This week the United States Government, through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), will reach a significant milestone in its efforts to support Iraqi businesses. Loans extended by Iraqi Company for Financing Small and Medium Enterprises (ICF-SME) to develop or expand small businesses will reach a total of $26 million or ID 30.18 billion. These loans to small and medium-sized businesses have created over 1,200 new jobs for Iraqis.
Founded in May 2009 with an initial $6 million grant from the USAID-Tijara Provincial Economic Growth Program, the ICF-SME program is designed to help expand Iraq’s private sector, as called for in the U.S.-Iraq Strategic Framework agreement. Funds that borrowers repay to the banks are, in turn, used to grant new loans. This cycle of repayment and new lending, plus additional money contributed by the banks has allowed $7 million of USAID grants to produce 1,374 loans averaging $19,000 in size for a total sum of loans exceeding $26 million.
“Iraqi businesses need enormous amounts of money to allow them to buy new equipment and expand, and will someday begin to compete on an international level,” said Managing Director Wisam Noori. “ICF-SME helps finance these purchases through bank loans made increasingly from loans that have been paid back.” Banks appreciate the lending program because it is stable, long-term, and can be obtained by eligible Iraqis at a low fixed rate of 10 percent, a rate substantially below prevailing market interest of 12-14 percent.
The nine private Iraqi commercial banks participating in the ICF-SME program are Gulf Commercial Bank, Sumer Commercial Bank, Ashur International Bank, North Bank, Iraqi Middle East Bank for Investment, Baghdad Bank, National Bank of Iraq, Mosul Bank for Investment and Development, and Basra International Bank for Investment.