By Rasha Mahmoud for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Looking to make inroads into reconstruction projects in Libya and Iraq, Cairo kicked off its annual Builders of Egypt Forum, one of the country’s biggest events in the construction industry.

Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly addressed the audience at the June 16 conference, which drew government officials, builders and bank officials to discuss opportunities available for the Egyptian construction companies abroad.

Click here to read the full story.

Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon have committed to digitally transform their countries, discussing their roadmaps to support the Mashreq region’s integration into the rapidly evolving global digital economy.

The commitments came on the first day of the landmark, high-level forum on Digital Economy and Entrepreneurship Development in Mashreq, which was  hosted by the Government of Jordan and organized jointly with the World Bank Group.

The three governments had identified the challenges and solutions that would allow Mashreq countries to realize more gains to their economies and societies. Digitalization is shaping the present and future of economic activities as it brings about higher productivity, efficiencies and quicker inclusion of lagging economic and social groups, such as women and youth.

Mobile and digital solutions are contributing to facilitating greater financial inclusion. E-commerce and other digital applications are being leveraged to promote entrepreneurship, including the empowerment of women as entrepreneurs, and digital solutions are being sought to improve access to learning resources in an easier and less expensive way.

The Mobile Gender Report for 2018 lists a gender gap in mobile ownership among women in the region which can reach up to 20%. while this gap is only 2% in countries like Egypt or Turkey. Bringing this gap to less than 4% everywhere in the Mashreq would bring income opportunities for women in the region. Broadband access is estimated to increase employment among married women by as much as 4% in high income economies.

Broadly speaking, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon face similar obstacles to their quest to transform Mashreq into a regional hub for IT and Business Process Outsourcing.  Policymakers, international and regional businesses, startups and investors all convened at the King Hussein Business Park to enrich the discussion with their expertise and experience on how to push this agenda forward.

The digital roadmaps were presented by the three ministers holding the Information Technology portfolio in their respective countries. World Bank Group  committed to supporting these countries achieve their goals with specific focus on increasing broadband access, establishing cashless payment systems and bridging the gender gap in mobile usage.

Iraq

The Government of Iraq (GOI) is committed to further advancing the digital economy and aims to ensure affordable access to high speed internet, by doubling access to broadband to 54% in 2021 and 90% by 2030, achieving 100% broadband network coverage, establishing a conducive regulatory and policy framework for digital payments, developing interoperable digital payments infrastructure, and striving towards 100% financial access. The GOI is also committed to delivering digital government services and ensuring highest standards of cybersecurity and data privacy to boost consumer trust. The GOI is also keen to ensure that education and training programs meet current and future job market skills needs.

Jordan

The Government of Jordan (GOJ) is committed to advancing the digital economy as strategic growth sector for the Kingdom. On digital infrastructure, the GOJ commits to further developing access to internet broadband to reach 100% penetration rate by 2021. As part of that, the GOJ is opening the National Broadband Network (7,000 kilometers of fiber) for Public Private Partnership, allowing affordable fiber broadband to 1.3 million households around Jordan. On digital payments, the GOJ commits to increasing country-level cashless payments from 33 to 50% by 2020 and to digitizing 80% of government to citizens payments by 2021.  On developing digital skills, the GOJ will launch a national skills development initiative to train 35,000 people on the 21st century skills and mainstreaming digital skills in public schools to train 300 thousands by 2022. To enable a friendly business environment for entrepreneurs, the GOJ is committed to launching a regulatory reform process in 2019, following a participatory approach with ecosystem representatives. To complete automation of Government services, the GOJ commits to automate key services by 2021. Building on the recent transformations of the Ministry of ICT to Ministry of Digital Economy and Entrepreneurship, the GOJ will launch its digital transformation action plan in partnership with the ecosystem by end of 2019.

Lebanon

The Government of Lebanon (GOL) is committed to building a Digital Nation and to transform Lebanon into a regional technology and innovation hub. The GOL  is in the process of finalizing its digital transformation plan and aims to double the knowledge economy’s contribution to GDP and double the employment in this sector by 2025. To achieve this, the GOL plans to: (i) reach 100% broadband penetration rate by end of 2021; (ii) develop and execute the digital transformation of the public sector and offer citizens a fully digitized journey across all government services, with 500,000 users signed up to the government digital platform by end of 2021; (iii) provide a supportive regulatory framework to help grow the Fintech industry and facilitate digital payments, launch a new national digital currency by the end of 2020, and launch an Electronic Trading Platform (ETP) to improve financing for private sector activities in 2020; (iv) leverage its pool of skilled and entrepreneurial talent in Lebanon and abroad to build a digital economy focused on innovation and private initiative, increase the number of start-ups fivefold and double yearly venture capital funding by 2025; and (v) address the existing skills gap by preparing the youth for the global, digital jobs of the future through launching a national training academy by 2021.

The World Bank commits to support Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan in achieving their visions and plans for digital transformation by providing the necessary resources and instruments. The World Bank will work closely with the Governments, private sector, academia and civil society to maximize the impact of digitization and reap the digital dividends for their societies. This support will include: (i) pursuing plans to ensure affordable access to high-speed internet and facilitate investment in broadband; (ii) delivering digital government services and improving access to data, while ensuring the highest standards of cybersecurity and data privacy; (iii) developing a modern digital payment infrastructure; (iv) scaling up digital entrepreneurship; and (v) ensuring education and training programs meet current and future skills needs.

More details, including a video of the procedings, can be found here.

The second high-level Digital Mashreq Forum will convene in Beirut in June 2020.

(Source: World Bank)

Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon have committed to digitally transform their countries, discussing their roadmaps to support the Mashreq region’s integration into the rapidly evolving global digital economy.

The commitments came on the first day of the landmark, high-level forum on Digital Economy and Entrepreneurship Development in Mashreq, which was  hosted by the Government of Jordan and organized jointly with the World Bank Group.

The three governments had identified the challenges and solutions that would allow Mashreq countries to realize more gains to their economies and societies. Digitalization is shaping the present and future of economic activities as it brings about higher productivity, efficiencies and quicker inclusion of lagging economic and social groups, such as women and youth.

Mobile and digital solutions are contributing to facilitating greater financial inclusion. E-commerce and other digital applications are being leveraged to promote entrepreneurship, including the empowerment of women as entrepreneurs, and digital solutions are being sought to improve access to learning resources in an easier and less expensive way.

The Mobile Gender Report for 2018 lists a gender gap in mobile ownership among women in the region which can reach up to 20%. while this gap is only 2% in countries like Egypt or Turkey. Bringing this gap to less than 4% everywhere in the Mashreq would bring income opportunities for women in the region. Broadband access is estimated to increase employment among married women by as much as 4% in high income economies.

Broadly speaking, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon face similar obstacles to their quest to transform Mashreq into a regional hub for IT and Business Process Outsourcing.  Policymakers, international and regional businesses, startups and investors all convened at the King Hussein Business Park to enrich the discussion with their expertise and experience on how to push this agenda forward.

The digital roadmaps were presented by the three ministers holding the Information Technology portfolio in their respective countries. World Bank Group  committed to supporting these countries achieve their goals with specific focus on increasing broadband access, establishing cashless payment systems and bridging the gender gap in mobile usage.

Iraq

The Government of Iraq (GOI) is committed to further advancing the digital economy and aims to ensure affordable access to high speed internet, by doubling access to broadband to 54% in 2021 and 90% by 2030, achieving 100% broadband network coverage, establishing a conducive regulatory and policy framework for digital payments, developing interoperable digital payments infrastructure, and striving towards 100% financial access. The GOI is also committed to delivering digital government services and ensuring highest standards of cybersecurity and data privacy to boost consumer trust. The GOI is also keen to ensure that education and training programs meet current and future job market skills needs.

Jordan

The Government of Jordan (GOJ) is committed to advancing the digital economy as strategic growth sector for the Kingdom. On digital infrastructure, the GOJ commits to further developing access to internet broadband to reach 100% penetration rate by 2021. As part of that, the GOJ is opening the National Broadband Network (7,000 kilometers of fiber) for Public Private Partnership, allowing affordable fiber broadband to 1.3 million households around Jordan. On digital payments, the GOJ commits to increasing country-level cashless payments from 33 to 50% by 2020 and to digitizing 80% of government to citizens payments by 2021.  On developing digital skills, the GOJ will launch a national skills development initiative to train 35,000 people on the 21st century skills and mainstreaming digital skills in public schools to train 300 thousands by 2022. To enable a friendly business environment for entrepreneurs, the GOJ is committed to launching a regulatory reform process in 2019, following a participatory approach with ecosystem representatives. To complete automation of Government services, the GOJ commits to automate key services by 2021. Building on the recent transformations of the Ministry of ICT to Ministry of Digital Economy and Entrepreneurship, the GOJ will launch its digital transformation action plan in partnership with the ecosystem by end of 2019.

Lebanon

The Government of Lebanon (GOL) is committed to building a Digital Nation and to transform Lebanon into a regional technology and innovation hub. The GOL  is in the process of finalizing its digital transformation plan and aims to double the knowledge economy’s contribution to GDP and double the employment in this sector by 2025. To achieve this, the GOL plans to: (i) reach 100% broadband penetration rate by end of 2021; (ii) develop and execute the digital transformation of the public sector and offer citizens a fully digitized journey across all government services, with 500,000 users signed up to the government digital platform by end of 2021; (iii) provide a supportive regulatory framework to help grow the Fintech industry and facilitate digital payments, launch a new national digital currency by the end of 2020, and launch an Electronic Trading Platform (ETP) to improve financing for private sector activities in 2020; (iv) leverage its pool of skilled and entrepreneurial talent in Lebanon and abroad to build a digital economy focused on innovation and private initiative, increase the number of start-ups fivefold and double yearly venture capital funding by 2025; and (v) address the existing skills gap by preparing the youth for the global, digital jobs of the future through launching a national training academy by 2021.

The World Bank commits to support Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan in achieving their visions and plans for digital transformation by providing the necessary resources and instruments. The World Bank will work closely with the Governments, private sector, academia and civil society to maximize the impact of digitization and reap the digital dividends for their societies. This support will include: (i) pursuing plans to ensure affordable access to high-speed internet and facilitate investment in broadband; (ii) delivering digital government services and improving access to data, while ensuring the highest standards of cybersecurity and data privacy; (iii) developing a modern digital payment infrastructure; (iv) scaling up digital entrepreneurship; and (v) ensuring education and training programs meet current and future skills needs.

More details, including a video of the procedings, can be found here.

The second high-level Digital Mashreq Forum will convene in Beirut in June 2020.

(Source: World Bank)

On June 9, 2019, Ambassador Matthew H. Tueller presented his credentials to serve as U.S. Ambassador to Iraq to President Barham Salih and Foreign Minister Mohamed Alhakim.

Ambassador Tueller thanked President Salih and Minister Alhakim for their warm reception and commented:

The United States is committed to our Strategic Framework Agreement which defines our bilateral relationship with Iraq as one of America’s most important and strategic partners in the region.

“I am honored to serve as the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq and I look forward to engaging with our Iraqi partners and the Iraqi people to support a united, democratic, and prosperous Iraq.”

Ambassador Tueller replaces former Ambassador Douglas Silliman.

He previously served most recently as U.S. Ambassador to Yemen, U.S. Ambassador to Kuwait, Deputy Chief of Mission at Embassy Cairo, Political Minister Counselor at Embassy Baghdad, and Deputy Chief of Mission at Embassy Kuwait.  His Washington assignments have included serving as the Deputy Director in the Office of Northern Gulf Affairs and as the Egypt Desk Officer.

Ambassador Tueller holds a B.A. from Brigham Young University and a M.P.P. from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.

(Source: U.S. Embassy in Iraq)

By John Lee.

The U.S. Senate has confirmed the nomination of Ambassador Matthew Tueller to be the Ambassador to Iraq.

Tueller has most recently served as U.S. Ambassador to Yemen.

A native of Utah, Utah, his other overseas assignments have included Ambassador to Kuwait, Deputy Chief of Mission at Embassy Cairo; Political Minister Counselor at Embassy Baghdad; Deputy Chief of Mission at Embassy Kuwait; Political Counselor at Embassy Riyadh; Chief of the U.S. Office in Aden, Yemen; Deputy Chief of Mission at Embassy Doha; Political Officer at Embassy London; and Political Officer and Consular Officer at Embassy Amman.

His Washington assignments have included Deputy Director in the Office of Northern Gulf Affairs and Egypt Desk Officer.

(Sources: US Embassy, US State Department)

By John Lee.

Sharjah-based Dana Gas has announced that its average production for Q1 2019 has increased by 6% year-on-year to 68,700 boepd from 65,000 boepd in Q1 2018.

The first quarter production increase was led by the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI), which leapt to 32,750 boepd in Q1 2019 from 26,300 boepd in Q1 2018.

This increase was principally due to additional production from the completed debottlenecking project that came on-stream in October 2018 and took gas production in the KRI from 300 MMscf/d to 400 MMscf/d, an increase of over 30%.

On a quarter by quarter comparison, Q1 2019 production grew by 5% from Q4 2018, reflecting the increase in production from the KRI and supported by having brought the Balsam-8 well in Egypt on-stream in Q4.

Dr Patrick Allman-Ward, CEO, Dana Gas, said:

The two major growth projects completed in 2018 – the debottlenecking project in the KRI and the Balsam-8 well in Egypt – have proven to be materially value accretive both operationally and financially. 

“Our production numbers are up 6% in the first quarter 2019 and we expect this increase in production to have a positive impact on the Company’s revenues since we are now realising gas sales in the KRI and we will be benefiting from the steady increase in oil prices since Q4 2018.

(Source: Dana Gas)

As part of the continues support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to the University of Karbala, a workshop has been conducted for the period 1 to 5 April on the e-learning modules, gathering twenty senior officials and academics from Karbala University, as part of the technical support provided by the Public Sector Modernization (IPSM) Programme to the e-learning units of Karbala University.

UNDP through IPSM Programme has introduced the e-learning approach to two institutions in Iraq; University of Karbala, and National Centre for Management Development and Information Technology (NCMDIT) within the Ministry of Planning (MoP).

DG of the Continuing Learning Center, Prof. Ahmed Hadi Al Yasari said:

“This workshop is very important as it is conducted in conjunction with the launching of the e-learning development plan of Karbala university for the years 2019-2022. The implementation of this plan requires vital efforts and cooperation between the two parties to make Karbala University an advanced university in e-learning, thus improving the quality of education”.

As a result, a team of management and situation analytics specialized in e-Learning has been established in Karbala university, the team will work to explore the best options for transferring into the e-Learning system, depending on international practices provided during the workshop and presentations of global experiences including some of the well-known Egyptian and British universities.

(Source: UNDP)

By Ahmed Gomaa for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News

Cairo hosted a tripartite summit March 24, bringing together Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Jordanian King Abdullah II and Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi.

The summit’s final communique underlined the importance of enhancing coordination between the three countries, and taking advantage of the potential offered by their geographical positions and common strategic and economic interests in order to combat terrorism and confront all those who support terrorist groups by funding, arming or providing safe havens and platforms, particularly in light of the victory Iraq has achieved against the Islamic State (IS).

Click here to read the full story.

By John Lee.

Ride-sharing services Uber, from the United States, and Careem of Dubai, have reached an agreement for Uber to acquire Careem for $3.1 billion, consisting of $1.7 billion in convertible notes and $1.4 billion in cash. The acquisition of Careem is subject to applicable regulatory approvals. The transaction is expected to close in Q1 2020.

Uber will acquire all of Careem’s mobility, delivery, and payments businesses across the greater Middle East region, ranging from Morocco to Pakistan, with major markets including Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

Upon closing, Careem will become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Uber, preserving its brand. Careem co-founder and CEO Mudassir Sheikha will lead the Careem business, which will report to its own board made up of three representatives from Uber and two representatives from Careem. Careem and Uber will operate their respective regional services and independent brands.

Established in July 2012, Careem operates in 120 cities across 15 countries and has created more than one million economic opportunities in the region.

Careem entered the Iraqi market in January 2018.

(Source: Uber)