By Padraig O’Hannelly.
This week in London, the Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC) held its annual Autumn Conference, taking as its theme “Iraq in the Global Marketplace“.
A full house of senior executives, diplomats and public officials shared their views and experiences of business in Iraq, and discussed what Iraq can do to raise its game in an increasingly competitive market.
There was a detailed panel discussion on use of ‘delivery units’ to achieve performance targets in the public sector, borrowing from an initiative developed in the UK and since applied in several developing states.
The need to transition the economy away from cash and towards electronic transfers was seen as a priority in a country that is often described as ‘under-banked’, and the use of mobile phones for electronic payments and transfers could accelerate that process.
And while there are some women in senior positions in Iraq, it was widely felt that more needs to be done to enable women to contribute fully to the commercial life of the country. To that end, Bath Spa University announced that it will offer a fully funded postgraduate scholarship to students from Iraq for research into Women in Leadership in Higher Education.
But as ever, the availabilty of visas remains a problem, both for companies wishing to bring people into Iraq, and for Iraqis intending to visit the United Kingdom. This was highlighted several times, and clearly remains an obstacle to trade and development.