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Iraq in 2018 … What lies ahead?

By Padraig O’Hannelly.

The year just gone by has seen many changes in Iraq, including the successful routing of the so-called Islamic State (IS, ISIS, ISIL, Daesh), the holding of a controversial vote on Kurdish independence, and a long-awaited improvement in relations with Saudi Arabia.

The latter part of the year also saw a steady and welcome increase in oil prices, which, coupled with record oil export volumes, has helped to prop up the country’s finances.

As we publish our first newsletter of the new year, we’d like to say a special word of thanks to all of our contributors, including our panel of Expert Bloggers, who have given us the benefit of their wisdom and observations over the past twelve months:

We look forward to reading more from them in the coming year.

We’d also like to thank all our readers and well-wishers for making Iraq Business News the must-read publication for everyone with an interest in Iraq, and we ask you to please support our valued advertisers, who make all of this possible.

It is also important to remember two Iraq-focussed charities that are doing amazing and much-needed work in the country:

Any donations made to them will make a big difference to the lives of so many vulnerable people in Iraq.

Having welcomed a new year, many of us will have hopes and dreams for the twelve months ahead. What do you wish for Iraq in 2018, and what are your predictions for the state of the country one year from now? Whatever your connection with Iraq, we’d love to read your opinions in the comments section below.

With another challenging but potentially rewarding year to come, Iraq Business News will be with you every step of the way, wishing all of you a happy, peaceful and prosperous 2018.

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Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC)

British Businesses Training and Educating in Iraq

By Ashley Goodall.

Is the UK overlooking a key USP for British International businesses?

Education and training footprint of British companies around the world has a significant and excellent impact on communities and economies and is often taken for granted.

As the UK ramps up its trade rhetoric and a ‘Global Britain’ emerges, one of the key benefits that British companies bring is being overlooked: Education and training…

The penny dropped for me as I attended a meeting of the Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC) members to find that one after the other, each company was committed to the concept of a learning organisation that are locally integrated. Not only are British companies employing as many local people as possible, but also training them to deliver increasingly complex managerial and technical roles.

Oil and gas companies, Shell and BP in particular, deliver an extraordinary amount of training in Iraq alone. The effect on the local communities and national economies is a massive injection of know-how and a source of social stability, development, prosperity and economic progress, let alone the transformative power training confers on individuals, families and communities.

Not only are our companies a source of prosperity, but when partnered with UK Universities offer a double whammy for the delivery of global standards and expertise that  few countries can match in country and via external courses, such as delivered by Oxford Brooks and Northampton Universities.

Emerging economies appreciate this expertise, as it raises business operations to global standards and enables them to compete with the best, to encourage inward investment and generate employment opportunities in their regions.

Oil and Power companies in particular make a big social impact on their suppliers. Osama Kadhum Managing Director of Ratba’ contracting in Iraq says his staff received 3885 hours of training in Majnoon Oilfield from Shell alone, ensuring the highest technical and supervisory standards are applied.

GE power likewise employ over 90% of local staff, often sent for technical training in USA or x for 6-12 month stretches supporting local recruitment , diversity of employees, and women for increasingly leadership and supervisory roles. Shell in Iraq train over 7,900 local staff in Basra for whom they are delivering over 200,000 training days per year. BP and its Partners are developing the Rumaila field which is supported by a 93% Iraqi workforce.

Around 2,400,000 training hours have been delivered to staff in a variety of technical disciplines, core skills, leadership and safety.  And these figures do not include community initiatives such as an extensive community vocational training programme that has been running for 3 years, or 400 women from a remote community that have been trained in the Rumaila funded Qarmat Ali Women’s Training Centre.

In Baghdad Serco have set up an ATC Academy for Air traffic Controllers. Multiply this scale of training globally in just Iraq and you begin to see the scale and quality of training that British companies deliver among International, Emerging and Frontier markets.

More widely Rolls- Royce has committed an ambitious plan to reach 6 million people worldwide through their STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths) education programmes between 2014- 2020. This bold target will encourage a more creative and engaging outreach through the company’s supply chain, through the wider STEM sector and to inspire society to attract talented young people from around the world to the world of STEM.

Businesses are often castigated by the media, but the reality is that they are usually a force for good, prosperity and ultimately stronger communities. So let’s celebrate the important impact British companies’ commitment to education and training brings to millions of people and their ability to change the world.

Ashley Goodall is a martketing consultant to Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC).

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Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC)

How British Creativity can Help Iraq

By Ashley Goodall.

How British Creativity can help Iraq and rebuild nations and communities.

As middle Eastern economies begin to realise dependency on oil is no longer an option, they are diversifying their economies and evolving their cultures to position for the future, key is creativity and the tech economy.

For many the’ Iraq’ word brings shivers of gloom. Whatever doomsters think, Iraqis still have to create a new future, free of rancour, prosperous and ultimately hopeful. The UK can really help them on this journey.

As IBBC companies rebuild the Infrastructure and economy of Iraq (Oil and gas, Power and engineering), the other big win that the UK can help Iraq with is ‘creativity. We can help leapfrog sectarian divides, bring the country together, inject pride and confidence and begin the process of nation building.

Two complimentary areas of expertise come neatly together to rebuild nations and communities: Architecture and Tech: The physical and virtual, the national and the communal, visual and intangible, shared and entrepreneurial, cultural and business.

In Architecture, Zaha Hadid’s amazing inspirational work to define and create Iconic cultural statements is being deployed for the new Central bak building nearing completion and the  Parliament building designed to build a sense of national identity and articulate a new aspirational narrative for Iraq. Charles Walker MD of Zaha Hadid believes architecture is a physical manifestation of a nation state and, particularly for countries that are recovering from conflict; architecture can play a reconciliatory role to build a new sense of nationhood and community.

Charles believes ‘buildings are the national landmarks that project a nation’s sense of itself through the semiotics of communal values .Zaha Hadid’s creative modernity frees nations to imagine the kind of visions they want to project about themselves. The scintillating new parliament building draws inspiration from the geological alluvial plane of the Tigris River and a cultural belief in civic democracy that indicates normality is returning to the country’.

Anne Kerr and Bob Philips of Mott MacDonald believe that planning and ‘Place making’ is fundamental to national and urban success. Anne says it can take 50 years to establish a ‘community’ in the broadest sense. Mott MacDonald’s ‘Placemaking’ brings together all aspects of community building – from the physical infrastructure, to provision of what holds a community together- education, health, a sense of purpose, buildings, mobility and economic prospects, work, and individuals’ sense of self-worth – iconic buildings and tech can help inspire and aggregate but the softer aspects of community building and capacity also have to be factored in.

As civil engineers Bob Philips says you can’t have social infrastructure unless an engineer designs and builds it and civil engineering provides for people – ‘Engineers make it happen’. Mott MacDonald’s work includes large International development projects and to make the idea of creating communities come alive. The consultancy launched its ‘Engineering Hope’ report to explain how to make fast communities, through place making and especially for the 60 million refugees currently living in camps.

‘Tech’ brings its own benefits and opportunities: The UK’s record in start-ups and the new tech industry is remarkable, Tech city was established in 2010 but this start up cluster now leads Europe , is second only to USA for investment . Key to consolidating tech is the recent location of Facebook , Google’ and Spotify’s headquarters to London, the location and power of the city to drive investment and knowledge in Fintech and a record volume of new tech businesses in London.

Tech ecologies grow fast and drive external perceptions of a country. Put together with a strong creative sector, design and film production, and London/UK becomes the leading location for film production, design and gaming, music and communications. Tech enables communities to flourish and interact in areas of interest beyond sectarian or religious boundaries. On line communities are strengthened by their interests and bring people together.. British and international tech is well placed to help build Iraqi communities, provide education and skills for young people on line, enable them to trade, to be entrepreneurial, retail and interact with the world beyond their borders.

In Iraq Yazen, MD of Zain Cash explains ‘Zain have set up clear objectives to close the current financial gap that left majority of the population unbanked.  We’re building financial services that meet current needs and assist in fuelling new digital economies. Services that are getting strong traction are electronic salary disbursement, electronic bill payment, and online payment solutions. A key success of Zain’s is a vast network  which we  are heavily investing in, to ensure convenient and accessible services for everyone, whether in rural and urban areas”

Fethi Kirdar of Moby group, a leading Media company, is encouraging the Iraqi government to support tech initiatives: ‘’to provide seed capital, low cost workshops and build the tech ecosystem, including promotion of E Government. Fethi says’ Iraqi young people already engage with high penetration of digital media, are keen on e-commerce and have the attitude, aptitude and ideas  to create tech solutions for the problems they see around them. The time is right and the audience is primed for take-off.’

Iraq’s young, tech-savvy entrepreneurs are finding business opportunities in mobile apps at a time when the government is strapped for cash and looking to the private sector to create jobs. Iraq has one of the most youthful populations in the world, with  60 percent of its 2015 estimate of 37 million people under the age of 25, according to the U.N. In a bid to create up to 250,000 private sector jobs, the government last year started a $5 billion loan initiative for small, medium and large projects called Tamwil, or Finance, which is run by the Central Bank.

Entrepreneurs are already versioning delivery apps like Wajbety, or My Meal, and  al-Khateeb launched an Uber style app called Ujra, or Fare according to Sinan Salaheddin of Associated press  Baghdad. Arabic App creation is a clear opportunity for aspiring entrepreneurs.

What Iraq needs now is direct investment in entrepreneurial tech start-ups and expertise from UK tech industry specialists willing to take a leap of faith to back the catch up opportunities Iraq offers. IBBC have a new tech group that will support and help you navigate Iraqi business, led by Botan Osman of Restrata, Zain and Alastair Kett’s PWC, are keen to attract new members who can take advantage of the opportunities for both tech and architectural reinvention and nation building that Iraq offers.

Once tech takes hold growth will be fast and positive. And, as with Architecture, the Brits now have a number of world class leaders like Zaha Hadid and Mott MacDonald to enable the rebuilding of Iraq’s communities as the Iraqi Government so requires.

Ashley Goodall is a martketing consultant to Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC).

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From Bombs to Bytes: How Tech can Transform Iraq’s Economy

By Ashley Goodall.

From Bombs to Bytes: How tech can Diversify and Transform Iraq’s Economy

One of the big hits at this year’s Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC) conference was the tech panel (pictured) with four leading Tech companies using tech to deliver their unique services: Zain Telco, launching Zain Cash, Restrata who offer cyber security to the traditional and emergent digital economy, and Gulftainer, the logistics to connect Iraq to the world of commerce and Inevert, a start-up tech investor.

There is a clear appetite and ambition in youthful Iraq to connect with the modern world and repurpose the Iraqi economy. The digitisation of the Iraqi economy could usefully transform several objectives in one swoop and be a massive agent of positive change:

Prime is the need to diversify the economy away from reliance on oil and gas. Iraq has plentiful supplies of oil but the price is volatile and the country still needs to find employment for millions of young people. Digitising the economy would not only provide hundreds of thousands of jobs, but connect the economy to the modern world virtually and in reality.

A bi-product of tech will enable the rapidly growing young generation, who are numerate and tech friendly, to have engaging jobs and fulfil aspirations, instead of a distractive poverty and extreme ideologies.

Secondly, Tech as a transactional mechanism also drives transparency, especially when money is concerned. Tech bypasses corruption: It’s no secret that Mastercard is seen as a benign influence in eradicating fraud and corruption in emerging economies. Likewise, Zain cash now offer online payments via Facebook for entrepreneurs to sell their products and services.

Not only does this open up e commerce to millions of naturally entrepreneurial Iraqis, but also to people and markets  in the wider region, along with options to pay for advertising and marketing support. All this  without the need to pay middle men or bribes. Tech is ‘the agent’ of transparency, for the people and for government.

Finally, Tech is an agent of cultural transformation and change – as people engage with each other in social media, collaborate in business, and young people learn from educational programs , as Maeve Walsh of UKs DCMS says, the UK Government conducts swathes of its civic, electoral and societal business via the internet. Likewise Iraq can transform government activity within the country, and ‘Iraq Tech’ can also change external perceptions of the country .

What can make this happen?

Much of the infrastructure is already in the country through the private sector: Zain telco and its Zain cash wallet- Restrata have the cyber tech to protect businesses and Omar Hussan of Inevert is eyeing opportunities for investment- along with Zain, who also intend building a tech hub in Baghdad.

Clearly much more investment is required into the emergent start up economy, and despite availability of the free ‘Google skills,’ the government needs to embrace tech education, infrastructure and online transactions- but the private sector can already see entrepreneurial commerce as the driver of change.

With a young and educated population of natural trading entrepreneurs, keen to get on with their lives, it’s only a matter of time before the country leapfrogs less liberal countries in the region. Iraq has been held back for too long, but now could be the time the dynamism of the people, their access to electronic platforms, and relative stability could be the trigger that pivots Iraq into a golden age of tech.

Ashley Goodall is a martketing consultant to Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC).

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Back to the Future: The Restoration of Iraq, and British Expertise

By Ashley Goodall.

Back to the future.  The restoration of Iraq and British expertise.

Iraq has been in the news for a generation and our perceptions have been coloured by conflict and the near destruction of the Middle East’s most wealthy and civilised country. In the 1970’s Iraq was not only a secular and relatively harmonious multi-cultural society, but highly educated, enormously wealthy and a centre for cultural tourism.

While the media is focussed on the awful impact of IS, and the conflict in Mosul is still raging, it’s fair to say large swathes of the country, especially the South, have been free from conflict and are relatively peaceful. Indeed, the conduct and effectiveness of the Iraqi army has given hope to a peaceful aftermath in Mosul and Anbar province, with prospects for an end to IS and reconciliation with the Sunni groups in the west.

Today, similar conditions exist for a return to that wealth and civilisation- as the country comes together, Daesh are being seen off, the oil price is rising, the IMF and ISF are loaning the country $14bn for infrastructure, and educated expat entrepreneurs are beginning to return home with investment and know how.

Now that the UK is going global we should consider Iraq a strong business opportunity. Iraq is open for Investment, from the most basic Infrastructure: roads, rail, ports, airports and water, to new private housing, schools and universities, with Iraq’s abundant energy, oil, gas and petrochemical industries, to professional services and cultural tourism. Iraq is effectively virgin territory for investors, construction and professional and telco and cultural tourism services alike – in fact, all the things the UK excels in.

The picture for British industry is even stronger when we recognise British companies already play a leading role in the business ecology: Shell and BP are key players in the economy and offer an umbrella for British engineering companies; Eversheds, EY and PWC provide legal and accountancy services to our companies and Standard Chartered are there to service our finances.

The Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC) with its long term and trusted relationships in senior government circles can also guide and assist members on political issues and through its extended membership there is a wealth of knowledge to assist new members in doing business in Iraq.

Tawfiq Tabbaa, Managing Partner of Eversheds Iraq, has seen a 25 percent increase in business, and the prospects of acceleration as international business moves back to Iraq, including a budegoning tech sector and a requirement for professional services to service international and local companies.

Alistair Kett, a Partner at PWC, observes:

“To the casual observer, any headlines relating to Iraq will be dominated by the ongoing defeat of Daesh and the associated albeit complex security picture. A closer look, however, reveals a country that has started a huge transformation. With significant financing available for huge infrastructure projects and many recognised organisations already embedded in their design and delivery the economic and commercial potential of this market is clearly shifting quickly.”

Mohammed Al Charchafchi, Chairman of Zain Iraq, indicates that:

The Iraqi economy is recovering and is projected to grow at 7 percent in the next few years, one of the highest growth rates in the world, this also applies on the GDP per capita and the contribution of non-oil revenue to the GDP of the country. The growth is mainly driven by the increased production of oil, inflow of FDI, structural reforms by the government and implementation of the IMF terms.

And IBBC new member GE has recently won a $1.4-billion contract to build new electric power stations. Frederic Ribieras, VP Global Growth says:

“GE just signed several new contracts worth a total of $1.4 billion with the Iraqi Ministry of Electricity to add a further 2,000 MW via gas turbines, that drastically increases supply to Iraq’s grid. Thanks to GE’s global reach and relationships with various financing institutions and export credit agencies, GE also has been able to set up some $2 billion in credit to support the projects. This will enable the Iraqi government to improve its power supply without short-circuiting its finances.”

As if that is not bright enough the Chinese intend to bring the New Silk road (OBOR) and its investment train through northern Iraq to provide access to China and the West, for Iraq’s petrochemical industries. And the Iraqis are surprisingly loyal to the UK.

So we see an immediate future where Iraq begins to re-take its place in the league of wealthier nations, keen to expand consumer and professional services, fuelled by oil and petrochemical wealth and servicing an educated and capable population with a government willing to reform and invest.

It’s time to go back to the future and back to Iraq with British expertise and investment.

Ashley Goodall is a consultant at the Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC).

Posted in Construction & Engineering In Iraq, Investment, Iraq Industry & Trade News, Iraq Oil & Gas News 2 Comments