The Government of Iraq in cooperation with UNDP Iraq, USAID-Tijara and the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor organised the Iraq Micro-Finance Forum in Erbil.
The Forum’s key objectives were promoting synergy between the Government’s poverty alleviation and job creation efforts and the existing microfinance industry, enhancing service delivery by microfinance institutions to micro-small and medium enterprises, enhancing access to financial services to the Iraqi people who currently have limited or no access to microfinance, with a focus on youth and women.
“Limited access to institutional finance is found to be one of the key constraints to private sector growth in Iraq” said Peter Batchelor, UNDP’s Country Director. “A stronger private sector, able to provide jobs for the Iraqi people will ultimately contribute to Iraq’s welfare and poverty alleviation” he added.
The combination of poverty and lack of formal job opportunities is increasing the already high demand for microfinance in Iraq. The Government has placed job creation high on its development agenda and aims to transform from direct lending it has previously engaged in to becoming a partner in sustaining and supporting the microfinance industry as a vehicle for private sector growth and job creation.
The Forum featured experts and speakers from Iraq, Yemen, Jordan, Lebanon, the UAE, Italy, Poland and Pakistan. A shared vision for the microfinance sector in Iraq was formulated where opportunities for growth and challenges were identified, support activities explored and stakeholders’ roles operating in the sector were agreed upon.
Participants in the Forum included representatives of the government from the Prime Minister’s Advisory Board, Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, Ministry of Industry and Minerals, Kurdistan Regional Government, The Central Bank of Iraq, NGOs, microfinance institutions, academia and the private sector.
The participants agreed on basic principles for supporting the development of the microfinance sector in Iraq to be formulated in policy recommendations and will be shared among participants for comments prior to finalisation and submission to the Task Force for Economic Reforms for endorsement.