A new online single window system for business registration in Iraq is supporting an entrepreneurial environment during COVID-19.
Opening a business in Baghdad has never been easier. All that is needed is one dream, one form and one payment to complete the administrative side of establishing operations.
Budding entrepreneurs can reserve a name, register, and get a tax and social security number in a few simple steps, thanks to a new platform piloted this month, which simplifies and speeds up the business registration process.
The new "single-window" system - business.mot.gov.iq - simplifies a process that took dozens of separate steps and multiple in-person visits into one that can be completed with a few clicks on an entirely contactless registration, regulation and reporting portal.
It supports Iraqis wanting to create a business for the first time, after a change of occupation during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The system is the result of collaborative efforts by UNCTAD, the governments of Iraq and the US and the Global Entrepreneurship Network. It's scheduled to go live in the coming weeks after live testing with real case scenarios and training of government staff.
Improving business environment
"Improving the business environment in Iraq is our top priority," said Mohammed Honoun, Iraqi deputy minister of trade. "Automation of government sectors is a critical part of that process."
While the system is currently only available to Baghdad-based business owners, the government plans to roll it out across the nation over time.
"We are proud to work with entities that are committed to investing in economic development, especially in Iraq, where the need is great and potentially transformative for the nation," said James Zhan, UNCTAD's investment and enterprise director.
He lauded the initiative, pointing to the positive collaboration between the partners who made it possible.
Tackling barriers to doing business
Iraqi businesses need all the help they can get. The conflict-affected country is a difficult place to do business, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only worsened the situation.
Iraq ranks 172 out of 190 economies in the World Bank's Ease of Doing Business Index for 2020.
Improving the business environment and simplifying government procedures is the first step in boosting the country's ranking and supporting would-be entrepreneurs.
"We welcome the Iraqi government's direction towards economic reform and appreciate its efforts in automating services," said the World Bank's Ramzi Namaan.
"This system encourages more citizens to start companies and bolsters the confidence of investors," said Jonathan Ortmans, president of the Global Entrepreneurship Network.
He said the pandemic has underscored the importance of both contactless transaction technology and supporting entrepreneurship to recover lost jobs and power economic growth. The new platform serves both objectives.
Online registration also greatly encourages women, who represent half of the Iraqi society, to quickly start a business and participate in the country's economy.
UNCTAD helped develop a similar product for the Benin government, which saw its use more than triple as the pandemic took hold.