Made in Kazakhstan

Economic diversification has been a key area of interest for Kazakhstan as it attempts to shift the economy away from an over-reliance on the oil and gas sector towards other spheres that can ensure sustainable, long-term growth for the country.

The 100 Concrete Steps reform programme, unveiled by President Nursultan Nazarbayev in May 2015, calls for support for “national champions” – the leaders of small and medium-sized businesses in non-resource-based sectors of the economy.

A glowing example of such a champion is Samgau Nassypkhan, a young entrepreneur from East Kazakhstan Region who set up his own shoemaking business that is going from strength to strength.

As a child, Samgau would watch his father repairing footwear and he became fascinated with this work. So when his mother suggested he make a pair of shoes for her, he jumped at the chance. He loved developing the design and seeing how the fabric took shape in his hands. In shoemaking, Samgau, 23, who struggled at school, discovered his true passion in life, and this experience gave him the idea to start his own business.

“In the beginning we used to make some really basic things, more fitting for rural tastes, so to speak. People living in cities didn’t even look at them because the designs were old-fashioned,” says Samgau.

“My peers didn’t understand me, either. Today, many young people want to be managers, lawyers or accountants. So, being a shoemaker pales in comparison and seems somehow less prestigious. However, this motivated me to work even harder and pursue the goal that I had set for myself.”

With support from UNDP, Samgau was able to buy modern equipment to enable him to produce higher-quality footwear under the Arlan brand. His product line now includes a special series dedicated to Expo 2017, an international exposition on the theme of “Future Energy” which will take place in Kazakhstan’s capital Astana next year.

Samgau’s family came to Kazakhstan from China in 2006, joining thousands of ethnic Kazakhs from elsewhere in Central Asia, China, Mongolia, Iran and Russia who were encouraged by the Government to settle in the country. Many faced difficulties in adapting to life in Kazakhstan.

The UN Joint Programme in East Kazakhstan Region is working to help them adapt and integrate into their new surroundings. Over the past five years, UNDP has enabled 32 repatriates to become individual entrepreneurs and set up NGOs in this region via a specialised centre it helped establish.

Samgau now owns a workshop in Astana and another in Shygys, East Kazakhstan Region, and employs seven people. He is keen to share his passion with others and offer them a sustainable future. “My dream is not about having a big factory and growing rich. I want to open a school for young people from villages to make them feel more confident in a trade that I can teach them.”

“Samgau is an example of how starting a new business can make a whole family more self-sustained, and by doing so it is yet another building block on the way towards greater economic diversity. The drop in oil prices is a reminder that such businesses are strongly needed. They are the cornerstone of economic independence of entire families and of the country as a whole,” says UNDP Resident Representative Norimasa Shimomura.