By Aymen Salman, for The Station. Re-published with permission by Iraq Business News.

As the impact of the health and economic crisis ravages, the world start-ups are trying to overcome the economic difficulties they face; these projects face an existential threat that has damaged many companies around the world.

Despite the pessimistic circumstances, we can find many start-ups trying to adapt to the new reality by opening up to new activities or providing new services.

One of those projects is Science Camp (The Iraqi Maker Space), which is the Iraqi version of the Global Maker Movement. The maker space is a space and community of “makers” that provides an optimum environment for tech-innovation and entrepreneurship.

Science Camp was founded in 2013 by Nawres Arif in Basra, to recreate Iraqi society from technological, economic and cultural aspects. Science Camp’s community consists of innovators working in different fields.

The infrastructure and the friendly maker culture has made Science Camp, a unique space for innovators and “out of the box thinkers” to share new ideas freely and test it practically. It’s the first and only Iraqi Fab Lab (Fabrication Laboratory) 1 on the global Fab Labs map. Since the first wave of COVID-19 that hit Iraq, the Science Camp team started to think of how to use their makerspace to support the Iraqi health sector by keeping up with the needs of those at the frontline.

This assistance has come in the form of producing, designing, testing, and distributing more than 10,000 face shields freely for medical staff in Basra and other 6 cities in Iraq. They have also supported locals making more than 17,000 face shields in Tikrit in collaboration with Tikrit University. They have also shared their designs with 6 countries until now.

In addition, the team at Science Camp in an attempt to maintain jobs in the local private sector (particularly local water factories), Science Camp has successfully 3D-printed spare parts to be used in the local water factories as a replacement for the imported parts, which are unavailable because of supply chain difficulties due to the COVID-19 crisis. In the meantime, they are reverse engineering those parts and using the maker movement’s digital fabrication & 3D printing.

Science Camp has given everyone a great example of how to adapt to quick changes, and how to turn obstacles into opportunities. With their efforts and ambition, they definitely will play a tremendous role in empowering the youth of Basra.

More here: https://www.facebook.com/Iraqimakerspace%20%20/

The Cabinet held its weekly meeting on Tuesday under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi.

The Cabinet discussed the needs of Iraq’s health sector, and agreed several measures to expand existing capacity and introduce new services. The measures included:

  • Adding additional ward capacity for the treatment of cancer patients at the National Amal Hospital and the National Cancer Centre
  • Establishing general nuclear medicine centres in Anbar, Basra, Babylon, Najaf and Nineveh provinces

The Cabinet discussed other policies and agreed to:

  • Make a one-off payment in the sum of 75,000 dinars to citizens who receive social security benefits on the occasion of Eid Al-Adha
  • Cancel the outstanding debt due from 17,552 families who receive social security support
  • Appoint graduates of medical colleges to positions in the health sector
  • Refer Al-Khairat Power Station Project to the consortium led by Hyundai. This important project will contribute to increased power generation and support the operation of the Karbala Refinery Project
  • Approve a recommendation from the Ministerial Council on Energy in relation to the fluid catalytic cracking (FCC) project at Basra Refinery

The Cabinet reviewed and approved a number of other measures and policies.

(Source: Govt of Iraq)

The number of cases of COVID-19-infected persons is also rapidly increasing in Iraq. The peak of the disease is expected in autumn. At least four new hospitals are to be built in the country’s largest cities by then.

KfW is financing the construction on behalf of the German government with an initial amount of EUR 15 million. The contract was signed 23 July 2020.

At the end of April lockdown and corona restrictions were lifted in Iraq. Since then the number of cases has risen sharply. A peak in infections is expected in autumn, which will overburden the infrastructure of the health care facilities.

By then, almost 50,000 beds in hospitals, including 12,000 intensive care beds, will be needed for the treatment of COVID-19 patients alone. In Iraq, however, there are only just under 50,000 hospital beds at all, including about 700 intensive care beds.

To support the Iraqi health system KfW is financing the construction of at least four hospitals on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) with an initial EUR 15 million. It is being examined whether further hospitals can be financed in a further phase.

A simulation of the course of infection according to a WHO model showed that the conurbations will suffer the highest case numbers. Therefore, four hospitals are planned in the major cities of Baghdad, Basra, Niniveh and Süleymaniye.

They will initially be built as temporary hospitals in modular prefabricated construction, but in the long term they can serve as regular hospitals. Each hospital will have 100 beds, including 40 intensive care beds. In the short term, more than 7,000 patients will benefit directly. But the separate treatment of COVID-19 patients in separate facilities is beneficial for all patients in the country, because otherwise isolation could not be guaranteed.

“This is a quick and lean response to the pandemic in Iraq, but we have to win the race against time and build the hospitals before case numbers continue to escalate,” stresses KfW portfolio manager Moritz Remé. After many years of armed conflict the need for reconstruction in Iraq is particularly high. Income from the oil business has fallen due to the sharp drop in prices in recent months. Help from Germany is therefore urgently needed in Iraq.

(Source: KfW)

By John Lee.

The Iraqi Foreign Ministry has said it will no longer issue visas at border crossings for Turkish citizens wanting to visit Iraq.

In a statement, it accused Turkey of violating a 2009 deal that eased the visa process for citizens of the two countries:

Iraq is keen to adhere to the agreements and the memorandums of understanding it has with the countries of the world within the framework of exchanging interests and enhancing bilateral cooperation.

“Iraq had concluded a consular memorandum of understanding with the Republic of Turkey in 2009, stipulating that the traveler obtain the entry visa at border crossing points without reviewing the relevant embassy or consulate; In order to facilitate the movement of nationals of both countries, the Turkish side suspended work on the content of this memorandum, on its part the Iraqi government decided to suspend it in application of the principle of reciprocity.

“The Foreign Ministry informed our embassy in Ankara of the decision to inform the relevant authorities, and we have informed the embassy of the Republic of Turkey in Baghdad of this decision.
Discussions are still ongoing with the Turkish side on the memorandum of understanding under discussion.

(Source: Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi on Sunday chaired a meeting of the Higher Committee for Health and National Safety.

At the start of the meeting, the Prime Minister thanked Iraqi health workers and paid tribute to their efforts during the coronavirus pandemic, and for treating and looking after those affected by Covid-19.

In his remarks, the Prime Minister underscored the role of citizens in combatting Covid-19 and the importance of following preventive health guidance, social distancing and other rules.

Following discussions, the Higher Committee decided to:

  • Impose a total curfew during the Eid al-Adha holiday, from Thursday 30 July until Sunday 9 August
  • Permit private health clinics to reopen provided that they meet the conditions set by the Ministry of Health and the Iraqi Doctors’ Syndicate
  • Approve the recommendations on Covid-19 preventive measures at Iraqi airports
  • Direct the Ministry of Health to provide the  necessary support to investors wishing to build medical oxygen production plants
  • Direct the Secretary General of the Council of Ministers to liaise with the authorities in the state of Kuwait in order to facilitate the entry of medical oxygen tanks to Iraq through the Safwan border crossing in Basra
  • Direct the security forces to implement the decisions of the Higher Committee regarding the wearing of face masks, social distancing rules and other directives, including the imposition of fines and the seizure of vehicles of those who break the rules.

(Source: Govt of Iraq)

A senior Iraqi official said the construction work for establishing a major railway project connecting the Arab country to neighboring Iran will get underway not in the too distant future.

“The railway between Iran and Iraq through the Shalamcheh link will get going soon,” said Qasim al-Araji, a national security adviser to the Iraqi government, in a tweet on Thursday.

The announcement comes just days after a high-ranking Iraqi delegation traveled to Iran to discuss key issues with officials in Tehran, Press TV reported.

The announcement by Araji, a former interior minister of Iraq, could be a sign that Iran and Iraq have reached fresh arrangements on how they can finish a project that that has stalled on the Iraqi side of the border for almost eight years.

Iran’s Mostazafan Foundation (MFJ), a semi-governmental charity with years of experience in construction activities, is responsible for funding and execution of the entire project in Iran and Iraq.

Iran has finished its side of the railway, a 17-koilometer link between the cities of Khoramshahr and Shalamcheh. However, MFJ plans for continuing the project into Iraq hit a snag in 2014 when the Arab country became involved in an extensive war on terror.

The $150-million project, which spans 47 kilometers through the two territories to reach the Iraqi city of Basra, has also faced issues like mine clearance inside Iraq.

(Source: Tasnim, under Creative Commons licence)

United Nations Secretary-General on COVID-19 and the Arab region: recovery is an opportunity to build back better

The COVID-19 pandemic is wreaking havoc on an Arab region struggling with decades-long development challenges, including occupation and conflict but also a dire economic situation, which have limited States’ capacity to mitigate the impact of the virus.

However, the Arab region can leverage recovery plans as a means to build back better, tackling new and long-standing obstacles in tandem. That is the proposal made by the United Nations Secretary-General’s policy brief launched today on “The impact of COVID-19 on the Arab Region: An Opportunity to Build Back Better”.

The brief argues that the response to the COVID-19 pandemic represents an important opportunity to address some of the structural weaknesses of the Arab region. Conflict, weak public institutions, undiversified economies, inadequate social safety nets, and high unemployment and inequality levels are some of the region’s long-standing vulnerabilities outlined the brief.

Not only have these vulnerabilities been exposed by COVID-19, they have also been exacerbated by its dire repercussions. The brief highlights alarming numbers: an estimated 5% contraction in the economy; one quarter of the population falling into poverty; 17 million jobs lost when 14.3 million adults of working age were already unemployed; and heightened risks for the 55 million people in need of humanitarian assistance, including the 26 million refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs).

“Now is the time to take immediate measures to slow the spread of the disease, end conflict and meet the urgent needs of the most vulnerable,” said António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations. “We must deepen efforts to address inequalities, boost economic recovery through reimagining the region’s economic model, and prioritize human rights,” he affirmed.

The brief also underlines the strengths and opportunities that Arab countries can leverage to build back better. Those include a determined young population that should be further empowered; educated women and girls whose equal rights should be upheld and participation ensured; and an active private sector that can become a recovery booster, namely through further investment in human capital, technology and innovation.

The Secretary-General also invited Arab States to “ensure a vibrant civil society and free media and create more accountable institutions that will increase citizen trust and strengthen the social contract”.

According to the brief, for the region to build back better, health-sector and social protection reforms should be widened; provisions for continued access to education should be adopted; and steps to ensure Arab countries’ greater access to funds, such as a regional solidarity fund, could be taken.

(Source: UN)

United Nations Secretary-General on COVID-19 and the Arab region: recovery is an opportunity to build back better

The COVID-19 pandemic is wreaking havoc on an Arab region struggling with decades-long development challenges, including occupation and conflict but also a dire economic situation, which have limited States’ capacity to mitigate the impact of the virus.

However, the Arab region can leverage recovery plans as a means to build back better, tackling new and long-standing obstacles in tandem. That is the proposal made by the United Nations Secretary-General’s policy brief launched today on “The impact of COVID-19 on the Arab Region: An Opportunity to Build Back Better”.

The brief argues that the response to the COVID-19 pandemic represents an important opportunity to address some of the structural weaknesses of the Arab region. Conflict, weak public institutions, undiversified economies, inadequate social safety nets, and high unemployment and inequality levels are some of the region’s long-standing vulnerabilities outlined the brief.

Not only have these vulnerabilities been exposed by COVID-19, they have also been exacerbated by its dire repercussions. The brief highlights alarming numbers: an estimated 5% contraction in the economy; one quarter of the population falling into poverty; 17 million jobs lost when 14.3 million adults of working age were already unemployed; and heightened risks for the 55 million people in need of humanitarian assistance, including the 26 million refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs).

“Now is the time to take immediate measures to slow the spread of the disease, end conflict and meet the urgent needs of the most vulnerable,” said António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations. “We must deepen efforts to address inequalities, boost economic recovery through reimagining the region’s economic model, and prioritize human rights,” he affirmed.

The brief also underlines the strengths and opportunities that Arab countries can leverage to build back better. Those include a determined young population that should be further empowered; educated women and girls whose equal rights should be upheld and participation ensured; and an active private sector that can become a recovery booster, namely through further investment in human capital, technology and innovation.

The Secretary-General also invited Arab States to “ensure a vibrant civil society and free media and create more accountable institutions that will increase citizen trust and strengthen the social contract”.

According to the brief, for the region to build back better, health-sector and social protection reforms should be widened; provisions for continued access to education should be adopted; and steps to ensure Arab countries’ greater access to funds, such as a regional solidarity fund, could be taken.

(Source: UN)

Northern Gulf Partners, a frontier market investment firm, and California-based Pay It Forward Venture Capital, have led a seven-figure US dollar seed round investment in Lezzoo, a delivery and e-payment platform that aims to become Iraq’s first super-app.

Lezzoo received a pre-seed investment from Silicon Valley’s Y Combinator and is the only Iraqi start-up accepted into its well-known accelerator program. Angel investors and family offices in the USA, Europe and the Middle East joined the seed round.

Lezzoo delivers items such as prepared food, groceries and pharmaceuticals in several Iraqi cities. The recently launched Lezzoo Pay seeks to disrupt Iraq’s predominantly cash-based society by bringing digital transactions to a population that is majority unbanked.

Lezzoo founder and CEO Yadgar Merani said:

“We are using technology to solve the biggest logistical challenges in people’s daily lives. This investment will allow us to expand across the country while also rolling out new verticals. By integrating deliveries, transportation, payments and other services we are on our way to becoming the super-app for Iraqis.”

Zaab Sethna, partner at Northern Gulf Partners, said:

“Lezzoo has a forward-thinking, creative and dynamic team of founders and we are excited to back them. Iraq is a country with a young, connected and increasingly sophisticated population. Incomes are rising but the barriers to entry remain high and this gives an advantage to home-grown firms.”

Raaid Hossain, General Partner of Pay It Forward Venture Capital, said:

“We are proud and privileged to be able to back Lezzoo, a company that challenges the status quo by providing a best in class delivery experience for consumers, as well as drives the spirit of digital entrepreneurship in Iraq. We believe that a connected service industry, especially during times of restricted movement due to covid-19, is paramount to staying safe, healthy and feeling a sense of comfort. We truly believe Yadgar and the team are doing their part to make the world a better place.

(Source: NGP)

The Iraqi Cabinet held its weekly meeting in the city of Basra on Wednesday under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi.

At the start of the meeting, the Prime Minister said that the Cabinet meeting in Basra is the first of a series of such meetings that will take place in other Iraqi cities and provinces.

The Prime Minister added that Basra is Iraq’s economic and cultural gateway and has a special place in the hearts of all Iraqis.

The Prime Minister paid tribute to the people of Basra, saying they have endured the horrors of dictatorship and wars, just as they endured the consequences of corruption, mismanagement and bad planning that afflicted their city and its environment.

The Cabinet then discussed several projects in Basra, and agreed to:

  • Press ahead with contracting procedures in relation to the Great Basra Water Project, and for the work on this strategic project to commence
  • Direct the Ministry of Water Resources, in cooperation with the Ministry of Construction and Housing, and Basra Governorate, to submit a plan to implement the Al-Bida Water Project
  • Direct the Ministries of Finance and Planning to include Al-Bida Water Project in the 2021 Federal Budget
  • Establish an infrastructure implementation programme to press ahead with the distribution of residential plots of land to entitled groups through the Ministry of Construction, Housing and Municipalities which will work with the consultant contracted by Basra Governorate to review and update the designs of Al-Sayyab Residential city
  • Authorise the Governor of Basra to pay the salaries of 30,000 Basra citizens from the Governorate cash reserves
  • Refer all delayed projects in Basra to the Ministerial Council on Services which will submit to the Cabinet recommendations to expedite them
  • Refer Al-Zubair Sewage Project to the Ministerial Council on Social Services which is required to make recommendations to the Cabinet to expedite the project after inviting the Governor of Basra to take part in its deliberations.

(Source: Govt of Iraq)