By John Lee.

Housing prices in Iraqi Kurdistan have reportedly increased by 20 percent in 2018, while rents has gone up by 15 percent.

Citing research from real estate company Baghi Khoshnawati, Rudaw says that demand for rental accommodation in the second half of 2018 has increased by 45 percent compared to the first half of 2018.

It adds that the rent for a house in the Italian Village in Erbil has increased from was $500 per month in May 2018 to $650 now, but “there are no houses available because of high demand“.

More here.

(Source: Rudaw)

(Picture credit: Jan Kurdistani21)

On Wednesday 12th December, the Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC) was pleased to host a first meeting between the British Chambers of Commerce and Chamber of Commerce & Industry representatives from the Kurdish Region of Iraq.

Erbil Chamber of Commerce is a founding member of IBBC and the IBBC is now the affiliate Chamber for Iraq of the British Chambers of Commerce.

Liam Smyth, International director represented the British Chambers.

Dr Dara Al Khayat, Chairman Erbil Chamber and Chairman of the Kurdish Federation of Chambers of Commerce & Industry was joined by the Chairmen of Sulaimani and Dohuk Chamber of Commerce.

The work of all the Chambers was discussed and in particular areas where the KRG requested UK involvement was identified.  Apart from oil and gas and utilities there was much discussion about the agricultural and food processing potential of the region. In addition mining, tech and textiles were also put forward as sectors which foreign investment would be most welcome.

Both sides looked forward to continuing engagement with each other to mutual benefit.

(Source: IBBC)

Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani attended the ground-breaking ceremony of the 150-meter ring road project of the city of Erbil.

In a speech during the ceremony, Prime Minister Barzani said:

“The 150-metre road project is one of many projects which were prepared for implementation by the Kurdistan Regional Government. If it had not been for hardships faced since 2014, the KRG would have completed many similar projects in all major communities of the Kurdistan Region.”

Below is the text of Prime Minister Barzani’s speech:

Good morning,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

As we participate in this ground-breaking ceremony to open the Erbil City 150-meter ring road, I am delighted to meet with you again. This project is good not only for Erbil, it will facilitate road transport throughout the Kurdistan Region by reducing congestion on routes within and through the Erbil City area.

As the capital city in the center of the Kurdistan Region, Erbil is situated on many routes that connect international border entry points with the rest of Iraq, and also connects neighbouring countries with each other. Important trade routes pass between Syria, Turkey, and Iran through the Kurdistan Region.

This project will generate more fast-flowing traffic and exceed the success of the Erbil 120-metre road. As a tangible solution, the Erbil City 120-metre road has been very effective in reducing traffic congestion.

The first stage of the implementation of this 150-meter road project, includes the part which will run from Koya road to Bahirka road, 14 kilometres long and estimated to cost 131 million US dollars.

The Hemin Group will finance and implement this project with deferred payment. It will be a high-speed road with a service road alongside it. There will be three bridges and three underpasses with related high-standard equipment.

The Hemin Group will also be implementing a dual carriageway14 kilometres long between Erbil City and Gopal.
Yesterday also we participated in the ground-breaking ceremony of a project that connects Erbil and Duhok with a dual-carriageway.

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,

The 150-metre road project is one of many projects which were prepared for implementation by the Kurdistan Regional Government. If it had not been for hardships faced since 2014, the KRG would have completed many similar projects in all major communities of the Kurdistan Region.

Adversaries of the Kurdistan Region were unable to accept the progress being enjoyed by the people of the Region, did not, and do not, want to see a well-built and lively region filled with peace and security. They did their best to obstruct the Kurdistan Region’s wheel of success.

Cutting the Kurdistan Region’s budget and ISIS threatening the Region with terrorism did not randomly occur. They were considered and planned. The war against ISIS brought nearly two million displaced persons. But the most damaging factor that adversely affected the people of the Kurdistan Region was the fall in global oil prices.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

If it were not for the perseverance and courage of the Peshmerga, security personnel, understanding and support of the people of our Region, including our government employees, no government anywhere in the world would have withstood such crises during the past five years! What government has withstood war in the midst of such severe political and financial challenges, and all the domestic issues that have been crippling the Kurdistan Region and its government?

Now, strengthened by the support of the Kurdistan people and by the determination, loyalty, and selflessness of the Peshmerga, and the sacrifice and endurance of all the hardships the government employees have gone through during past few years, the bad days are almost over. As part of our long-term mission, we as the Kurdistan Regional Government will continue to act on our original main responsibility, which is to provide public services. To further develop our country, we continue to implement development projects that we planned.

Despite all shortcomings, constructive criticism, and even destructive criticism that have been and will be directed at the KRG due to political competition, the KRG has always been providing the best possible services.
If any citizen from the Kurdistan Region or any foreign observer looks back at the past 15 years, she or he will realize the truth that in spite of all challenges, the KRG has made remarkable progress in all sectors.
It is correct that the expectations of the KRG and the people of Kurdistan were higher than what has been achieved. We cannot overlook, however, the fact that over 15 years of the KRG’s leadership the Kurdistan Region has achieved a total makeover in almost all aspects.

Hundreds of completed projects vouch for the efforts of the KRG having contributed to the infrastructure of the country, such as roads and bridges, water and sewer systems, hospitals and schools, spatial development of cities and towns, and reviving livelihoods of many thousands of citizens of Kurdistan in many hundreds of communities, attracting foreign investment and opening of many malls, hotels, restaurants and cafes, building small and large factories, and dozens of other projects.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In ceremonies like this the intention is not to brag about achievements but to reaffirm that the first and foremost responsibility of the KRG is to serve its people, confirm such responsibility is taken seriously at every opportunity, and that the KRG seeks to realize the goals of stability, progress, and a high standard of living for all citizens.

As we participate in this groundbreaking ceremony, we reiterate the objective of the KRG that along with every step toward a stable economy, the government will take similar steps to implement plans to develop all sectors in all parts of the Kurdistan Region.

As we approach a general election, the people of the Kurdistan Region will cast their ballots. I urge all citizens of the Kurdistan Region to participate in the election process in a civilized way and elect their representatives to the Iraqi Kurdistan Parliament and the Kurdistan Regional Government for the next four years. This process is very important for the present and future of the Kurdistan Region. Let us all vote to serve, build, and develop Kurdistan.

We look forward to the next phase to serve the people, promote stability, and build a durable economy with a better living standard for our people. We are sure that the worst days are over, and tomorrow will be better than today.

In the end, I would like to especially applaud Mr. Khalid Khoshnaw, the head of the Hemin Group and his colleagues for all the good work they have produced in various parts of the Kurdistan Region on long-term relaxed loans. This reflects his unshakable trust in the KRG.

He is the ultimate example of a loyal patriot and citizen. I wish to see more people like him and I wish him all success. We truly need people like him in the Kurdistan Region who always look to serve their nation to make progress in every field and build their country.

By that, they will forever leave their positive footprint on the future of Kurdistan.

I look forward to meet you all again in another location of the Kurdistan Region and at another project.

Thank you.

(Source: KRG)

By John Lee.

Erbil’s main outdoor stadium will reportedly be sold off to a private investor.

According to Rudaw, a new stadium will be built on the site of the Franso Hariri Stadium.

The existing 28,000-capacity venue was built in 1956 and refurbished in 1992.

More here from Rudaw.

(Source: Rudaw)

(Picture credit: Kushared)

By John Lee.

Erbil’s main outdoor stadium will reportedly be sold off to a private investor.

According to Rudaw, a new stadium will be built on the site of the Franso Hariri Stadium.

The existing 28,000-capacity venue was built in 1956 and refurbished in 1992.

More here from Rudaw.

(Source: Rudaw)

(Picture credit: Kushared)

Rotana Hotels has announced the appointment of Ramy Haykal (pictured) as Cluster General Manager of Erbil Rotana & Erbil Arjaan by Rotana.

Ramy began his career with InterContinental Hotels Group in 1996 as the finance director for Middle East and Africa.

As the new General Manager of Erbil Rotana and Erbil Arjaan by Rotana, Ramy will be the key leader overseeing the two hotels operation consisting of 369 rooms and suites, a Club Rotana floor for executive business travelers, seven food & beverage outlets, a health club & spa in addition to 14 fully equipped meetings & events venues.

(Source: Rotana)

By John Lee.

The Altun Kupri (Alton Kopri) bridge linking Kirkuk and Erbil provinces has been re-opened.

According to a brief statement from the Iraqi Govt, the bridge is vital for commerce and for fostering enduring ties between communities.

The route has been closed following clashes between Peshmerga and Iraqi forces in October.

(Source: Iraqi Govt)

(Picture credit: Levi Clancy)

On August  10th, ten of Iraq’s best seed-stage startups will compete in Erbil to represent the country at the Seedstars Summit in Switzerland and win up to USD 1 million in equity investments and other prizes.

The first Seedstars competition in Erbil is marked by the excitement and commitment of Seedstars and its partners in investing in Iraq’s recent, yet vibrant, startup ecosystem.

Seedstars World, the largest startup competition for emerging markets and fast-growing startup scenes is coming to Iraq for the 1st time to hold a dynamic pitch event on August  10th, at TechHub in Erbil.

Omar Barakat, Regional Associate for MENA at Seedstars, explains:

Seedstars is a platform connecting the next generation of entrepreneurs from places where normally people wouldn’t think startup ecosystem have such traction, growth and buzz, to a worldwide community of changemakers focused in emerging markets.

“Therefore, we are very excited to be in Iraq, highlighting the hidden potential of such a bustling entrepreneurial ecosystem. We are here to witness the reality and foster talent and good ideas.

“We are also experts in identifying which solutions to pull through and how. We’re impressed by what we have seen in the region so far and cannot wait to add startups from Iraq on our map.

The companies selected to pitch at the Seedstars Erbil event need to be less than 2 years old, have raised less than USD 500,000 in funding and built a minimum viable product, ideally with existing traction.

The Seedstars team is searching for one additional criterion: the startup’s regional and global scalability. With a strong network of international partners, such as Merck, SPECo, Enel or Continental (amongst others) the competition organizers are looking for smart startups that tackle regional issues and develop profitable and sustainable products for the global market.

The applications are open until July 30th and startups are invited to apply on Seedstars Erbil website. After a careful screening, the Seedstars team will shortlist 10 of the best seed-stage startups in Erbil to pitch on August 10th for the opportunity to compete at the Seedstars Summit, that annually takes place in Switzerland.

In order to provide local entrepreneurs with this opportunity and aiming to deliver the best possible event, Seedstars is closely working with TechHub, Iraq’s first co-working space located in Erbil, who are representing the initiative throughout the year.

Hal Miran, Co-Founder at TechHub, said:

Seedstars’ mission to impact people’s lives through technology and entrepreneurship is a perfect match with ours. Their experience with startup ecosystems and entrepreneurs, and the international community they’ve built around them have been crucial factors in our decision to join forces to scout for the best solutions to tackle local issues in Iraq. We really hope local startups appreciate this incredible opportunity.”

It’s Seedstars’ goal to place the spotlight on entrepreneurs from emerging markets, especially those targeting solutions that align with UN Sustainable Development Goals.

With that in mind, Seedstars World is travelling to more than 65 countries to identify the most innovative seed-stage startups, awarding them the opportunity to win up to USD 1 million and network with investors and mentors from around the world at the global Seedstars Summit in Switzerland. Its previous participants have raised over USD 92M collectively, providing employment to more than 2.100 employees worldwide.

The 10 startups selected will give a five minute pitch in English, in front of a jury made up of local startup heavyweights. Members of the public and press are welcome to come join the fun and should register on the above Seedstars Erbil website as well!

(Source: Seedstars)

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Erbil Governorate have launched eight infrastructure projects to improve services that are fundamental to daily life, such as electricity, water, roads, and sewerage, for over 284,000 people across the Governorate of Erbil.

With the continuous support from the Government of Germany, UNDP’s Iraq Crisis Response and Resilience Programme (ICRRP) and the Erbil Joint Crisis Coordination Centre (E-JCC) will construct or upgrade six critical infrastructure projects, namely constructing roads, improving lighting, repairing the water network, and upgrading the electricity grid. This initiative directly supports residents of Sarbasty, Farmanbaran, Baharka, Naly, Shamamik, and Krechyan quarters of Erbil Governorate.

With continuous funding from the Government of Japan, ICRRP and the E-JCC are supporting two projects benefiting over 210,000 host community members and displaced people. The supply and installation of 40 transformers, already completed, has improved access to reliable electricity for people living in the targeted quarters of Erbil city and the districts of Soran, Koyia, Shaqlawa and Salah Al Din sub-district.

In addition, the supply and installation of a mobile substation for Ifraz Water Treatment Plant, which is the main water source in Erbil Governorate, is expected to increase the supply of water in Darashakran and Kawergosk sub-districts, as well as in Kawergosk refugee camp, Darashakran refugee camp and in the nearby villages.

At a ceremony marking the launch of the projects, the Governor of Erbil, H.E Mr. Nawzad Hadi, said:

“We highly appreciate the support from the Governments of Germany and Japan, and collaboration with UNDP, to improve the delivery of basic services and boost livelihood opportunities for displaced populations in Erbil. Today we are signing the agreements with UNDP to launch infrastructure projects with a total budget of up to US $3 million. These contributions are essential for coping with the current crisis and ongoing recession and will meet current community needs.”

The Consul and Head of the Consular Office of Japan in Erbil, Mr. Katsumi Moriyasu, said:

“Japan is very active in extending humanitarian and stabilization assistance to IDPs, refugees and host communities in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region. Its contributions in those areas so far reached US$460 million since 2012. As well, Japan is determined to stay as a close partner of Iraq and Kurdistan Region with respect to their reconstruction and socio-economic development.”

The Head of Development Cooperation at the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany, Mr. Johannes Schneider, noted:

“Thanks to UNDP and the ICRRP the enormous challenges in the response to the Iraqi Crisis are being addressed in a timely and effective manner. The programme ensures that anybody in need, independent from his or her ethnic or religious background can benefit from the support. Germany is happy to have contributed to this program with a total amount of €59.5 million so far.”

Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary General, Marta Ruedas, notes that:

“Supporting Iraq’s livelihoods and basic service delivery bolsters Iraq’s path to recovery from the recent conflict. UNDP is committed to working closely with the Erbil Governorate on these critical infrastructure projects that support both displaced populations and host communities”.

UNDP’s Iraq Crisis Response and Resilience Programme (ICRRP) promotes the recovery and resilience of communities vulnerable to multi-dimensional shocks associated with large-scale returns and protracted displacement of Iraqis and Syrian refugees.

This is achieved through a medium-term programming integrating crisis management capacity building, rehabilitating basic service infrastructure, livelihood recovery and social cohesion.

(Source: UNDP)