By Chris Bowers, British Consul General in Erbil. This article was originally published by Rudaw, and is re-published with permission by Iraq Business News.
Imagine a visitor who arrives at Erbil International Airport. He passes a car showroom and heads to a hotel. He flicks a switch and is pleased to see the room illuminated by electricity.
The visitor strolls around town and visits one of Erbil’s new shopping malls. He is keen to do business. He seeks out banks to secure corporate investment and at the same time check his bank balance at home. The visitor finds a partner but naturally wants to check the company’s credibility and its accounts. Next he wants to find some employees familiar with English, the international language, and familiar with international commerce.
Why am I telling you this story? Because at each stage the visitor would be in contact with British business. Erbil’s fantastic new airport was British-designed by architects Scott Wilson, who are also engaged in drawing up a master-plan for Suleymaniya airport. The most striking of Erbil’s car showrooms is the one for Land Rover, Range Rover and now the latest Jaguar models: all classics of British design and engineering and brands that speak to a combination of the best of British tradition and innovation.
Three British companies, Heritage, Gulf Keystone and Sterling have made significant investments into Kurdistan’s oil and gas sector that will eventually be powering cars driven by people on the streets of Erbil. Two of them have made among the largest discoveries of oil and gas anywhere in the world over the last few years, and they and other hydrocarbons companies depend on the services provided by UK drilling and supplies companies. Across Iraq as a whole, Shell and BP are the largest investors.
Power is another UK strength. Parsons Brinkerhoff is working on a master-plan for electricity supply and generation in the KRG. UK firms are providing premises management and management more generally in Erbil’s hotels.
Other UK companies have had a significant behind the scenes role in the development of Kurdistan’s commercial sector. Companies such as Jones Lang Lasalle and BTW Shiells provide the property management advice that are making Erbil’s shopping malls the envy of the rest of Iraq.