By Zep Kalb for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iran Business News.

In the aftermath of the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, the country’s educational system all but collapsed. Illiteracy rates have exploded. Universities have turned into sectarian battlegrounds.

Systemic violence — including beatings, rape and death threats — has forced students and faculty out of campuses. As state provision of higher education has receded, private donors have set up alternative institutions, often with a sectarian and religious twist. Foreign actors have also stepped in to fill the void.

Before the US-led invasion, education indicators in oil-rich, Baathist-controlled Iraq improved similarly as in other middle-income countries, and in several ways even more so. The country’s first university, Baghdad University, opened its doors in 1957. In 1968, the government made education free and compulsory at all levels.

In 1977, the eradication of illiteracy was made legally binding. The developmental push appeared to be working. By 1980, Iraq had already achieved near universal primary school enrollment.

Saddam Hussein’s devastating eight-year war with Iran in the 1980s and the sanctions imposed by the West over his invasion of Kuwait in the 1990s slowed these gains.

By 2000, the literacy rate of youth aged 15-24 years old stood at 84.8%, slightly higher than that of regional neighbor Egypt. The gender gap was also narrowing: Female literacy rates stood at 80.5% in 2000, a figure Egypt reached only in 2006. At the same time, underinvestment in education by a cash-strapped government led to an aged and creaking infrastructure.

For all its ills, the collapse of the Baathist regime in 2003 and its replacement with a US-installed government wrecked the country’s educational system. Junior, inexperienced American officers who failed to understand the complexities of maintaining peace between the sects were put in charge of higher education.

Agility has opened a state-of the-art training facility, known as the Center of Excellence, at the Rumaila Energy Park in southern Iraq.

In partnership with Strategic Analytics Team (SAT), the Center of Excellence offers training courses for the local workforce in the oil and gas industry, led by internationally accredited trainers.

Training covers a wide variety of topics, including health and safety, lifting and hoisting, defensive driving and logistics solutions. With SAT’s expertise in the field of operational logistics, courses will meet international oil and gas industry standards and focus on developing accredited local content, while enhancing the capabilities of Iraq-based contractors.

The Rumaila Energy Park is a one million-square meter, fully serviced industrial park developed by Agility Real Estate to provide a one-stop-shop for companies operating in southern Iraq. The park includes warehouse facilities, workshops, lay-down yards and offices. It is strategically close to the region’s major oil and gas subcontractors.

The inauguration was attended by representatives from oil and gas companies and academic institutions, as well as Iraqi government officials.

Colin Hindley, CEO, Agility Iraq, said:

“The Center of Excellence is part of Agility’s ongoing commitment to building Iraq’s infrastructure and human capital. We are strongly committed to building local capacity in our areas of operations, and this new center is part of this strategy.”

Paul Jorgensen, Senior Partner, Strategic Analytics Team, said:

Our partnership with Agility makes the Center of Excellence the first of its type in the Gulf region. At SAT, we take pride in our knowledge and skills in the logistics business, and we are in a unique position to impart the same to aspiring professionals seeking further development.

“This is a very exciting opportunity for both SAT and Agility. With a fully developed culture of learning in an open environment that enables access to the latest information and technological innovations, we want the Center of Excellence to become the go-to resource for both logistics companies and students.”

Agility Iraq has offices in Basra, Baghdad, and Erbil, serving international airports and the ports of Umm Qasr and Khor Al Zubair.

Agility’s operations include freight forwarding (air, ocean, road), cross-border trucking, customs clearance, project logistics, open yard/warehousing distribution, approved HSSE training and route surveys. All of Agility’s operations in Iraq are ISO 9001, ISO 14000, OHSAS 18001-certified.

(Source: Agility)

By John Lee.

Iraqi Prime Minister Dr. Haider Abadi has visited the headquarters of the largest French employers organization in Paris and held a meeting with the heads of 25 major French companies.

The Mouvement des Entreprises de France (MEDEF) has more than 750,000 member firms, 90 percent of them being small and medium enterprises (SMEs) with fewer than 50 employees.

At a separate meeting during his visit to Paris, the French Government agreed to subsidise Iraqi students accepted on further education courses in France.

(Source: Office of the Prime Minister)

By Saad Salloum for Al Monitor. Any opinions here are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News. 

The US State Department announced Sept. 10 that the United States would return the Iraqi Jewish archive to Iraq next year. The archive had been shipped to the United States in 2003, after American troops saved it from destruction by water leaking into the cellars of the Iraqi General Intelligence Service building in Baghdad.

The archive includes tens of thousands of institutional documents, books, religious manuscripts, photographs and personal documents of Iraqi Jews.

Khedr al-Bussoon — a Tel Aviv-based writer, Iraqi Jewish rights activist and son of the prominent journalist Seleim al-Bussoon, who left Iraq with his family in 1973 under Baathist pressure — explained that security agencies and Baathist officials seized the material in the archive in the 1970s and 1980s.

There are personal files and correspondence between the Frank Iny and Shamash schools during the mid-1970s, when the Baathist government nationalized them and renamed them Nizamitta. Also in the archive are documents from synagogues, including from the Meir Taweig Synagogue, in eastern Baghdad’s Batawin district, and books — more than 2,700 according to Bussoon — left behind in Baghdad by Jews who had fled.

Some of the homes of the departed Jews still stand in parts of Baghdad, including in Batawin, once one of the most heavily Jewish neighborhoods in the city, as do some shrines to Jewish prophets and synagogues in the southern provinces.

According to an agreement with the Iraqi government, the archive was scheduled to be returned to Iraq in 2014. When the time came, however, the agreement was revised for reasons related to Iraq’s readiness to preserve the archive after its return. The Baghdad government apparently was in no condition or position to provide proper upkeep. The war against the Islamic State, plus the decrease in world oil prices had contributed to an economic crisis.

On Thursday – October 5th – The Iraqi Children Foundation (ICF) and awesome IRONMAN challenger Mais Abousy are joining forces to compete for a share of $50,000 in cash for Iraq’s most vulnerable kids.

Mais, an Iraqi-American mother and lawyer, is training for the October IRONMAN where she will compete carrying US and Iraqi flags.  She will swim 1.2 miles (1.9K), bike 56 miles (90K), and run 13.1 miles (21K) along with some 2,800 athletes and thousands of observers from around the world.

October 5th is a great opportunity to make a high-impact gift and finish your year-end giving early.  The donation “race” starts at 9:00:01 am and ends 11:59:59 pm Washington DC time (EDT).  How much we raise October 5th determines what portion of the $50,000 pot ICF wins.  Plus, for every new monthly donation, ICF gets a 1-month match.

If you are “in”:

  1. Post this link on your calendar for October 5th
  2. Decide on a 1-time gift or monthly donations
  3. Execute October 5th!

Want to know what your gifts do?

  • $10 covers four nutritious, yummy meals for kids
  • $25 reserves a seat on the Hope Bus for a boy or girl for a whole week with tutoring, a healthy lunch, fun, & more
  • $30 a month can support a social worker to help kids stop working, go to school, access health care, and get loving interventions to stop abuse and neglect
  • $50 a month helps cover the salary of a “street lawyer”  to defend kids in court, help kids get documents to go to school, and teach children to protect themselves against dangers on the streets from criminals, human traffickers, and extremists

Social and Economic Integration of Youth Key for a Better Future for Iraq

A new project will promote the social and economic inclusion of about 3,000 conflict-affected Iraqi youth by facilitating their engagement in youth-led community development activities, peacebuilding initiatives and micro-entrepreneurship projects. The Project is financed by a US$2.75 million Grant provided by the Japan social Development Fund (JSDF).

The project agreement was signed today by H.E. Mr. Abdul-Hussein Abtaan, Iraqi Minister of Youth and Sports and Ms. Yara Salem, World Bank Iraq Country Manager, in the presence of H.E. Mr. Ja Fumio Iwai, Japanese Ambassador to Iraq.

With one third of the Iraqi population between the ages of 15 and 24, Iraqi youth represent both an opportunity and a challenge for economic development. Youth can bring dynamism and innovation to the any economy, yet if not properly trained and integrated, they may also represent a drain on limited national resources.

“Investing in the youth is key to build a stable and more prosperous future for Iraq. This project will help promote the social and economic inclusion of youth in conflict-affected areas. It will provide them with the skills needed to find better job opportunities and contribute to the reconstruction of Iraq” said Abdul-Hussein Abtaan, Iraqi Minister of Youth and Sports during the signing ceremony.

The project is expected to be a powerful engine to promote a culture of tolerance and strengthen social cohesion. Educating youth on the values of peace has become a pressing need, namely considering the waves of violence and displacement witnessed by several areas of the country due to the conflict.

“The World Bank is very pleased to partner with Iraq in supporting youth and their active participation in the economy. This is at the heart of sustainable and inclusive development and in line with the World Bank support plan to Iraq for the coming period” said Ms. Salem, World Bank Iraq Country Manager.

The Project, which builds on the success of a similar initiative implemented in Southern Iraq (Basra, Missan, and Thiqar), aims to support at least 3,000 vulnerable youth in Baghdad, including 50 percent young women and 30 percent IDPs.

The project will be implemented by the Ministry of Youth and Sports, with the help of local non-governmental organizations and service providers to conduct activities under the soft skills training, youth-led community development subprojects and business development trainings.

(Source: United Nations)

By Mohammed Khudairi, for Bite.Tech. Re-published with permission. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Through many visits to Iraq and exciting conversations with visionaries like Hal Miran, I began to learn about Iraq’s budding world of startups, incubators and entrepreneurs.

Communities and organizations such as FikraSpace in Baghdad, along with Re:Coded and 51Labs based at TechHub in Erbil, have all developed in recent years and are growing at an astonishing pace. In my quest to figure out how I could best contribute to this ecosystem, I learned that we don’t have to wait for more “traditional” investment conditions to get involved.

Iraq’s Potential

In many ways, Iraq has been closed off from the rest of the world for many decades due to war and sanctions and now the people of Iraq are hungry for innovation and development. Iraq’s young, growing population of 37 million people, an increasing percentage of the population on the internet (17.2% in 2015), and mobile subscriptions on the rise (93.8 per 100 people had mobile subscriptions in 2015), make it a promising environment for tech. Source: World Bank.

Iraq still faces many issues including security, political and financial challenges, but the beauty of technology is that it can potentially allow developing nations like Iraq to “leapfrog” in the evolution of certain consumer processes, e-commerce, on-demand services, fintech and many more.

For those interested in diversifying their investments outside the more established tech communities and in gaining access to new (and potentially undervalued) opportunities, Iraq is fertile ground. While investors can’t turn a blind eye to the legal, financial, and operational challenges that exist, we all know that where there’s risk, there’s reward.

The Road Ahead

Good tech ecosystems require skilled human capital. The Iraqi government can support universities and other institutions by investing in science and technology programs and emphasizing these fields’ importance to Iraq’s future economy. Additionally, the government can work to improve the conditions for foreign direct investment (FDI) into Iraq by strengthening the legal frameworks and recourse surrounding FDI. This is what is currently veering foreign investors away from Iraq and into other MENA countries who have established a more secure legal framework for FDI.

While there’s a number of measures the government can implement to make it easier on new businesses and FDI, it may take some time for the government to establish these reforms. Rather than waiting on the government, I encourage those interested in making Iraq a better place to take action now and provide support to this ecosystem where possible.

Aside from financial investment, many of the Iraqi diaspora have access to resources, institutions or technology that could be very useful to entrepreneurs and tech communities in Iraq. Those interested should follow Bite.Tech and other online sources to learn more about the tech ecosystem in Iraq and contact organizations directly.

Any support will go a long way to these individuals who are dealing with regular power outages, security challenges and limited local institutional resources. These brave men and women will be the entrepreneurs who forge a new economy and transform Iraq into a modern, inclusive and innovative society it can be.

Articles by external contributors do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bite.Tech.

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).

Criminal case management course for judges and prosecutors in Ninewah, first of a series of UNDP activities to support effective criminal justice administration in Iraq

Twelve Iraqi judges and prosecutors from the Governorate of Ninewah successfully completed a criminal case management course held in Baghdad on 25-26 August 2017. UNDP Rule of Law Programme designed and conducted the course collaboratively with the Higher Judicial Council and the Judicial Development Institute.

The judges and prosecutors came from Mosul, Rabia, Sinjar, Makhmour, Shikhan, Zumar, Tal Aafr and Hamdania courts in Ninewah. They are sepcialized in adjudicating terrorism and criminal cases committed against Sunni, Shia, Christian, Yazidi, Shabak and Kurd populations during the control of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

The course addressed effective justice administration, stages of complex crime investigations, assessment of strengths and challenges of the Iraqi justice system, prosecution system, digital evidence, in addition to money laundering and terrorist financing, and forensic flows.

Attending the closing ceremony, Chief Justice Hon. Faiq Zedan expressed appreciation to the judges and prosecutors “for their commitment and hard work under very challenging conditions.” He added: “The Higher Judicial Council will continue to collaborate with UNDP to improve the judiciary in response to the needs of people in Iraq.”

Participants identified priorities to improve Iraq’s criminal justice system, particularly in newly liberated areas. Amongst key recommendations was to establish a comprehensive unified database for terrorist suspects to help avoid duplication of names and improve access to corresponding information on suspects’ alleged crimes.

Other recommendations included: increasing the number of judges to address the large case load, increasing the number of qualified and trained judges and investigators to assist the police, training and equipping police for better crime prevention and detection, and rebuilding destroyed court houses and detention centres in Ninewah.

Judge Ghanim Mohammed Sultan said:

“The course helped the participating judges and prosecutors to enrich their knowledge and expand their vision … In spite of challenges on the ground, we will do our very best to provide justice for all in Ninewah and hold to account those who have committed crimes against the people.”

UNDP’s Rule of Law Programme Manager, Ms. Chamila Hemmathagama, said:

“The workshop helped participants to gain new knowledge on areas such as criminal case management specifically related to terrorism cases, digital evidence and the role of forensic evidence in detecting crimes. This is just the beginning of a series of workshops to develop a robust training programme for judges and prosecutors in Iraq with a specific focus on liberated areas.”

The next workshop will take place in September 2017 for 12 judges and prosecutors from the Governorate of Anbar. Outcomes of the two workshops will be maximized to further refine and review the training curricular and required topics for future trainings in discussion with Higher Judicial Council and the Judicial Development Institute.

(Source: UNDP)

Baroness Nicholson, President of the Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC) and Her Majesty’s Trade Enjoy to Iraq, Azerbijan and Turkmenistan, discusses Iraq as a major market, IBBC’s role in creating a worldwide network for those doing clean business in Iraq, further increasing investment and the positive consequences of businesses transferring skills and technology into Iraq: