Saudi Arabia takes the lead in GCC-Central Asia economic collaboration 

Saudi Arabia takes the lead in GCC-Central Asia economic collaboration 

Saudi Arabia takes the lead in GCC-Central Asia economic collaboration 
Saudi Arabia could establish an organization to regularly organize a forum in different GCC and Central Asian countries (File)
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In May, Riyadh hosted the GCC Central Asian Investment Forum 2024, a significant event that brought together key figures from the public and private sectors of the Gulf countries and Central Asia. 

The discussions and panels at the forum highlighted the urgent need for these two regions to collaborate and their potential as ideal partners for broad, long-term cooperation. Notably, Saudi Arabia stands out with the experience, capabilities, and ambitions necessary to lead in establishing a permanent platform for these partnerships to flourish.

In their quest for new markets and sources of foreign investment, the Central Asian nations are looking to form strategic interstate partnerships, with the Gulf region being a natural choice as a prosperous and ambitious area with similar traditions and cultural codes.

To kickstart a full-scale cooperation, both regions need to identify large-scale projects they can jointly implement. The forum is seen as a step toward developing such deeper, long-term, and strategic partnerships. 

It would be prudent for the Saudi government to consider making the forum a permanent fixture. Drawing inspiration from the Digital Cooperation Organization, Saudi Arabia could establish an organization in Riyadh to regularly organize the forum in different countries across the two regions.

Each event could be co-hosted with the government of the host country, but the main facilitator should be a dedicated organization from Saudi Arabia. Starting with the more developed markets like Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan would be ideal. This “permanent but mobile” forum would create working groups to identify priority projects and involve governments and international financial organizations.

Currently, Central Asia works well with international financial institutions like the EBRD, ADB, and the World Bank. However, it is essential to also engage state-owned and regional banks from the GCC, such as the Islamic Development Bank, Development Bank of Oman, and others.

The main areas for cooperation will be defined by the working groups. However, initial discussions at the Riyadh Forum identified two key areas: large infrastructure projects (such as roads, bridges, energy, and mineral deposits) and digital economy initiatives. Central Asia can offer its booming startup ecosystem and digital projects to the GCC, giving a new boost to the tech industry in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries.

The “nomadic” format of the forum will allow GCC representatives to better understand Central Asian markets and identify investment opportunities. Host countries will benefit from showcasing themselves to the entire region while transforming the Forum into a universal strategic platform, Saudi Arabia will take the lead in GCC Central Asian economic collaboration.

  • Anatoly Motkin is president of StrategEast. It is a nonprofit organization dedicated to developing a knowledge-driven economy in the Eurasian region.
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point of view