U.S.mulls Az Railway co-op; western business in Azerbaijan to date

By | Rachel Brooks

March 11, 2021 

Above image credit: “The surroundings of the hotel were nice” by shankar s. is licensed under CC BY 2.0. The surroundings of a hotel in Sheki accents the modern style of Azerbaijan’s society that is familiar at first sight to westerners.   

The United States and Azerbaijan currently are “mulling” railway cooperation projects, AzerNews reports. The U.S. expressed interest in cooperating with Azerbaijan Railways, to attract new companies in railway infrastructure. This was expressed by the U.S. Deputy Ambassador Michael Dickerson, during a meeting with Azerbaijan Railways Chairman Javid Gurbanov. The meeting was held on March 10. The U.S. Ambassador noted the significance of Azerbaijan’s position in the corridor of Eurasia as a logical reason for the cooperation. 

Despite its western media reputation of being an Islamist nation, Azerbaijan is a fully secularized and integrated society. The presence of western companies in the country highlights this. The presence of western brands in Azerbaijan shows a foreign investment in the small South Caucasus nation that is rich in the production of oil, agriculture, and more. This hails back to the time that the great Silk Road ran through the Caucasus, with Azerbaijan as a crossroads between regions.  

Recent western industry investments, infrastructure

In July 2016, following on the heels of the April War episode in the Karabakh conflict, Trend News agency reported an increased cooperation between the Siemens brothers company and Azerbaijan  Railways. Siemens is a German company. 

PwC’s investment insights give highlights for western interest

In 2019 and earlier, the PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Company released a booklet highlighting why western companies should consider Azerbaijan as a worthy investment nation. PwC highlighted that Azerbaijan was growing a well-educated workforce. The nation likewise has plentiful natural resources with hydrocarbon reserves, and “significant agricultural potential.” 

At that date, PwC also noted that Azerbaijan enjoyed a “favored” EU Partnership and Cooperation Agreement. The company likewise cited the same trade appeal that made Azerbaijan a popular destination for trade during the days of the Silk Road. That is, its location, at the “heart of the international transport corridor between Europe and Asia.” 

PwC currently has offices in Baku, Azerbaijan. 

 

While Azerbaijan is a culture that prides itself in its tea, it has also integrated Starbucks. Ivy Beck sheds some light on Baku’s Starbucks scene. 

Starbucks coffee in Azerbaijan 

 By | Ivy Beck

Ever wonder what a Starbucks is doing in a country like Azerbaijan? Contrary to western belief, Azerbaijan is not an Islamists republic, but it is a secular society. When most people think of the middle east, they picture violence, terrorism, and danger; how does the American brand Starbucks stay open despite the infamous reputation of Azerbaijan? 

There are four Starbucks in the country, all of which are located in the capital of Baku. Despite all of the bad press associated with the country, these stores have managed to stay open due to the area in which they are situated. All of the Starbucks were strategically placed near the ports and in highly populated tourist areas. Although business is not exactly booming, these particular stores were able to remain open, because of the attraction to something familiar, in a place where tourists and business people may not be familiar with. 

These stores remain open until 11 pm. The longer open hours allow for tourists and international workers to go out for some coffee, tea, or cafe food at a time that they are used to despite being in another timezone. 

Another quality of Starbucks in the country, the stores are all ‘Black Apron’ certified. Citing Starbucks Stories & News, this makes Azerbaijan the first ‘Black Apron’ country in all of the EMEA (European, Middle East, and Africa) region. Their Starbucks Coffee Masters’ knowledge of coffee culture is positive on the list of significant qualities.

Back to “western business…” 

Azerbaijan’s openness to the culture of the west, as well as its integrated society of multicultural backgrounds, has made the prospect of business development from multiregional angles favorable.  Likewise, the region continues to become a prospectively safer place to develop new infrastructure, as the demining process in Aghdam, Karabakh, Azerbaijan continues, as was reported by Trend News on March 11. 

The outcome of the Karabakh conflict in 2020 has opened the door to a reconstruction of many of the major tourist attractions, such as the Khudaferin Bridge, that would serve as points of cultural introduction. As the dust of war settles, Azerbaijan as a unified territory once more seems to stir from stasis, with implications for the economics, and the politics (see Jamestown Foundation), of the Caucasus region.