By Leanne Case, reporting from Istanbul.
I’ve written a fair number of articles extolling the potential of Iraq to British business, I make no apologies for this and believe strongly in the future of Iraq. So do hundreds of international companies! A significant number of who attend the now numerous conferences and events aimed at showcasing Iraq potential. I went along to see what it was all about…..
CWC's Iraq Mega Projects conference and exhibition held last week in Istanbul was a prime example, well organised and well attended (370 attendees), in many cases by companies trying to keep up to date with developments in Iraq and work out their strategy, both with and without current contracts. One attendee said “we’re all scared not to be here to miss something crucial because we know the opportunity is huge and when it takes off it will be exponential but everyone is watching each other and no-one wants to be seen to make the first move”. There remains a glimmer of hope among the serial conference goers of making useful contacts with influential Iraqi decision makers but most have limited expectations in this area. There was a general disappointment at the lack of attendance by contemporary Iraqi Government decision makers, no doubt due to the timing of the event.
The exhibition with some 130 stands included Lukoil, Shell, BASF, and SKA Air & Logistics. Also among the exhibitors were 2 companies that have combined, 18 years of active in country experience. Technology Partners, established in 2003 by Iraqi expatriate Omar Barzanji, is an inspiring example of how good intentions can also make business sense. Motivated by a sense of commitment to the country of his birth and a startling business opportunity, he established a new branch of his Middle East Technology Company in Iraq in 2003. Since then the company’s senior staff could no doubt write a book on the journey they have made, challenges a plenty but their story so far is one of success. They have completed numerous contracts in Iraq and are currently working on a project in Southern Iraq that they believe will represent a significant improvement to the regional ICT Infrastructure. The story is not just one of financial success but one of providing opportunity and secure employment for Iraqi people. A major motivation for Omar when back in 2003 he took the risk and hitched a ride on a military aircraft back to Iraq after more than a decade’s absence.