This article provides an overview of Almaty for those keen to explore the possibility of living and working in the city. The information presented is gathered from open sources and is not exhaustive or meant to supplement or substitute legal and professional advice.
The largest city in Kazakhstan, Almaty is the scientific, cultural, historical, industrial and financial centre of the country. Located in southeastern Kazakhstan, it was the former capital of Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic (1929–91) and of independent Kazakhstan (1991–97). It lies in the northern foothills of the Trans-Ili Alatau at an elevation of 700–900 metres, where the Bolshaya and Malaya Almaatinka rivers emerge onto the plains.
Almaty is well known for its institutions of higher education, including Al-Farabi Kazakh National University (founded in 1934), and teacher-training, economics, polytechnic, agricultural and medical institutes. The city houses Kazakhstan’s Academy of Sciences and its many subordinate research institutes, numerous museums, an opera house, Russian, Kazakh and Uighur theatres as well as the Pushkin State Public Library. Almaty also has a botanical garden, a zoo and several stadiums.
Considered one of the most beautiful cities in Kazakhstan, Almaty has wide tree-lined streets, numerous parks and orchards against a backdrop of mountains. Kazakhs and Russians constitute the largest proportions of the population, and the remainder comprises Ukrainians, Uighurs, Tatars and Germans.
Almaty is also known as the city of apple trees. Its mild climate encourages a wide range of apple trees to flourish and is the genetic home of many varieties of apples. Researchers and scientists from all around the world visit the Almaty to learn about the origins of the domestic apple.
Almaty is the economic centre of the country and contributes significantly to the development of Kazakhstan. The gross regional domestic product (GRDP) in 2018 amounted to 7.5 trillion tenge, an increase of 2.6 percent compared to 2017. The manufacturing industry made up about 75.4 percent of the GRDP, with an output of 666.9 billion tenge, which was 4.8 percent more than in 2017. In 2018, industries dealing with textiles, finished metal products, as well as rubber and plastic products increased their production volumes. There were a total of 274,689 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Almaty as of 1 January 2019. The city also ranks first in terms of the number of people employed in this field.
Home to the stock exchange and largest banks in the country, Almaty also serves as the centre of commerce for the country. The largest bank in Kazakhstan, Kazkommertsbank, is one of the largest in Central Asia. The country’s stock exchange is the largest in Central Asia and contributes to a large proportion of Kazakhstan’s economy.
Nestled between Europe and Asia, Almaty is Kazakhstan’s largest city that is both literally and culturally rich. The city first came to global prominence as one of the many stops on The Silk Road, as merchants crossed countries and continents to trade. Almaty is known as the “Golden Triangle” in Kazakhstan for its trio of major natural attractions – the Kolsai Lakes, Charyn Canyon and Altyn-Emel National Park. Located near the massive Tian Shan Mountain range, Almaty is described as a “majestic city full of surprises, from charming scenic views to luxury shopping experiences.”
In 2018, over a million tourists visited the city, of which 365,000 were from Europe, the United States, Russia and Central Asia. The main interest of foreign tourists is ecotourism – mountain hiking and river rafting in summer and skiing in winter. Tourism is a key industry in Almaty and is a major source of foreign exchange earnings and employment for low-skilled workers.
In 2018, 50 percent of all foreign tourists to Kazakhstan visited Almaty. This high number could be attributed to a number of measures taken to develop tourism, including a 72-hour visa-free programme for citizens of China and India who transit through Almaty International Airport.
In November 2018, the Tourism and Foreign Affairs Department, together with the Visit Almaty Tourist Information Centre, opened the first tourist hub in Kazakhstan. About 50 international events are also held annually in Almaty. These include the International Jazz Festival, Spirit of Tengri, Star of Asia, Parade of Orchestras, Almaty Koktobe Opera, Apple Fest, Tour of Almaty, Almaty Marathon and Almaty Mount Fest.
Singapore and Almaty
The Almaty-Singapore Business Forum was held in April 2017 to discuss the FutureChina Advanced Leaders Programme. It focused on opportunities brought about by China’s Belt and Road initiative. The Singapore delegation, led by Minister of State Koh Poh Koon, was in Almaty to understand the roles played by Kazakhstan and Almaty in China’s Silk Road Economic Belt development.
Singapore regards Kazakhstan as an important partner, not just in the Central Asia region but also as a potential gateway to China. An important part of the historical Silk Road trade between China and Europe, Almaty is the first stop outside China towards Europe.