideOyster Travel Magazine to create a dedicated Central Asia Special Edition on this globally recognized online travel platform. USAID developed high-quality 3D panoramic maps of Central Asian tourism sites to inspire travelers to explore the region. The maps attracted more than two million views worldwide. USAID also created and published detailed descriptions on 31 new trekking routes, which reached over one million potential hikers. This support contributed to Lonely Planet magazine naming Central Asia as the world’s best travel region for January 2020.
USAID established the Transport and Logistics Partnership, an association of 150 of the largest transport and logistics unions and private companies in Central Asia. The partnership actively supported private sector advocates to lobby for government policy reforms to remove trade barriers, improve the flow of goods, enhance regional competitiveness, and increase employment in transport and logistics.
USAID supported Uzbekistan with its World Trade Organization (WTO) accession efforts, and worked with the Ministry of Investment and Foreign Trade to draft the country’s Memorandum on Foreign Trade Regime, helped it respond to WTO member questions, supported the revision of more than twenty laws, translated more than 1,000 pages of legislation, and conducted WTO-related training events.
Over the course of five years, the USAID Competitiveness, Trade, and Jobs Activity organized the Central Asia Trade Forum, annual events promoting regional trade in Central Asia. During that time, the forum evolved into a well-recognized brand that attracted over 16,000 business representatives and officials throughout five years to discuss key trade themes and to partner to increase regional trade. A record-breaking number of deals – more than $88 million in contracts – were signed during the forums and business-to-business events.
On October 5, 2021, USAID announced its new five-year, $19 million USAID Trade Central Asia Activity that is being implemented in the five countries of Central Asia. USAID’s Trade Central Asia will build on decades of past USAID support to trade, enterprise development, and regional connectivity to accelerate growth by harmonizing customs and border procedures, increasing public-private dialogue, and improving business-to-business connectivity.