IFC is partnering with Azerbaijan’s Alat Free Economic Zone (AFEZ)-an export-focused industrial zone encouraging the country’s economic diversification away from oil-to explore opportunities to support potential investors in developing their projects, Report informs, citing IFC.

Although the oil sector remains a key pillar of Azerbaijan’s development, the country also wants to harness opportunities in its non-oil sectors through innovative private sector initiatives such as those offered by AFEZ. That is reflected in Azerbaijan 2030: National Priorities for Socio-Economic Development, which was adopted last year.

To support those efforts, IFC signed a memorandum of understanding with the AFEZ Authority to create a framework for advisory and early-stage project development support for companies that would be interested in locating their operations in AFEZ. IFC, in partnership with the Austrian Federal Ministry of Finance, and in collaboration with AFEZ Authority, will provide advice and support to AFEZ’s tenants. The purpose is to help companies identify and develop investment projects that focus on supporting the country’s net-zero transition and its climate-resilient development.

“The Alat Free Economic Zone aims to deliver a unique environment for investors and is a key part of Azerbaijan’s goal to develop a knowledge-based, competitive economy, with modern energy, transport, and logistics infrastructure. Our cooperation with IFC will help us to support that aim, in line with best international standards,” said Valeh Alasgarov, Chairman of the Board of the Alat Free Economic Zone Authority.

Located near the Baku International Sea Trade Port and transport corridors, AFEZ is the focal point of government efforts to attract and grow export-led value-added and manufacturing activity through an independent legal and regulatory framework, and by providing fiscal and non-fiscal incentives and infrastructure.

“Azerbaijan’s economic growth over the past decades has largely been driven by its oil and gas sector. Now, major changes in the region’s geopolitics and energy systems as well as long-term strategic economic reform plans by the government are prompting the country to diversify its economy,” said Rana Karadsheh, IFC’s Regional Director for Europe. “Our partnership with AFEZ is part of our efforts to support that process, helping the country remain competitive globally and ensuring a prosperous future for generations of Azerbaijanis.”