Eight countries in Central Asia have signed–up to a US$ 18.7 billion strategy to develop transport infrastructure in the region. Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, supported by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and other lending institutions, want to make the region a vital transit route for trade between Europe and Asia – a modern–day equivalent of the ancient Silk Road.

According to the ADB, although central Asia lies at the centre of the Eurasian continent, less than 1% of all trade between Europe and Asia currently goes through the region. Inadequate transport infrastructure and cumbersome border processes have resulted in nearly all trade going by sea.

The plan unveiled this month calls for US$ 18.7 billion to be invested over the next decade in six new transport corridors, mainly roads and rail links. About half of the funds are likely to come from multilateral organisations like the ADB, while the rest will come from the countries themselves.

The plan also calls for the improvement of border crossings to speed trade flows. Customs and immigration procedures are currently bottlenecks for trade in the region.

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