Despite the combined pressures of a global pandemic, political deadlock, falling oil prices and continued violence against government forces and others, SKA has continued to deliver over 90% of Iraq’s imported fuel requirements.

SKA’s unique partnership with the Ministry of Oil’s Oil Pipeline Company (OPC) and the close cooperation of Ministry of Transport’s General Company for the Ports of Iraq (GCPI) have ensured that vital supplies of imported diesel and gasoline continue to flow.

SKA’s CEO, Mr Mike Douglas said:

This is what SKA does. We stand firm in the face of adversity and get the job done. These combined challenges just make us more determined to succeed. Fuel supplies are vital to industry, transport and power generation and we will keep them flowing.

“Of note, the vital dredging we just completed during the curfew, guarantees that the biggest cargos on LR2 vessels, are not stalled; before we started, that size of ship had never been seen in the river. The company was built on the motto of “doing difficult jobs in difficult places” and now, more than ever, that is true.”

“We thank all our local and expatriate staff, and the Iraq Government, for their steadfast support and cooperation. We realize that it is not easy to be away from homes and families in these challenging times, but together we will continue to ensure that the Iraqi people get what they need to overcome these daily challenges. We hope and pray that SKA as a company and Iraq as a nation will emerge stronger at the end of all this”.

SKA operates the only private Maritime Oil Storage and Distribution Terminal in Iraq. Combined with the joint operation of the oil import jetties in Khor Al Zubair Port, SKA is responsible to the importation of over 90% of Iraq’s oil product import demand. SKA has ensured that this vital infrastructure is operated, maintained and enhanced during this difficult time.

SKA, in partnership with the Iraq Government, hopes to build on this success in the future with further enhancements to the import and export infrastructure. Mike Douglas said:

“We will overcome the current challenges and in the future build and operate more oil product storage in Khor Al Zubair. This will provide increased volumes for import and much needed cargo consolidation for export. It will also provide much needed employment for the local population. We have been in Iraq for 17 years and are here to stay.”

(Source: IBBC)

By John Lee.

Aqaba Container Terminal (ACT) has reported that its strategy to promote Aqaba as a gateway to Iraq and the wider Levant has delivered “a sharp increase in containers to Iraq (up 367% compared to previous year), and thus contributed to the positive results recorded for the past few months“.

The Founder and CEO of the Jordan-based Nile International Freight Services, Nasri Aqrabawi, said:

“We have found in ACT a true business partner which has supported us to develop the most efficient supply chain into Iraq.”

(Source: ACT)

By Alice Bosley and Patricia Letayf, Co-Founders of Five One Labs.

Investing in Iraq: Lessons Learned from 2 Startup Deals in 2019

2019 showed an exciting development for Iraq’s entrepreneurial ecosystem: the investments in two Iraqi tech startups – e-commerce company Miswag, which received investment from Iraq Tech Ventures, and Lezzoo, the first Iraqi startup to join Silicon Valley’s premier accelerator Y Combinator.

In October 2019 Five One Labs hosted its second delegation of regional and international investors to the Kurdistan Region to expand understanding of the Iraqi business environment and startup ecosystem; to build bridges between international and Iraq business communities; and to expose local entrepreneurs to global best practices.

Through conversations with both early- and growth-stage entrepreneurs and discussions with local businesses and government representatives, the group of 17 investors received first-hand information about the business environment and entrepreneurship ecosystem on the ground in Iraq.

We spoke with the investors from the trip and had conversations with Yadgar Merani, co-founder of Lezzoo, and Laura Olivier, Executive Director of Iraq Tech Ventures, to dive into key challenges and opportunities for investment in Iraq, from the investor and entrepreneur perspectives.

Iraq’s lack of market data and challenging regulatory environment make it hard for investors and entrepreneurs to agree on the level of risk and opportunity.

According to Merani, one of the main challenges Lezzoo faced when speaking to investors outside of Iraq was convincing them of the country’s market size and providing them with accurate answers to specific market-sizing questions. Obtaining accurate estimates of the market is of course important for investors as it impacts projections of cash flow and potential valuation.

While data on numbers of pharmacies or schools, for example, are publicly available in other countries, the lack of easily-accessible market data and the reluctance of certain government ministries to provide this data has forced entrepreneurs in Iraq to rely on assumptions when sizing the market. Merani says that while Lezzoo tried to gather this information from various ministries, the team was often told that the information Lezzoo was seeking was either unavailable or confidential.

Additionally, the lack of general understanding of the Iraqi market and the risks of investing in a post-conflict environment mean that entrepreneurs may need to provide potential investors with additional information — and this is a point that has been expressed by a number of Iraqi startups seeking to raise their seed rounds. Merani said that on multiple occasions when trying to raise funds in the US, he was repeatedly asked questions like, “What happens if the internet goes out in the whole country? What would you do?” And this uncertainty or concern over volatility in Iraq may result in lower valuations for startups.

This added scrutiny also extends to the investment itself. The syndicate of investors that invested in Miswag’s seed round (four angel investors and one institutional investor) experienced legal challenges from the outset. When trying to create a special purpose vehicle (SPV) for Miswag in the financial free zone Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM), ADGM repeatedly asked for more documentation given the startup was incorporated in Iraq. After several months, the investors eventually decided to invest directly into Miswag’s bank accounts in Iraq rather than through this SPV.

Olivier of Iraq Tech Ventures also mentioned another challenge:

“One difficulty we experienced recently was that many of the investors’ transfers were heavily delayed due to banks needing extra documentation due to the scrutiny that goes into processing transfers to Iraq.”

However, local and regional investors are willing to put in the work, and entrepreneurs are rising to the challenge.

One of the Five One Labs investor trip participants, Anas Elayyan, said:

“Since inception, iMENA Group has been on the lookout for extraordinary founders and startups operating in under-served markets. The new wave of founders and entrepreneurs that we met in Iraq in the last few months are the real assets for Iraq’s future. Those entrepreneurs have been hustling in the system to mark a new digital era for Iraq. We, at iMENA Group, are very excited to be part of that era.” 

For Miswag, the success of the syndicate’s investment can likely be attributed in part to the fact that the investors were familiar with the market. Four of the five investors were Iraqis who work in Iraq but live outside of the country. Because of their knowledge of the operating environment, they were willing to invest directly rather than establishing an offshore entity.

Both on the investor and entrepreneur side, there are key innovators who are willing to take higher risks in order to show that high-growth startups can be built and grown in Iraq. “There are so many opportunities for entrepreneurs in Iraq to take the lead,” Merani says, “because Iraq needs so much.

Looking ahead to 2020, we look forward to seeing more investments in Iraq’s tech startups and to welcoming another delegation of international investors to the Kurdistan Region later this year.

Please click here to download the full report in pdf format.

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Five One Labs is a start-up incubator that helps refugees and conflict-affected entrepreneurs launch and grow their businesses in the Middle East. Launching first in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, we aim to empower individuals to rebuild their lives and livelihoods and to contribute to the economic growth of their communities.

Five One Labs entrepreneurs are provided with training; mentorship by world class entrepreneurs from the USA and the Middle East; and a community of creative changemakers to share their experiences with. 

Our vision is to develop an inclusive network of innovators and entrepreneurs that have the support, skills, and connections to positively change their communities and countries.

By John Lee.

Aviation services group Air Partner has said that it has received increased interest in its “emergency planning” services as a result of recent events in Iraq and Iran.

In a trading update for the year ending 31 January 2020, the company reported:

Heightened tensions in the Middle East have resulted in increased interest in our Emergency Planning product.

“We received several enquiries for Evacuations during and immediately post the events in Iran/Iraq at the beginning of 2020 and we continue to monitor the situation in the region.

(Source: Air Partner)

Headquartered in the UK, Abacus Cambridge Partners, a leading consulting, technology, and outsourcing company, has announced a strategic partnership with Deep Engineering, a premier engineering company and a subsidiary of Joto Leading Group, to expand its presence in Northern Iraq by offering digital transformation solutions to the private and public sectors.

Technology plays an increasingly critical role in every aspect of a business. Leaders in the public and private sectors in Northern Iraq recognise the need to accelerate the development of digital solutions to ensure competitiveness.

The Abacus-Deep Engineering partnership brings together extensive skills in business and technology strategy, technology development and deployment, and organisational change management to help transform organisations across Northern Iraq.

Speaking on the signing ceremony, Yu Huang Chan, CEO of Deep Engineering, remarked:

“We think it’s a productive agreement as Iraq is now booming. We are happy to have this partnership with Abacus.”

Abbas Khan, CEO of Abacus, added:

“I am pleased to announce that we have now entered into a strategic framework agreement with Deep Engineering. Through this collaboration, we will be able to create massive opportunities for customers across the region. Our alliance with Deep Engineering is going to result in mutually beneficial outcomes.”

The partnership will play a fundamental role in achieving Iraq’s vision 2030, which is driven by digital transformation.

(Source: Abacus Cambridge)

China-based HQTS has been awarded a Conformity Certification (COC) certificate by the Government of Iraq to conduct quality assurance services on imported goods to the country.

Iraq’s Minister of Planning, Dr. Nouri Sabah al-Dulaimi, announced yesterday that HQTS was one of the just four successful bids and the only Chinese company selected out of 19 possible entries for this special opportunity.

This certificate, awarded by Iraq’s Central Organization for Standardization and Quality Control (COSQC), plays a vital role in the Iraqi economy. As per Iraqi law, all imported goods to the country must be inspected by a third party inspection company authorized by the COSQC. Given the scale of Iraq’s reconstruction and development efforts, this is a significant opportunity for HQTS.

As one of the world’s key energy exporters, Iraq is entering a period of increased stability and reconstruction with a growing consumer middle class. For this reason, the country will need many imported goods and products from around the world.

As one of the world’s industry-leading quality assurance service providers, HQTS is ready to ensure that the Iraqi government and its people receive only the highest quality goods the world has to offer.

(Source: Newswire)

By John Lee.

Swiss-based has won a contract with the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) for the provision of “Explosive Hazard Clearance Teams (EHC Teams) and Risk Education (RE) in Iraq with International Technical Oversight Component: Sinjar & Tal Afar“.

The contract is worth $2,548,636.

(Source: UNGM)

By John Lee.

Swiss-based has won a contract with the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) for the provision of “Explosive Hazard Clearance Teams (EHC Teams) and Risk Education (RE) in Iraq with International Technical Oversight Component: Sinjar & Tal Afar“.

The contract is worth $2,548,636.

(Source: UNGM)

IBBC host a roundtable discussion with His Excellency, Mr Jaafar Al-Sadr

On Wednesday 4th December the Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC) was pleased to host a roundtable discussion chaired by IBBC President Baroness Nicholson with Iraq’s newly appointed Ambassador to the UK, His Excellency, Mr Jaafar Al-Sadr, and fellow diplomats Dr Ahmed Al-Nakash and Ms Hanaa Jawad.

The meeting was attended by several IBBC member representatives including from Al Hadeel Al Hassan LLC, Constellis, EAME, Ernst & Young, March Holdings, Mutual Finance Ltd, Perkins & Will, Protechnique, PWC, Rolls Royce, RSK, Shell, Unihouse Global and Xratech.

His Excellency, Mr Al-Sadr introduced himself and opened a constructive discussion on current affairs in Iraq.

Baroness Nicholson, gave a summary of the history of IBBC in Iraq, its membership and the many events and activities it supports Iraq and the UK.

There was a good interactive discussion which identified opportunities for further cooperation between IBBC, its members and the Government of Iraq. Baroness Nicholson noted that the IBBC and its members looked forward to working closely with the Ambassador in the months and years ahead, and HE Al-Sadr expressed his appreciation for the continuing support of IBBC and its many members.

(Source: IBBC)

By John Lee.

Gulf Air, the national carrier of the Kingdom of Bahrain, has announced the resumption of its direct services between Bahrain and Erbil in Iraq; further strengthening the airline’s existing Iraqi routes of Baghdad and Najaf.

The airline’s services to Erbil will commence on 02 February 2020, and will see Gulf Air’s three weekly flights between Bahrain International Airport and Erbil International Airport operated with an Airbus A320 aircraft.

(Source: Gulf Air)