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)

Seedstars World, the largest seed-stage startup competition for emerging markets and fast-growing startup scenes, hosted its Iraq round this Friday, at The Station, where 8 selected startups were invited to present their companies in front of the local jury panel.

The local winners were chosen for their innovative sustainable solutions on their different fields. The 1st winner of the competition was IOT Kids,  an online platform teaching kids how to code using scratch and also direct courses in certain private schools. IOT Kids will go on to represent Iraq at Seedstars Regional Summit.

In second place went to Tabib Baghdad, an online booking platform that connects doctors with patients.

Third place was taken by Ur Transport, a revolutionary airboat eco friendly design which will serve as the major future infrastructure for rivers.

After a careful screening and training on Day 1, the Seedstars team shortlisted 8 of the best seed-stage startups in Iraq who pitched on August 2 for the opportunity to compete at the Seedstars Summit, that annually takes place in Switzerland. The list of the Jury members will included Ali Hili, Youth and Entrepreneurship at Zain Iraq, Bassem Abdel Hadi Hassan, Spokesperson for the Central Bank of Iraq (CBI), Noor Alhandal, Chairman at Ashur International Bank, Khaled Alabadi, Project Manager at GE, Dhafer Hasan, Programme Analyst at UNDP and Anas Al-Chalabi, Business Development Manager at Social n’ Tech

A lot of partners have supported Seedstars at making this event happen. The Main Partners of the Event are Central Bank of Iraq continue to position themselves as great believers in the impact of entrepreneurship. The Local Partners of the event are The Station and Social N’ Tech . Further support is provided by Careem, one of the regions most successful startups, as Entrepreneurship Partners.

In order to provide local entrepreneurs with this opportunity and aiming to deliver the best possible event, Seedstars closely worked with Mohammad Salah, who is representing the initiative throughout the year. “As the Seedstars ambassadors in Baghdad, we’re more than proud to have hosted the competition in Iraq; This event was a massive networking and funding opportunity to the finalists. Bringing Seedstars to Iraq will open the door for other global incubators, accelerators and competitions by encouraging them to expand to Iraq. we are here to make a difference, to create opportunities and give exposure to the ecosystem” explains Mohamad Salah , Managing Director at Social N Tech.

Mira Charkawi, Community Events Manager at Seedstars also said:

“At Seedstars, we believe talent and good ideas are everywhere. We see ourselves as a platform connecting investors to the next generation of startup entrepreneurs in places where normally people wouldn’t think startup ecosystem have such traction, growth and buzz. We are very excited to have been in Baghdad, highlighting such a bustling entrepreneurship ecosystem and we are here to witness the reality”.

Continuing on its world MENA tour, Seedstars World’s next stop is in Cairo taking place at Seedstars Seedspace on the 21&22 of August. Seedstars World is looking for smart startups that solve regional issues and/or develop profitable products for the global market. Startups are invited to apply on the above mentioned websites.

(Source: Seedstars)

By John Lee.

A major hackathon weekend is planned to take place in Slemani (Sulaymaniyah) on the weekend of 8th to 10th August.

HackaSuly describes itself as “the largest international hackathon in Iraq that brings the coding community together over a weekend to work in teams and turn their ideas into technological solutions“.

More here.

From the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC):

Small projects bring life back to the streets in Mosul

Various small and medium businesses in the Old City of Mosul are supported by the International Committee of the Red Cross as life gradually returns to the streets and people resume their lives.

Some business owners have restored their activities to pre-conflict levels while others are gradually recovering.

And some even earn a higher income than ever before.

Full story here.

Five One Labs is pleased to announce IGNITE, our very first entrepreneurship program focusing on achieving product market fit.

This program will help you better understand the market you are competing in and how you can create the most value for your customers.

We are now recruiting tech-entrepreneurs from communities all around Iraq to participate in this month long program.

If you are passionate about a tech-focused startup idea and want to learn the skills to turn it into a business, this program is right for you!

Apply by May 21 at 11:59pm to be considered.

More details here.

(Source: 51 Labs)

By Ahmed Tabaqchali, for 1001 Iraqi Thoughts.

Iraq’s new entrepreneurial generation of civil activists’ sense of civic duty flourished during the trauma brought by the ISIS takeover of a third of the country in 2014, and has continued to grow since then as reviewed in a recent report.

The report into “A New Generation of Activists Circumvents Iraq’s Political Paralysis” also looked into the origins and the determination of these civil activists to “develop solutions to policy problems that the political class has been unable to address”.

Click here to read the full article.

By Ahmed Tabaqchali, for 1001 Iraqi Thoughts.

Iraq’s new entrepreneurial generation of civil activists’ sense of civic duty flourished during the trauma brought by the ISIS takeover of a third of the country in 2014, and has continued to grow since then as reviewed in a recent report.

The report into “A New Generation of Activists Circumvents Iraq’s Political Paralysis” also looked into the origins and the determination of these civil activists to “develop solutions to policy problems that the political class has been unable to address”.

Click here to read the full article.

By Padraig O’Hannelly.

Iraqi tech start-up Sandoog has won the Iraq round of Arabnet‘s Start-up Championship.

The company aims to solve local logistical issues using an e-logistics solution that allows merchants to send, track and manage their deliveries, invoices and customer base anywhere in Iraq.

As part of the IBBC (Iraq Britain Business Council) Tech Conference in Baghdad on 29th and 30th April, Iraq Tech Ventures and Arabnet hosted the competition on Monday at The Station Co-Working Space.

In front of a large audience, startups had five minutes to pitch their business to a panel of judges made up of angel and corporate investors, along with key industry leaders.

The top three businesses, which will be entered into Arabnet’s Regional Startup Championship in Beirut, were:

Also taking part and making impressive pitches were Alsaree3, Brsima, Dakakenna, Erbil Delivery, IOT Kids, Sumer Card, and Tabib Baghdad.

By Alexander Southworth, Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC).

Exploring Tech in Iraq: ‘Hackasuly – Promoting Tech Literacy for a New Generation of Iraqis’

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”. In a country which has seen its fair share of weapon misuse over the last few decades Mandela’s quote could not be more relevant in the climate of present-day Iraq.

With a beleaguered state education system and struggling infrastructure, there exists a community within the Tech Sector that is trying to navigate these challenges and promote education of Iraqi youths through the cultivation of digital skills that will help them reach their goals and find meaningful employment.

In the IBBC’s Tech Series: Exploring Tech in Iraq, we speak to some of the innovators and founders of tech organisations making a difference in Iraq.

One such organisation, HackaSuly, is an initiative that aims to promote technology in Sulaimani, Kurdistan and wider Iraq through tech events, hackathons, meetups and to create a network of tech enthusiasts.

We spoke to one of the founders, Hero Mohammed, to find out more about HackaSuly’s events, how they are empowering young Iraqis, the inspiration behind the founding of the organisation and any advice she has to aspiring tech entrepreneurs.

I believe there is a great potential in Iraq for the tech-industry. The people of Iraq are hungry for stability, innovation and facilities after decades of war and conflict” – Hero Mohammed, Founder of HackaSuly

Growing up in Sulaimani, Iraqi Kurdistan, Hero describes her desire to participate in coding challenges and tech events but due to a near complete lack of opportunities, this simply was not possible. In 2015, she helped organise HackaErbil, the first Hackathon in Iraq, which would inspire her to embark on a journey to help others in the community to have the opportunities her peers did not have as college students. Building on the success of that first event, Hero started by organising the first hackathon in Sulaimani with the help of some friends.

So how exactly does HackaSuly help young coders through its events? HackaSuly is trying to help young coders to develop their skills and match them with the existing tech market demands. In the meanwhile, they are encouraged to update themselves with cutting-edge technologies and tools.

Until now, they have had three different types of events.

  1. Meet and code (Co-founded with Razhan Hameed): regular weekly coding meetups for coders and people who are interested in coding to come together, collaborate and share their knowledge and skills.
  2. HackaSuly Hackathon (co-organised with Snur Hamid): an annual hackathon that brings together developers, designers and entrepreneurs to come up with ideas that have a technological implementation, form teams and develop their prototypes over a weekend.
  3. Suli Tech Festival (Co-founded and co-organised with Razhan Hameed in collaboration with five one labs): a day-long tech celebration in Sulaimani. The Festival brought together young innovators and members of the local tech community with leaders and companies in the industry. The goal was to help promote technology, generate more interest in the field, and expand knowledge of career opportunities (from the participant’s side) and potential hires (from the business’ side) in the tech industry in Sulaimani. The Festival contained a number of exciting events over the course of the day, including: a welcome speech by the Deputy Prime Minister of Kurdistan Regional Government, a Coding Challenge, an Intro Workshop to Web Development, a Tech Career Fair and Project Presentations.

While events of this nature may be common in more tech-developed countries, their establishment in Iraq brings many serious challenges. Hero describes how their ideas and events are new to the society in general and the biggest challenge has being delivering their message. Explaining the events and ideas especially when seeking funds and support have been challenging. When they first started with the HackaSuly hackathon, there was significant difficultly making people within the tech industry, even professionals, understand what a hackathon is.

Support has been key to growing the operation, Hero states great support has been forthcoming from local and international NGOs and private sector companies, especially those that are operating within the Iraqi tech industry, many as part of their Social Responsibility programs. More support is necessary to keep momentum growing, especially government contributions.

“I can imagine HackaSuly in 5 years… A large tech community across the country working together to make technology an important sector for the economic development of Kurdistan and Iraq” – Hero Mohammed, Founder of HackaSuly

Inspired by her strong love of coding and tech, Hero is one of the inspiring young innovators that are driving tech literacy and interest in a new generation of Iraqis. By creating a community of tech enthusiasts in Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan, HackaSuly is empowering young people to believe in their abilities, learn new skills and create for themselves tech start-ups in Iraq’s fast growing tech Sector.

As Hero states: Access to new technologies can have many benefits for any developing countries. One such benefit is its impact on reducing the costs of production. Other ways technology is helping developing countries is by boosting economies through innovation, SMBs and advanced communication.

IBBC is holding a Tech Conference in Iraq in early 2019, where we aim to bring together the key innovators transforming the digital landscape in the country, explore solutions to better governance and industry reforms using technology and give a platform to young Iraqi entrepreneurs breaking the mould. For more information, and to get involved, please email: London@webuildiraq.org or visit: https://www.iraqbritainbusiness.org/event/tech-conference-in-baghdad.

(Source: IBBC)

By Alexander Southworth, Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC).

Exploring Tech in Iraq: ‘Sandoog – solving Iraq’s logistics nightmare by digital innovation’

There is a revolution happening in Iraq but not like the country has seen before. This revolution is based on advances in technology that are transforming the digital landscape of the country. The changes occurring are widespread across society, business and politics and are being driven by a new generation of young entrepreneurs revolutionising daily life for Iraqis.

With one of the most youthful demographics in the world, high unemployment rates and few avenues towards traditional jobs, there exists a growing movement of Tech innovators and a growing start-up ecology that is providing increasing opportunities for young Iraqis to break the mould, is contributing towards solving Iraq’s problems and is slowly revolutionising the way Iraqis use tech.

In the IBBC’s Tech Series: Exploring Tech in Iraq, we speak to some of the innovators and founders of tech organisations making a difference in Iraq.

One such organisation, Sandoog, is aiming to solve local logistical issues using an e-logistics solution that allows merchants to send, track and manage their deliveries, invoices and customer base anywhere in Iraq. This is all done through systems and processes that they are developing themselves as a management team.

Since starting in late 2017, they have developed a merchant application, the ‘Sandoog Center’, a driver dispatch application ‘Sandoog Mandoob’, an internal CRM system ‘Sandoog Spider’ and finally a commercial application for express delivery, which has yet to launch onto the market. They also provide storage and inventory management services for efficient transactions and delivery on behalf of merchants.

We spoke to one of the founders, Mustafa Al Obaidi, to find out more about Sandoog’s operating model, how it can help Iraqi businesses, the inspiration behind the founding of the organisation and any advice he has to aspiring tech entrepreneurs.

“Tech, when accessible, can reduce chaotic processes – Tech can connect people, it can provide order, structure, clarity, efficiency and, potentially, a path out of a seemingly never-ending state of survivalism” – Mustafa, Co-Founder, Sandoog

The inspiration behind founding Sandoog was born out of keen sense of market opportunity where Mustafa believes there exists a substantial gap in the market to exploit. Logistics being the backbone to trade and growth of an economy – and in a country with much potential, coming out of decades of war and sanctions, Iraq’s commercial sector still relies on archaic, manual processes that connect business to each other and to their customers ineffectively.

Mustafa and the co-founder of Sandoog, Ahmed Malik, realised that the time was right to “introduce alternative processes for merchants and consumers alike, with Tech being a key facilitator for this”.

So, how does Sandoog actually help merchants with their logistics problems? Sandoog’s operating model supports consumers and companies at various levels. At the core level, they have introduced documentation, invoicing and order verification features in their merchant system ’Sandoog Center’ to allow merchants to easily find their invoices in one place, keep track of their finances, and get notified on the whereabouts of their shipments. This has been, and still is, largely done over the phone and through manual receipts in Iraq.

Needless to say, many merchants are welcoming of the Sandoog approach – However, Iraqis still largely rely on the economy of ‘trust’ where word is bounding, so the Sandoog process is needing traction through marketing and education for adoption to take place.

For consumers, Sandoog provides SMS order verification, which also provides a web link where they can choose their delivery date and time, whist also selecting their location through an interactive map.

Mustafa explained that the benefit extends further than this, by crucially creating local employment opportunities as the organisation expands its activities across the country. Sandoog is constantly growing its teams – from warehouse management and delivery drivers to sales agents and marketing personal. In Baghdad for example, anyone who meets the necessary requirements for their order delivery service can be registered to become a delivery driver for Sandoog and are able to use the Sandoog Mandoob app to deliver goods around the city.

“Sandoog is constantly growing its teams – From warehouse management and delivery drivers to sales agents and marketing personal” Mustafa, Co-Founder, Sandoog

The road has not always been smooth, with Iraq’s archaic business and logistics climate, the Sandoog founders have faced considerable barriers to growth. Mustafa explained that changing the perspective of merchants and consumers away from traditional ways of working has been an ongoing obstacle. The Tech infrastructure might be ready available on Sandoog’s platforms but convincing consumers to adopt their solutions and processes over deep-set cultural practices will take time.

Mustafa also had some sound advice for international companies considering investing in Iraq:

“Iraq is a huge market for any industry with the same needs as other countries around the world. Take the risk and enter – Support local startups who are localising global tech solution. They know how to navigate around the country.” – Mustafa, Co-Founder, Sandoog

Through considerable difficulty, Mustafa and Ahmed have shown that founding a Tech company, which aids growth of the domestic market as well providing jobs, is possible and successful in Iraq. Once consumers and merchants are more familiar with using digital platforms, the use of technology to grow other sectors of the economy and become incorporated into every day life could happen rapidly. Tech can provide a shortcut to the many infrastructural problems Iraq faces by making the most of an increasingly inter-connected world to find alternative solutions to logistical problems the country faces. For more information on Sandoog, visit: www.sandoog.net.

IBBC is holding a Tech Conference in Iraq in early 2019, where we aim to bring together the key innovators transforming the digital landscape in the country, explore solutions to better governance and industry reforms using technology and give a platform to young Iraqi entrepreneurs breaking the mould. For more information, and to get involved, please email: London@webuildiraq.org

(Source: IBBC)