NURCE - The Nazarbayev University’s Research Centre for Entrepreneurship
Title:Value creation within Kazakhstan's Entrepreneurial Ecosystem: Towards an Understanding of Informal and Formal Entrepreneurs (2022-2024)
PI: Shumaila Yousafzai (PI), Ona Akemu, Atanu Rakshit, Naureen Durrani (GSE)

Kazakhstan aspires to First World status. In its long-term development agenda, Kazakhstan’s government aims to place the country in the ranks of the 30 most developed countries in the world by 2050 (Government of the Republic of Kazakhstan, 2018, 2021: hereafter GROK). Like many governments around the world, Kazakhstan’s government has noted the link between Human Capital Development (HCD), entrepreneurship and the well-being of the nation (Baumol, 1990; Koellinger & Thurik, 2012). Thus, for at least a decade, the government has supported entrepreneurship programs with the expectation to generate employment and diversify the economy beyond natural resources (GROK, 2017).

Continued support for entrepreneurship has become even more critical in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic: in the 2020–2021 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, 93% of Kazakh aged 18–64 reported losing income due to the pandemic (Bosma et al., 2021); and 59% of those adults, the second highest proportion among countries surveyed, intend to start a business in the next three years. However, this enthusiasm is tempered by the reality that Kazakh entrepreneurs face significant difficulties in scaling their businesses. Thus, government policies that foster a thriving, inclusive Entrepreneurial Ecosystem (EES) are vital in helping entrepreneurs make the transition from new venture to a viable business. In this project, we study two contexts at opposite ends of the spectrum of enterprises within Kazakhstan’s EES: formal entrepreneurship in the context of nascent technology ventures and informal entrepreneurship among female entrepreneurs.

The overarching objectives of this project are:

  • To understand from the bottom up how formal (technology entrepreneurs) and informal entrepreneurs (female entrepreneurs) in Kazakhstan actually start and sustain enterprises;
  • To highlight the impact of entrepreneurial activity by both types of entrepreneurs;
  • To develop an evidence-based framework for advancing a supportive EES in Kazakhstan; and
  • To enhance the HCD of formal and informal entrepreneurship educators and mentors in Kazakhstan.

In implementing this project, the aim is to propose actions, recommendations and policy interventions for employing entrepreneurship and Human capital development as a sustainable conduit for improving Kazakhstan’s economy and well-being. In doing so, we hope to promote a holistic, gender-just perspective among Kazakhstan’s strategic planning circles about the Human capital development gaps and socio-economic contribution of entrepreneurs.

Representing the various geographic, economic and demographic characteristics of Kazakhstan, we have chosen six cities as our project locations: Nur-Sultan, Almaty, Shymkent, Aktobe, Semey, Pavlodar. The project will achieve the desired objectives in the following ways:

  • Establishment of an Interdisciplinary Entrepreneurship Research Center. We propose to establish “Nazarbayev University Research Centre for Entrepreneurship” (NURCE) at the Graduate School of Business (GSB). The center will be the node for establishing research-led collaboration between GSB and entrepreneurship faculty at leading Kazakh and international institutions: Erasmus University (The Netherlands), Durham University (UK), Dundalk Institute of Technology, (Ireland); Copenhagen Business School (Denmark); Narxoz University (Kazakhstan), Kazakh British Technical University (Kazakhstan) and Institute of Business Administration (Pakistan). The center will continue to facilitate collaboration, beyond the duration of this project, with external stakeholders, academic partners at other universities and community and private sector researchers; the center will also be responsible for the dissemination of this project. In addition, the center will further provide a platform to train graduate and post graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, and entrepreneurship educators.
  • Establish a baseline of needs within Kazakhstan’s EES. We will engage with entrepreneurs and stakeholders, such as chambers of commerce, incubators, and universities, to assess the skill gaps and training needs of entrepreneurship trainers within Kazakhstan’s EES.
  • Effectuation-based capacity-building training. Drawing on the logic of effectuation, one of the novel entrepreneurship theories, and in partnership with the Institute of Business Administration (IBA), Karachi, we will develop an inquiry-based curriculum (Kazakh and Russian) to deliver effectuation-based capacity-building training to sustainably contributes to HCD in Kazakhstan.
  • Compile case studies of Kazakh entrepreneurs.