Hackasuly, the largest international hackathon in Iraq, brings the coding community together over a weekend to work in teams and turn their ideas into technological solutions on September 5th – 7th.

This year, the organisers are accepting projects in three different and exciting tracks:

  • AI & Data Science
  • E-Society
  • Fintech

The goal is to help promote technology, generate more interest in the field, and encourage new innovations.

Venue: 
American University of Iraq, Sulaimani

Agenda:

  • Opening Ceremony, Thursday, 5 September 2019 at 06:00 pm to 08:00pm.
    • Welcoming Speeches
    • The Development of Iraqi Tech Industry Panelmoderated by Alice Bosley, Executive Director at Five One Labs.
      • Speakers:
        • Qubad Talabani, The Deputy Prime Minister
        • Yad Rasheed, CEO at Avesta Group
        • Tarry Singh, CEO at Deepkapha.ai
        • TBA
      • Closing Ceremony, Saturday, 7 September 2019 at 7:00 pm to 9:00pm:
        • Projects Demo and Winners Announcement.

For more information, please visit: https://hackasuly.com

(Source: Hackasuly)

By John Lee.

The National Investment Commission (NIC) has announced the following investment opportunities:

(Source: National Investment Commission)

(Picture: Business opportunity word cloud, from ibreakstock/Shutterstock)

Government of Iraq contributes $33m for stabilization activities in historic agreement

The Government of Iraq has today signed an historic agreement with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), committing USD 33 million for stabilization activities across the country.

Administered through UNDP’s Funding Facility for Stabilization (FFS), the contribution will be used to rehabilitate essential infrastructure and services like water, electricity, healthcare, housing and education in key areas of Ninewa, Anbar, Salah Al-Din, Diyala, and Kirkuk.

It places the Government of Iraq as one of UNDP’s top 10 donors across its stabilization portfolio, and signifies the government’s trust and confidence in its partnership with UNDP.

“We’re extremely grateful for this contribution, which represents the Government of Iraq’s unwavering commitment to stabilizing Iraq and encouraging the safe and dignified return of communities who fled the atrocities of ISIL,” says UNDP’s Resident Representative in Iraq, Ms. Zena Ali Ahmad.

“The Government of Iraq has been a strong partner and leader within UNDP’s stabilization efforts. Without their support, we wouldn’t have been able to complete more than 2,000 stabilization projects benefitting more than 8 million Iraqis. We look forward to bolstering our partnership with this new agreement,” adds Ms. Ali Ahmad.

The Secretary General of the Council of Ministers, His Excellency Mr. Hamid Al-Ghizi said: “Through this agreement, the Iraqi government seeks to implement projects in various affected geographic areas, while focusing on those areas that have experienced the most damage.

“The agreement will mostly focus on infrastructure and water, electricity, health and other projects, as our  provinces still need more infrastructure and support for basic services. The agreement also reaffirms Iraq’s commitment to the strategic partnership with the United Nations Development Programme to restoring stability in the liberated areas, enabling displaced communities to return, and building and rehabilitating the infrastructure in the provinces that have been affected by the tragic circumstances that have passed through the country,” added His Excellency Mr. Al-Ghizi.

(Source: UNDP)

By John Lee.

Authorities in Baghdad are implementing a series of measures to improve passenger access to Baghdad International Airport (BIAP).

The measures include the widening of the main road to the airport, the removal of a number of security barriers and allowing vehicles to reach the departure terminals to drop off passengers.

These measures coincide with the the resumption of flights by major carries to Iraqi airports, and the expansion of Iraqi Airways route network.

The easing of access to Iraq’s main international gateway comes just a few weeks after the Iraqi authorities oversaw the opening of the so called ‘Green Zone’ in central Baghdad to traffic, fulfilling an undertaking by Prime Minister Adil Abd Al-Mahdi and the Iraqi government.

Soon after the defeat of Daesh in Iraq, the Iraqi government began to remove concrete barriers, blast walls and checkpoints, which have been in place for well over a decade,
from other parts of Baghdad and cities across Iraq.

(Source: Govt of Iraq)

By John Lee.

A Scottish sweet manufacturer is reportedly seeing sales of its fudge and toffee surge in Iraqi Kurdistan.

According to a BBC report, Golden Casket linked up with Sulaymaniyah-based businessman Farhad Haseb to sell the confectionery to upmarket stores in Erbil and Dohuk, as well as other towns and cities in the region.

The holiday of Eid al-Adha has proved to be a strong driver of sales for the business, with Iraq now being Golden Casket’s third biggest export market, after America and Ireland.

More here.

(Source: BBC)

By John Lee.

Abu Dhabi National Energy Company PJSC (TAQA) has announced that the group’s oil and gas business delivered strong performance with an 11% increase in revenue, mainly driven by increased production volumes from its assets in Europe and Iraq.

In its financial results and operational highlights for the six-month period ending June 30, 2019, it said its overall capex also rose to AED 957 million in the first six months of 2019, a 15% increase when compared to the same period in 2018.

The increase in Oil and Gas capex was largely driven by the AED 116 million acquisition of an additional 7.5% working stake in the Atrush Block from Marathon Oil Kurdistan B.V. in May of this year. The acquired stake increases TAQA’s working interest in the project from 39.9% to 47.4%.

“Additional capex in Iraq was focussed towards bringing new wells on stream and the impact of debottlenecking work to increase the capacity of the current production facility. This has proven to be a worthwhile investment, with TAQA’s entitlement production increasing to 5,728 boe/d in H1 2019, a 149% improvement compared to the previous year.”

It added that this has proven to be a worthwhile investment, with TAQA’s entitlement production increasing to 5,728 boe/d in H1 2019, a 149% improvement compared to the previous year.

The average production by the oil and gas business for the first half of the year increased 3% to 124,760 boe/d, aided by strong well performance in Europe and Iraq.

Commenting on the positive performance, Saeed Mubarak Al Hajeri, Chairman of TAQA, said:

Our solid performance in H1 2019 is underpinned by our strong operational performance.  The Group’s balance sheet remains healthy, and with stable revenues and a further reduction in debt coupled with strong liquidity we remain on course to meet our long term objectives. The recent ratings affirmation from Moody’s is a testament to the stability of our operational performance.

“We also made exciting progress in advancing our strategy of maintaining capital discipline with focused investments in our core assets, such as the Atrush Block. Looking ahead, we remain optimistic and believe that our investments in the UAE and other strategic markets will contribute to a sustained growth story.

(Source: TAQA)

The ISIL conflict displaced 6 million people in Iraq, disrupted the national economy and limited employment opportunities for citizens.

Sixty per cent of jobs in Iraq are in the private sector, within Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs); very large numbers of those businesses experienced loss as a result of the conflict and need support to rebuild.

In Fallujah, for example, an International Organization for Migration (IOM) market assessment found that 69 per cent of construction businesses and 66 per cent of food-related businesses saw their workshops looted or burned between 2014 and 2017. Mosul and numerous other areas also showed high levels of damage and limited access to finance—challenges that EDF is designed to help businesses overcome.

On Monday (05/08), IOM Iraq signed a memorandum of understanding with telecommunications company Asiacell to support innovation under the Enterprise Development Fund (EDF) — a livelihoods programme that contributes to economic recovery and private sector revitalization through tailored support to Small and Medium Enterprises.

The innovation component (EDFi) supports early-stage tech businesses and tech start-ups in Iraq that can contribute to the local economy and create jobs for young people in the tech sector.

“We strongly believe that the engagement of the private sector is a necessary condition for successful and sustainable economic recovery and job creation,” said IOM Chief of Mission Gerard Waite. “IOM Iraq looks forward to a long, productive collaboration with Asiacell, as we work to expand job creation and improve economic opportunities across Iraq.”

“Today marks the start of a strategic partnership between Asiacell and IOM that will bring the EDF-I into effect in Iraq,” added Asiacell CEO Amer Sunna. “Asiacell looks forward to contributing to the development of youth skills and capabilities, and setting the foundation for a powerful and sustainable economy.”

EDF aims to restore essential economic infrastructure by providing financial capital to SMEs in economic sectors that were successful prior to the conflict but suffered loss and damage and have a high demand for labour. By targeting key sectors and providing necessary funding, the EDF encourages rapid but also large-scale job creation. The fund has received hundreds of applications since the pilot phase was launched in September 2018, and 142 business grants have been approved to date.

“After the liberation of Mosul, I sold a small plot of land that I owned and tried my best to reopen my factory,” explained Moufaq Ahmed Mohamed, an EDF beneficiary and owner of an oxygen plant. “I started with only two workers. Later, I received a grant from IOM which enabled me to buy a generator which is crucial to my work.”

“[Before that] I frequently lost hours of work due to sudden power outages,” he continued. “This generator was a boon to my factory; I have been able to produce more, enabling me to hire more people and expand to 11 workers — which means feeding 11 families. This makes me very happy; this kind of support for the private sector contributes to the revival and rebuilding of Mosul.”
EDF forms part of IOM’s work in support of the people and Government of Iraq (GOI) to promote sustainable recovery across the country.

IOM Iraq’s EDF is supported by the USA Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM); the European Commission’s Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development (DG DEVCO); KfW, the German Development Bank; the Government of the Netherlands; and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

(Source: IOM)

Alongside Founder, Chairman and CEO Stephan Crétier (pictured), funds advised by BC Partners, a leading international private investment firm, and others have reached a definitive agreement to acquire Rhône Group‘s equity interest in Garda World Security Corporation (“GardaWorld“), the largest privately-owned security and cash services company in the world, in a C$5.2 billion recapitalization.

Following the transaction close, BC Partners will have a 51% common equity interest in GardaWorld while Stephan Crétier, together with select members of management, will hold 49%.

Founded in 1995 by CEO Stephan Crétier, GardaWorld is the world’s largest privately-owned security services company. Headquartered in Montreal, the company is regarded as an industry leader and offers a wide range of physical and specialized security solutions, as well as end-to-end cash management.

It serves a diverse clientele of private companies, governments, humanitarian organizations and multinationals with its employee base of over 92,000 professionals across North American and EMEA.

Stephan Crétier stated:

GardaWorld has come a long way since its humble beginnings when I started this company with a C$25,000 second mortgage on my home 25 years ago. Today, our operations take us from our head office in Montreal, Quebec to the oil fields of Iraq; from protecting embassies in Africa to serving major U.S. financial institutions and securing Canadian airports.

“At this juncture of our evolution and as we enter our next phase of growth, I am truly excited to partner with BC Partners, who is the ideal co-shareholder to fuel our continued growth as we pursue our path to become a true global champion in the security services sector.

Paolo Notarnicola, lead deal Partner for BC Partners, said:

We look forward to partnering with GardaWorld’s founder Stephan Crétier and management team to further grow the company in the attractive security services industry, which we believe offers significant opportunities for consolidation.

“We admire GardaWorld’s unique entrepreneurial culture and superior operating model, which have contributed to its track record of best-in-class performance over the years. Looking forward, we are confident that our partnership will add significant value as the company continues to expand its reach.”

Raymond Svider, Partner and Chairman of BC Partners added:

“GardaWorld marks the latest transaction where we partner with an exceptional entrepreneur and team to continue to transform the business and take it to the next phase of growth. This is also the largest private buyout in Canadian history. We are thankful to Stephan Crétier and his team for their trust and are looking forward to a great partnership and an exciting journey together:”

The GardaWorld Board of Directors wishes to thank Rhône Capital for its contributions as a shareholder over the past three years. During Rhône’s involvement since 2016, GardaWorld continued to deliver strong organic growth and added new strategic platforms to its family through the company’s M&A program, while continuing to provide the highest standard of trusted service on which the company has built its differentiated reputation since 1995.

Following the close of today’s announced transaction, Rhône Capital will no longer have any equity participation in GardaWorld.

The transaction, which is subject to customary closing conditions, is expected to close by late 2019. Further financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Barclays and TD Securities acted as financial advisors to GardaWorld. Scotiabank acted as financial advisors to BC Partners. Committed financing for the transaction is being provided by JPMorgan Chase Bank, Bank of America, Barclays and TD Securities. Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP and Séguin, Racine LLC acted as legal counsel to GardaWorld while Kirkland and Ellis LLP and Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP acted as legal counsel to BC Partners.

(Source: GardaWorld)

On Thursday, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated two militia figures, Rayan al-Kildani and Waad Qado, and two former Iraqi governors, Nawfal Hammadi al-Sultan and Ahmed al-Jubouri, pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13818, which builds upon and implements the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act and targets perpetrators of serious human rights abuse and corruption.

“The United States is taking action against four individuals in Iraq implicated in serious human rights abuse or corruption,” said Sigal Mandelker, Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence. “We will continue to hold accountable persons associated with serious human rights abuse, including persecution of religious minorities, and corrupt officials who exploit their positions of public trust to line their pockets and hoard power at the expense of their citizens.”

Many of the corruption- and abuse-related actions committed by these sanctioned individuals occurred in areas where persecuted religious communities are struggling to recover from the horrors inflicted on them by ISIS.  Therefore, today’s sanctions demonstrate solidarity with all Iraqis who oppose corruption and human rights abuse undertaken by public officials, and underscore the Administration’s commitment to support the recovery of persecuted religious communities in Iraq.

As a result of today’s actions, all property and interests in property of these individuals, and any entities that are owned, directly or indirectly, 50 percent or more by these individuals, that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons must be blocked and reported to OFAC.  OFAC’s regulations generally prohibit any dealings by U.S. persons or within (or transiting) the United States that involve any property or interests in property of blocked persons.

RAYAN AL-KILDANI

Rayan al-Kildani (al-Kildani) was designated for being a foreign person who is responsible for or complicit in, or who has directly or indirectly engaged in, serious human rights abuse.

Al-Kildani is the leader of the 50th Brigade militia.  In May 2018, a video circulated among Iraqi human rights civil society organizations in which al-Kildani cut off the ear of a handcuffed detainee.

The 50th Brigade is reportedly the primary impediment to the return of internally displaced persons to the Ninewa Plain.  The 50th Brigade has systematically looted homes in Batnaya, which is struggling to recover from ISIS’s brutal rule.  The 50th Brigade has reportedly illegally seized and sold agricultural land, and the local population has accused the group of intimidation, extortion, and harassment of women.

WAAD QADO

Waad Qado (Qado) was designated for being a foreign person who is or has been a leader or official of an entity, including any government entity, that has engaged in, or whose members have engaged in, serious human rights abuse relating to the leader’s or official’s tenure.

Qado is the leader of the 30th Brigade militia.  The 30th Brigade has extracted money from the population around Bartalla, in the Ninewa Plain, through extortion, illegal arrests, and kidnappings.  The 30th Brigade has frequently detained people without warrants, or with fraudulent warrants, and has charged arbitrary customs fees at its checkpoints.  Members of the local population allege that the 30th Brigade has been responsible for egregious offenses including physical intimidation, extortion, robbery, kidnapping, and rape.

NAWFAL HAMMADI AL-SULTAN

Nawfal Hammadi al-Sultan (al-Sultan) is designated for being a foreign person who is a current or former government official, or a person acting for or on behalf of such an official, who is responsible for or complicit in, or who has directly or indirectly engaged in, corruption, including the misappropriation of state assets, the expropriation of private assets for personal gain, corruption related to government contracts or the extraction of natural resources, or bribery.

Al-Sultan is a former governor of Ninewa Province, Iraq.  Following a ferry accident in Ninewa’s capital, Mosul, that killed nearly 100 people, Iraq’s parliament removed al-Sultan from office.  The ferry, loaded to five times its capacity, had been carrying families to an island on the Tigris River when it sank.  Iraqi authorities have issued an arrest warrant for the former governor, who fled shortly after the accident.

In a letter to Members of Parliament after the ferry accident, Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi accused al-Sultan of negligence and dereliction of duty, and said there was evidence the former governor was misusing funds and abusing his power.  On March 27, 2019, the Ninewa investigations court said the former governor and several other officials were suspected of misusing their powers and wasting public money.

Al-Sultan has faced allegations of widespread corruption since 1994.  He was removed from his first post as mayor because of corruption and a conviction on smuggling charges.  In 2017, the United Nations Development Program suspended reconstruction projects after multiple allegations of al-Sultan siphoning off United Nations funds.

AHMED AL-JUBOURI

Ahmed al-Jubouri (al-Jubouri) is designated for being a foreign person who is a current or former government official, or a person acting for or on behalf of such an official, who is responsible for or complicit in, or who has directly or indirectly engaged in, corruption, including the misappropriation of state assets, the expropriation of private assets for personal gain, corruption related to government contracts or the extraction of natural resources, or bribery.

Al-Jubouri, also known as Abu Mazin, is a former governor of Salah al-Din, Iraq, and current Member of Parliament who has engaged in corruption.  Al-Jubouri was removed as governor and sentenced to prison in July 2017 upon conviction for misusing authority and federal funds and appropriating land for personal use.  Al-Jubouri has since been released.  Al-Jubouri has been known to protect his personal interests by accommodating Iran-backed proxies that operate outside of state control.

GLOBAL MAGNITSKY

Building upon the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, on December 20, 2017, the President signed E.O. 13818, “Blocking the Property of Persons Involved in Serious Human Rights Abuse or Corruption,” in which the President found that the prevalence of human rights abuse and corruption that have their source, in whole or in substantial part, outside the United States, has reached such scope and gravity that they threaten the stability of international political and economic systems.  Human rights abuse and corruption undermine the values that form an essential foundation of stable, secure, and functioning societies; have devastating impacts on individuals; weaken democratic institutions; degrade the rule of law; perpetuate violent conflicts; facilitate the activities of dangerous persons; and undermine economic markets.  The United States seeks to impose tangible and significant consequences on those who commit serious human rights abuse or engage in corruption, as well as to protect the financial system of the United States from abuse by these same persons.

To date, OFAC has sanctioned 113 individuals and entities pursuant to E.O. 13818.  These designations are in addition to the numerous human rights- or corruption-related designations Treasury has issued under various other sanctions authorities.  In total, since January 2017, Treasury has taken action against more than 680 individuals and entities engaged in activities related to, or directly involving, human rights abuse and/or corruption.  The Treasury Department has also published advisories to U.S. financial institutions on human rights abuses enabled by corrupt senior foreign political figures and their financial facilitators that can be found here, as well as advisories related to some of the programs listed above, which can be found here.

View identifying information on the individuals designated today.

(Source: OFAC)