Businesses ravaged by the Covid pandemic found new hope in the opening of the Khorog Center for Entrepreneurship (KCE) on August 17.

The University of Central Asia’s (UCA) says that established by UCA’s School of Professional and Continuing Education (SPCE), the Center aims at providing advice, training, and support to generate income and promote market development for small business leaders and farmers in the region. It is part of Tajikistan’s Local Economic Development in Selected High-Mountain Regions Project.

Why does a university such as UCA promote entrepreneurship? The Rector of UCA, Prof. Dr. S. Sohail H. Naqvi, responded in his welcome address:

“The answer is simple but also complicated…It is simple because UCA is an integral part of the Aga Khan Development Network, whose simple and clear objective is improving the quality of life of people. It is complicated because an educational institution is about knowledge…but if we want to improve the quality of life of people, this knowledge has to find a pathway and means to support and celebrate human endeavor through entrepreneurship.”

The pandemic has significantly impacted global economic conditions, and the monthly earnings of individual entrepreneurs have declined by 54% in the GBAO region of Tajikistan. To help people emerge from this challenging situation, KCE will introduce new and innovative ways to build and support highly competitive businesses, regional brands, and business linkages by bringing together startups, business consultants, and investors from the region and around the world.

Mrs. Sabine Olthof, Country Director, The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH said during her remarks at the ceremony, “One idea that I personally like very much is the establishment of a Credit Union of Alumni under the Centre for Entrepreneurship to support new emerging and existing businesses.”  The Khorog Center for Entrepreneurship has been established with generous support from GIZ, in cooperation with the Aga Khan Foundation, Tajikistan.

Among the many distinguished guests at the opening ceremony was Anvar Imatshozoda, Deputy of GBAO Governor, who extended his gratitude to the Tajik government and UCA for their ongoing efforts to promote the development of young people, “The result is that today the graduates of the University are engaged not only in the country but also abroad in the largest scientific and cultural centers of the world.”

The University of Central Asia was founded in 2000 as a private, not-for-profit, secular university under an International Treaty signed by the Presidents of Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, and His Highness the Aga Khan; ratified by their respective Parliaments and registered with the United Nations.

The University is a unique institution of higher education focused on the development of mountain societies, with its School of Arts and Sciences campuses in Naryn (Kyrgyzstan) and Khorog (Tajikistan), designed by award-winning architect, Arata Isozaki. The Tekeli campus in Kazakhstan is currently in the planning phase. UCA’s Graduate School of Development has three research institutes, and its School of Professional and Continuing Education has graduated over 177,000 learners since 2006.