Kazakh Minister of Economy Shares Insights with Students in a Unique Setting

Astana, Kazakhstan skyline

The Astana skyline in Kazakhstan

By Daria Zarubina, former Regional Director, Russia/CIS

Over these years as regional director I have helped to organize as many as 12 class residencies—when Duke’s Cross Continent MBA (CCMBA) and Global Executive MBA (GEMBA) students travel to Russia or the CIS for one or two weeks of in-depth studies about business and culture in the region.

During each of those residencies, the most anticipated highlight of the week—at least from the regional immersion perspective—has been the ‘Global Leader Keynote’ (GLK) speaking engagement. This event is typically marked by an address from a well-known business leader from the region, followed by a unique chance for students to ask questions. There are also lots of guests present and opportunities to network during a meal.

During our region’s most recent residency in Astana, Kazakhstan, we had the privilege to host the Minister of Economy of Kazakhstan Erbolat Dossayev as our GLK. Minister Dossaev addressed an audience that included the GEMBA Class of 2016, members of the Duke Alumni Club of Central Asia, and our honorary guests—students and alumni of Nazarbayev University’s Graduate School of Business, an institution our school has engaged in a strategic collaboration—as well as faculty and staff of both schools.

Minister Dossaev gave a comprehensive overview of the economic development of Kazakhstan including insight into building new transit routes, the impact of volatile oil markets, and the importance of foreign relations in a landlocked country. As always, a series of insightful questions from the audience followed to which Dossaev answered openly and sincerely.

The main objective of any GLK event is for The Duke MBA students to gain insight into local business and culture. A GEMBA student from India, Rahul Gupta, was interested in Kazakh relations with his home country and had a chance to hear about the upcoming visit of India’s Prime Minister to Kazakhstan and the mutual interest in establishing closer cooperation between the countries.

Students also learned a lot by hearing what locals had to ask of their Minister of Economy. For example, Gaukhar Kizatolla, Bolashak Scholarship Recipient and Master of International Development Policy alumnus at Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy, was interested in the details of  Kazakhstan’s World Trade Organization accession negotiation, which was completed just a couple of days before the event.

Franklin Fernandez, a Cross Continent MBA alumnus who works for Bechtel overseeing its business in Kazakhstan, asked about the Minister’s take on Kashagan oil field development—one of the major international oil megaprojects today that is having significant challenges due to pipe leakage discovery.

Maksat Mamashev, a GEMBA alumnus and executive vice president at Nazarbayev University who was instrumental in securing the Minister as a speaker, asked him to share his insights from his experiences in business world. Minister Dossaev proceeded to outline his history as a young business man in a new Kazakhstan, and how he and his colleagues worked with President Nazarbayev to shift to a post-Soviet reality. Now, he is looking to the youth to bring their new knowledge, ambition, and energy to move Kazakhstan into a new era.

The evening concluded with a celebration and networking reception where students had a chance to mingle with locals and ask questions. Minister Dossaev and his wife Gulnar joined the networking reception and it was wonderful to see them at this vibrant gathering. The communities of Duke and Nazarbayev universities toasted one another as they reflected on the unique opportunity to hear directly from such an influential figure from the region.

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