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Welcome to Uzbekistan

Please do not get up until you have read the entire text. Do not unfasten your seat belts and wait for permission on the overhead sign. Today we are flying to Uzbekistan. We are launching a new section called "Welcome" where we will talk about countries and regions, their economic sectors, peculiarities, major banks, and much more. So, let's not delay and get started.

Short Summary
The capital of Uzbekistan is Tashkent – a large city with a rich history and cultural heritage. Tashkent is also an economic and trade center of the region.

One of the most famous tourist destinations in Uzbekistan is Samarkand, one of the oldest cities on Earth. The city is renowned for its architectural monuments, including the mausoleum of Gur-Emir, Registan, and Shah-i-Zinda. These structures are examples of Turkic-Muslim architecture of the East and are part of the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage.

Economy

The economy of Uzbekistan is based on oil and gas extraction and processing, the textile industry, agriculture, and gold mining. The country is also actively developing in the field of transportation and logistics.

Agriculture is one of the most important sectors of Uzbekistan's economy, with about 44% of the population engaged in this field. The country is a major producer of cotton, fruits, vegetables, and grains.

Oil and gas processing is one of the key industries in Uzbekistan's economy. The country extracts oil and gas on its territory and has several oil refineries and gas processing complexes. The country is among the top 20 natural gas producers.

The transportation and logistics sector is also actively developing in Uzbekistan. The country is located at the crossroads of trade routes between Europe and Asia and therefore has great potential for the development of transportation and logistics services.

In recent years, Uzbekistan has been actively diversifying its economy and moving away from a focus on agriculture.

The economy is heavily nationalized, with most large companies owned by the government.

Banking System

The National Bank is the country's main bank, along with 11 other state banks, accounting for 80% of the assets and capital of the sector, as well as 67% of deposits.

However, it is important to note several other factors:

The banking density in Uzbekistan is particularly high. There are about 33,000 people per branch or office, which is higher than in Russia, Kazakhstan, or Belarus, but 11 times less than, for example, in Italy.

In recent years, the government has pursued a liberalization policy and improved macroeconomic management. As part of this plan, the share of government banks in the market should be halved by 2025. To achieve this goal, many international organizations have been involved.

If we talk about privatization, it is important to note that Ipoteka-Bank has already gone through this process. And by 2023, the same is expected to happen with SQB.

Fintech

Since 2019, the economy of Uzbekistan and the business environment have been gradually modernizing. The Economist named Uzbekistan as the country that is undergoing the most radical positive changes. In 2020, the World Bank included Uzbekistan in the top 20 of the Doing Business 2020 ranking, recognizing the ease of starting and doing business.

It can be said that there was an explosion of activity in the fintech sector in 2022. Many experts attribute this to the relocation of thousands of specialists, as well as the response to global events. But, as we mentioned earlier, the government has long been committed to the development and support of the economy and new technologies.

The fintech sector is also developing rapidly. New payment systems and digital wallets have been launched, and an IT park with incentives for startups has been established. The number of users of remote payment services is growing and has exceeded 22 million people.

Thus, Uzbekistan is becoming increasingly attractive for business and investments in the fintech sector, thanks to the government's support and active development of the technological sector. However, at the moment, the entire sector is still in its early stages, so digitalization will be a particularly important step forward.

Digitalization

The behavioral habit of the population, where receiving salary on a card, withdrawing cash from the card, and using cash is a standard example, poses a challenge in the development of the sector.

However, banks and governments are striving to change this. In 2021, the payment service Apelsin became a fully digital bank. It is a subsidiary of Kapitalbank.

The project actively utilizes messengers, chats, remote authentication, microloans, salary loans, virtual cards, and a platform for advertisements.

According to the founder of the bank, the launch and obtaining of the license has become a crucial step towards the future digitalization of the country. Indeed, this is the first case in Uzbekistan where an independent bank literally grows out of an application.

In the future, Apelsin will integrate with the Uzum Market marketplace, which will expand the functionality from corporate banking services to everyday purchases.

But this is just one example.

Overall, currently, many large companies are looking towards startups, as well as implementing new technologies and processes into the existing system. It is quite likely that these large companies will enter the new market of digital banks. However, they will always lack mobility and proximity to their customers, which makes it particularly interesting to observe the development of the entire sector.

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