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On November 26, 2021, HORASIS: the Global Visions Community had its annual Asia Meeting, co-chaired by Murat Seitnepesov, Chairman of Caspian Week.

Central Asia has been peripheral to global trade flows despite its historical role as the land bridge between Asia and Europe. The region's economic integration is limited by a low density of settlement, infrastructure bottlenecks, aging road and rail networks, long distances to major markets, and regulatory and policy barriers.

You can find more on our key sessions:

During our first session, Enhancing Connectivity and Freight in Central Asia, Murat Seitnepesov directed a lively session on ways for Central Asia to break away from its reliance on exports of primary products, and initiatives for enhancing connectivity that could help Central Asian economies to prosper. Martin Voetmann (Member of the Board, DP World, Kazakhstan) is a strong advocate of increasing transparency, efficiency, and the role of private operators. A conclusion he drew from his long experience in the region. While undeniable Central Asia remains one of the most difficult places in the world to do logistics, the situation has been improving in the past 5-6 years thanks to huge government investments. The catalyst has been the Chinese "Belt and Road" initiative. The BRI has indeed given an impulse, showing governments the profitability of a proper logistic infrastructure in the key passage area like the corridor China-Europe. This was also the opinion of Aftaab Khatib (Vice President, Caspian Container Company, Switzerland), who also pointed to the role of the Eurasian Economic Union. Cristiano Fibbi (Head of Strategy, Integral Group, Switzerland) also shared the enthusiasm for market trade dynamics pulling the development of infrastructures and in fact prompted further investments in IT connectivity, to allow more trade demand and stimulate logistics investments.

The panel also acknowledged how connectivity issues do not only depend on hard logistics elements, but, as Aftaab noticed in his closing remarks, on soft elements like the harmonization and standardization of border-crossing procedures

The focus often moved from the role of the public sector to the private one. Martin was one of the most active on both fronts and concluded that the next level of evolution for the logistics in the region would be private companies to open up the currently closed-circuit line so that containers could stay within the east-west route for the round trip. In turn, private operators could help to increase transparency of the network, and eventually create a centralized platform to track containers. Tracking containers is in fact not an easy task in the region as they are often dropped in place after delivery. On this front, Aftaab provided another example of private involvement in solving the region's problems, as he proudly announced that his company was the first one to tackle the issue of abandoned containers in Central Asia

Container logistics remained very much in focus till the end, when Cristiano presented the solution that the Integral Group is working on to connect Central Asia to the rest of the world. The Group is working on a "webshop" to give access to buyers from all over the world to commodities from the region, cutting the middleman through direct container shipments.

The name of our second session speaks for itself - Mechanisms for Avoiding the Next Pandemic. The panelists discussed a philosophical question: should we continue trying to prepare and to avoid the next pandemic – or we just sit and wait, and when the problem happens, we'll decide what to do?

Virginie Coulloudon (Executive Director, Your Public Value, Germany) was of the view that we were still fighting this current pandemic before even thinking of the future ones. She pointed out that there is an important gap between the developed and the non-developed countries. The vaccination rate in low developed countries is only 2%, while it is 41% in developed countries. The corporations must change their mindset and consider society and the environment as active stakeholders. Yan Liu (Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Biocaptivate, USA) insisted that the world was suffering under the illusion that science was progressing at an optimal rate. Science has its internal problems, like structural problems, management problems, or philosophical problems. If we want to change the situation and make sure that the general public, the decision-makers would be willing to fund science, then we need to have new blood in science. We need to have the next generation of scientific leaders and communicators who are willing to challenge the existing narrative. According to Louis Metzger (Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Deep Views Inc, USA), there's a difference between what we should do and what is human nature to do, that is to invest minimal resources and hope for the best. We have caught up remarkably quickly as a result of the pandemic in terms of surveillance of novel pathogens, but the sustained investment is necessary to solve some of the long-term problems in infectious diseases. He stressed that logistics has been a very difficult thing in terms of developing vaccines and distributing those vaccines. We need very clear interaction and good collaboration between academia, industry, and governments, both national and supernational.

One of the projects presented by Mikhail Treyvish (President, OmniGrade Universal Crowdsourcing Agency, Russia) was "the city of the future". The idea is to try to find the solutions to the problems and issues that the urban residents will face in the future, and one of the most important problems is how to prevent or decrease the risk of future epidemics and pandemics. He firmly believed that we need to prepare for the next pandemics in advance, but we don't need to spend a lot of money on this. For instance, the spread of pandemics depends on the behavior of the people. If we could launch educational courses on epidemiology for schools, universities, and urban residents, it will help to improve the behavior of residents and to decrease the spread of pandemics. Another important point was to create more comfortable conditions for remote work, to decrease the concentration of people in the public transport system.

Kerri Cummings (Founder, Mindbar, Germany) developed the topic of the psychology of pandemics. There are a lot of mixed messages and misinformation based on social media, and that's a huge project that needs to be worked on right now and definitely for the future.

The panel also discussed different stages of preparedness for the next pandemic, and which stage or stages we should concentrate on first. Some of the panelists believed that we have to embrace this complexity and continue to be innovative in a specific field, namely to predict, detect, prevent and deal with the consequences. Companies need to change the way they build their strategy taking new stakeholders in advance. The society should focus on increasing the capacity and infrastructure of amplifying and rapidly developing therapeutics and vaccines. Others pointed out that early detection was important, and that was not just for viruses, but other pathogens like drug-resistant bacteria. The good news is that next-generation DNA sequencing technologies are becoming good, but they're also becoming cheap. One helpful thing would be to bring in citizen scientists in a way that we crowdsource tracking of some of these pathogens. They insisted that we do not need to rely only on governments, but also on resources from local authorities, from large corporations, from small and medium-sized businesses, and so on.

Murat Seitnepesov concluded that we need to allocate and spend resources now and try to prevent the next pandemic.

Best regards,
Caspian Week Team