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Kazakhstan Country Report

Country Risk Level



Executive Summary

President Nursultan Nazarbayev's decision to step down on 20 March 2019 heralded a new era in Kazakhstan's history. Despite stepping down, he is likely to retain decisive influence over politics. On 9 June 2019, Acting President Kassym-Zhomart Tokayev won the early presidential election, which safeguards his first five-year term until 2024. Tokayev is very likely to continue the policies of his predecessor, who will provide him with the guidance on both domestic and foreign affairs.If Tokayev dies, becomes incapacitated or steps down for other reasons, Nazarbayev's eldest daughter, Dariga Nazarbayeva, who is the Senate Speaker, will assume the presidency, which implies that a dynastic succession remains probable.Kazakhstan's political stability hinges on Nazarbayev's ability to manage the transition. If he dies or becomes incapacitated, the likelihood of intra-elite struggle for power will increase with potentially destabilising impact on key sectors, including mining and oil and gas.Kazakh economic growth in 2020 is being hit by both weaker export demand due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) virus crisis and the crash in oil prices. However, we expect that it will avoid contraction because some momentum will be maintained in the construction sector, as the government appears to be determined to continue supporting infrastructure building and development of special economic zones and the Kazakh agro-industrial complex.The 2020-22 fiscal plan aims to modernise the economy and reduce its oil-dependency. Plans to achieve this lack detail and focus, and risks to progress increase with the weakened outlook. Public debt is growing but from low levels, thus not constraining government creditworthiness. Banking-sector problems generate some contingent liability risks, however, as asset quality remains of concern. The projected decrease in transfers from the National Fund is encouraging.

Operational Outlook

The government has been emphasising infrastructure improvement with focus on road and railway construction to maximise Kazakhstan's transit potential. The Kazakh authorities are keen to attract foreign investment, which is vital for their ambitious economic development plans. Recently strengthened anti-corruption measures are unlikely to mitigate high-level bribery, which is widespread across state institutions. The opening of the Astana International Financial Centre in January 2018 includes a special court based on British law, staffed by foreign judges and intended for foreign investors, which is likely to increase the transparency and predictability of the judiciary.


Terrorism risks in Kazakhstan stem mainly from growing radicalisation of youth, which the government has not been able to address despite employing a range of anti-terrorism measures, including increased criminalisation of participation in and recruitment for terrorist organisations as well as de-radicalisation initiatives. Homegrown militants tend to lack capabilities but they are more likely to target police, security service and state institutions rather than critical energy infrastructure, which is typically well protected. Kazakhstan's denominational landscape is rapidly changing with conservative forms of Islam becoming more widespread in impoverished southern and oil-rich western regions.


Illegal trade in narcotics and their transit via Kazakhstan to Russia and Europe represents the principal source of income for organised crime in Kazakhstan. Proximity to Afghanistan uniquely positions Kazakhstan as a major transit country for growing number of unlawful shipments of Afghan opiates. This is reflected in the large yearly volume of seizures of shipments of narcotics, which exceeded 26 tonnes in 2014. In 2016, the Kazakh law enforcement authorities seized more than 36 tonnes of narcotics, including 196 kg of heroin, according to the head of counter-narcotics directorate at the interior ministry Sultan Kusetov. In January-July 2017, the volume of seized narcotics exceeded 16 tonnes, according to the press service of the interior ministry. The counter-narcotics measures undertaken by the authorities have produced limited results as main trafficking channels evade detection due to corruption in law enforcement and customs. The withdrawal of coalition troops from Afghanistan has exacerbated the situation.

War Risks

Kazakhstan enjoys friendly relations with all neighbouring states, which are cemented through bilateral agreements (such as the treaty on good neighbourliness signed with Russia and strategic partnership agreement achieved with Uzbekistan in 2013) as well as membership in regional intergovernmental organisations (Collective Security Treaty Organization and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization). This makes an inter-state war very unlikely. The signing of the Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea on 12 August 2018 makes a maritime conflict with other littoral states (Azerbaijan, Iran, Russia and Turkmenistan) less likely. This risk is further mitigated by Kazakhstan's maritime border delimitation agreements with Azerbaijan, Russia and Turkmenistan.

Social Stability


The double impact of the oil price collapse and COVID-19 has damaged Kazakhstan’s largely oil-dependent economy. In March 2020, the government unveiled a USD10-billion anti-crisis programme, which is likely to only partially mitigate the economically motivated anti-government protests. The existing socio-economic disparities create the fertile conditions for occasional outbreaks of communal violence, as was the case during the anti-Dungan riots in the impoverished Zhambyl region in February 2020. The authorities have thus far been careful in resorting to force to suppress dissent, as any major incident of police brutality could potentially trigger a violent backlash.

Health Risk

Vaccinations required to enter the country

Proof of vaccination against yellow fever is required for all individuals traveling from a country with risk of yellow fever transmission.

Routine Vaccinations

Hepatitis A: A vaccine is available for anyone over one year of age. The vaccine may not be effective for certain people, e.g. those born before 1945 and who lived as a child in a developing country and/or have a past history of jaundice (icterus). These people can instead get a shot of immune globulin (IG) to boost their immunity against the disease.

Hepatitis B: A vaccine is available for children at least two months old.

Diphtheria-Tetanus-Polio: A booster shot should be administered if necessary (once every ten years).

Other Vaccinations

Typhoid Fever: If your travels take you to regions with poor sanitary conditions (for children two years old and up).

Rabies: For prolonged stays in an isolated region (for children from when they can walk).

Tick-Borne Encephalitis: For stays in rural zones and for hiking enthusiasts (for children over the age of one).

For Children: All standard childhood immunizations should be up-to-date. In the case of a long stay, the BCG vaccine is recommended for children over one month and the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine for children over nine months.

Natural Risks

The zone to the south of the towns of Kurchatov and Semipalatinsk, as well as the area along the Chinese border, should be avoided at all costs. These areas are considered an “ecological disaster” zone due to nuclear experiments conducted there during the Soviet era.

Kazakhstan is also situated within an active seismic zone. In May 2003, an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.5 struck Jambyl province (south), leaving 36,000 residents homeless.


Before planning a trip to the country, foreign visitors should be aware that tourist installations (e.g. hotels, restaurants) are rare, especially outside Almaty and the capital Astana. Air travel is frequently disrupted (delays and cancelations) in the winter due to extreme weather conditions. It is worth noting that authorities in this vast country which is as big as Western Europe, encourage residents to travel by plane instead of by road.

Practical Information


Kazakhstan's climate is continental. Summers are very hot (35°C to 40°C) with mild nights (20°C). Winters are very cold (-10°C), even in the desert. Conditions are globally dry, with very low levels of rainfall in the desert regions and more significant levels in the mountains. Violent thunderstorms often strike the steppes. Fall and spring are the most pleasant times of the year.

Useful Numbers

Country Code: +7
Criminal Police: 02
Fire Dept.: 01
Ambulance: 03


Voltage: 220 V ~ 50 Hz


Risk Level
Critical High Medium Low Minimal