Kazakhstan 2017 | ECONOMY | FOCUS: EXPO

Astana is celebrating its 20th anniversary by hosting the largest event in its history, Expo 2017, which will leave the country with precious legacies for its residents and milestone innovations on its journey toward a greener future.

2017 is the year of the International Expo in Kazakhstan, the first major global event to take place in a Central Asian country between the Caspian Sea and the East. The choice of Kazakhstan, incidentally voted for by a large majority, is seemingly in recognition of the great effort made by the Central Asian country in the last decades toward sustainable modernization. Having long pursued forms of industrialization and economic development in the fields of diversification of productive activities, Kazakhstan sees its rewards in the form of significant international recognition. In line with previous Expos, it has proposed a theme on the sustainability of economic and industrial progress: Future Energy.

One of the peculiarities of the event lies in the fact that Astana represents a truly historical milestone in the field of international exhibitions on a global scale. Similar exhibitions in the past have been held in Europe, North America, and Northeast Asia though never in Central Asia or the Middle East—trends that will however end in 2017 and 2020, respectively. And the Astana Expo, in a stroke of serendipity, will take place on the 20th anniversary of the city's designation as the new capital of the former Soviet republic.

Events with a global reach such as the Expo can have a significant impact on the host country and its international image. Indeed, the Expo is a catalyst of large investments and as such is likely to generate positive legacies for the landscape and economy of the host city. The event fosters urban regeneration, enhances the reputation of the country, and generates opportunities for development—the 2015 Milan Expo, for instance, attracted over 20 million visitors, injecting an estimated USD10 billion into the Italian city's economy. Expos have also frequently bequeathed host cities with crucial transport infrastructure, regenerated urban and peripheral areas previously neglected, permanent facilities, and iconic buildings that symbolize the city's new identity, as well as political, social, and economic benefits.

In preparation for Expo 2017, Astana has turned into a glimmering city with breathtaking architecture. The exhibition site itself, for example, is a futuristic masterpiece of architecture, whose core attraction, the National Pavilion of Kazakhstan, is a massive eight-floor sphere, the biggest sphere-shaped building in the world to date. Dozens of other state-of-the-art buildings and facilities will surround the sphere, including theaters, galleries, educational facilities, hotels, offices, and 700 residential units. After the exhibition, all the facilities within the Expo city will continue to host Astana's residents, entrepreneurs, and tourists. In fact, the Astana International Financial Centre (AIFC), a financial free zone set to attract local and international investors and cement Astana's standing as a financial hub, will take over the grounds of the Expo after its conclusion.

Among the many other major legacies that the Kazakh capital will inherit from the event are a new terminal at Astana International Airport, a new railway station, a light rail system—the first in the country—and leisure and retail facilities such as high-end restaurants and tourist attractions incorporated in the Expo structure, all of which will create new jobs, foster economic growth, and further highlight Astana on the global map. The most significant legacy, however, will be the one stemming from the Future Energy theme. During the exhibition, Astana will be the stage of a global debate on the issues concerning the future of humankind, triggering the country's post-Expo journey toward long-term development and a green future. Needless to say, in line with the theme, the whole post-Expo legacy will be one of the most environmentally sustainable in the world. Not only are the buildings powered by solar panels and wind turbines, on-sight water reclamation facility will also meet 100% of the site's non-potable demand while 24% of total electricity demand will be met by BIPV energy systems. These will leave the country and its residents with a lasting legacy on Kazakhstan's journey towards a greener future.