Business training offered in Iraq’s Small Business Development Centers is helping shape a new generation of Iraqi entrepreneurs whose companies someday may become significant private sector employers. So says a survey published this month of 4,329 trainees who graduated last year from SBDC programs that include the two most popular courses, ”How to Start a Business” and “How to Improve a Business.”
Sponsored by the USAID-Tijara Provincial Economic Growth Program, which also supports Iraq’s network of 17 SBDCs, the survey is based on interviews with 1,236 respondents, about 30% of the 4,329 people who took SBDC courses in 2010.
SBDC training emphasizes vocational skills, English literacy, computer and accounting proficiency, but most of the people responding to the survey signed up for courses on how to start or improve a business. The major reason for their interest was unemployment. A full 50% of those taking the two business courses lacked a job when they signed up.
Interviews with survey respondents revealed that 21.4% of those wanting to start their own business succeeded in doing so. These 234 new enterprises produced 834 new direct and indirect jobs throughout Iraq between February 2010 and May 2011. Some 135 people, or 12.3% of the survey respondents, said they had not yet started a business but fully planned to do so.
What of those trainees simply wanting to improve their existing business? Within six months of their SBDC graduation nearly 90% reported improved sales revenues directly resulting from the new techniques and methodologies they learned.
Small Business Development Centers supported by USAID provide services in addition to business training. These efforts range from supporting business conferences, trade fairs and local business exhibitions to assisting international trade delegations and preparing municipal business directories. Recently, SBDCs in nine provinces sponsored market assessment conferences that brought together local government and private business leaders to discuss investment opportunities and constraints to future business growth. SBDCs also play a vital role in communicating the concerns of small and medium enterprises to government regulators and policy makers.
For more information about USAID-Tijara’s Small Business Development Program and the opportunities it provides, click here to visit the Business Development Services section of this Web site or visit the SBDC Web site at www.sbdc.com.