By Ali Al-Makhzomy, for The Station. Re-published with permission by Iraq Business News.

Five One Labs recently hosted an online Start-up Showcase to celebrate the graduation of their first-ever Arabic incubator program in c.

Over 90 attendees joined the event from Iraq, Germany, USA and other places.

Ten of the entrepreneurs gave brief overviews of their businesses, and then answered audience questions. At the end of the event, Five One Labs announced that three startups would receive seed funding:

  1. Al-Ruaa for CNC, a company providing services, workshops, maintenance, installation and providing spare parts for the CNC machines, came in first place and won $15,000;
  2. For second place, EcoLift, a company providing an alternative power system (potential energy recovery system) to power elevators instead of using electricity, was awarded $10,000;
  3. And finally, Mosul Solar, a company providing and installing solar cells for houses, was awarded $5000.

This article has been originally published in the GIZ magazine ‘akzente’ at https://akzente.giz.de/en/artikel/iraqs-digital-innovators. It is reprinted here by kind permission of GIZ.

A new generation of young Iraqi entrepreneurs are confronting the country’s challenges, even during the coronavirus pandemic.

Text und Fotos: Olivia Cuthbert

The streets are eerily silent in Mosul’s old city. A fierce nine-month battle against Isis in 2017 left this once-bustling quarter in ruins and reduced its historic buildings to rubble. Even now, Iraq’s second-largest city is still reeling from Isis occupation, but there are visible pockets of progress.

Climbing the stairs to the Mosul Space innovation hub, the atmosphere lifts. The door opens onto a modern, open-plan room where young Maslawis, as the city’s residents are known, work to develop ideas that look ahead to the future.

Salih Mahmod

One of them is 23-year-old electronic engineering graduate Salih Mahmod, who devised the concept for the innovation hub back in 2014. He was in the first year of his engineering degree and frustrated with learning solely from books rather than also developing practical skills. Reading about makerspaces, that is, high-tech workshops offering digital training and opportunities to engage in dialogue and implement ideas, in Germany and elsewhere, he was inspired.

‘I thought, why not in our city.’ So he ordered computers and printers, but 20 days after taking delivery of the first computers, Isis descended on the city and he had to put his dream on the backburner for the time being.

Mahmod’s family fled the terror group, finding refuge in the northern Iraqi countryside. Determined to continue, he and his friends offered improvised computer and programming workshops for people from the region. When Mosul was liberated in summer 2017, he returned and hosted an engineering festival that drew more than 500 participants. The tremendous response spurred Salih Mahmod on to set about realising his original dream once again.

He decided to work with like-minded individuals to create a meeting space where young technology enthusiasts would be taught the skills they need, such as programming, the use of new robotics technology and business aptitude. The space would offer them inspiration and an environment in which to develop their innovative ideas, paving the way for the establishment of Iraqi start-ups. Mahmod found a small room and began by launching a project to produce parts for broken hospital machines.

Using a 3D printer, a group of young people created plastic screws and wheels that couldn’t be sourced locally, fixing incubators and other devices that had fallen into disrepair during the Isis occupation. ‘It was a clear example of how an innovative idea can be implemented in the field,’ said Mahmod.

Rapid response to the coronavirus pandemic

The young creatives were able to build on this experience when looking for ways to support the country’s medical professionals in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. The makerspace in Mosul quickly switched to developing face shields and is now working with Iraq’s four other innovation centres. Over 10,000 of these shields have already been manufactured and delivered to hospitals throughout the country in recent weeks.

This was all achieved by the Mosul Space, as the innovation centre in the old city is now known, having grown from small beginnings. Salih Mahmod had already made contact with GIZ several years ago. The federal enterprise is working throughout Iraq on behalf of the German Development Ministry to promote the establishment of an ecosystem for tech start-ups and young computer enthusiasts.

There are now five innovation centres in the country where Iraqis can be trained to meet new requirements on the labour market or prepare for self-employment. Over 5,500 people have now completed courses or attended events at these centres. Offerings include workshops and mentoring programmes for aspiring start-up entrepreneurs looking to find solutions to the challenges facing the country.

Talent platform in Erbil

It’s not just in Mosul either. An hour down the road in the autonomous Kurdistan region, another hive of entrepreneurship buzzes with creative energy. Re:Coded House is pioneering the co-working concept in the city of Erbil. Prior to the coronavirus lockdown, a growing community of young people used the space to develop projects. ‘People tend to come here with ideas and we support them to make them a reality,’ said Wafa Al-Attas, Iraq Innovation Advisor at non-governmental organisation Field Ready.

Wafa Al-Attas

She runs the makerspace in Re:Coded House and manages the fund for Mosul Space. Al-Attas explains that the concept is quickly catching on in Erbil, fuelling a fledgling creative ecosystem that, five years ago, didn’t seem possible. But strict regulations, cumbersome bureaucracy and limited infrastructure have dampened creative ambitions. Nonetheless, she says things have started to get off the ground. With GIZ’s support, Re:Coded House, which opened in April 2019, has become a platform for talented youth who want to bring their ideas to life.

Refugee refines handbag design

Before the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, the space was busiest in the evening, when students came after university classes to work on their projects. Book shelves and indoor plants add a cosy touch. Re:Coded House is normally also a social hub. ‘I don’t have many friends here in Erbil, but in the makerspace it feels like a family,’ said 26-year-old Sliman Khazal, who fled Syria before the war.

Sliman Khazal

He dreams of one day launching his edgy, geometric handbag designs onto the market. ‘Everyone in here is supporting me to work harder and dream bigger.’

Online courses during the lockdown

Mallak Al-Rifaie

Re:Coded House, Mosul Space and the other Iraqi innovation centres are focusing during the pandemic on online courses and video presentations on subjects such as ‘software products for the post-Covid 19 period’. 24-year-old computer expert Mallak Al-Rifaie has been working on these kinds of ideas for some time. As the only female on her university degree course, she initially met with a lot of opposition. ‘At first, all the boys told me that I didn’t have a right to be there.’

But classmates quickly changed their minds when she gained top grades for her project which saw her develop a digital system to allow individuals with limited mobility to stay at home and receive rapid assistance in an emergency. Al-Rifaie also specifically promotes training for children. One of her teams of school pupils even won a national robotics competition last year. ‘I taught them university-level coding and they grasped it incredibly quickly. This generation is really smart,’ she says. And she doesn’t appear to be worried about the future.

Contact: Inga Niere, inga.niere@giz.de

The research in Iraq was conducted prior to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. The young people used digital media to update the editorial team on their initiatives during the lockdown.

This article has been originally published in the GIZ magazine ‘akzente’ at https://akzente.giz.de/en/artikel/iraqs-digital-innovators. It is reprinted here by kind permission of GIZ.

A new generation of young Iraqi entrepreneurs are confronting the country’s challenges, even during the coronavirus pandemic.

Text und Fotos: Olivia Cuthbert

The streets are eerily silent in Mosul’s old city. A fierce nine-month battle against Isis in 2017 left this once-bustling quarter in ruins and reduced its historic buildings to rubble. Even now, Iraq’s second-largest city is still reeling from Isis occupation, but there are visible pockets of progress.

Climbing the stairs to the Mosul Space innovation hub, the atmosphere lifts. The door opens onto a modern, open-plan room where young Maslawis, as the city’s residents are known, work to develop ideas that look ahead to the future.

Salih Mahmod

One of them is 23-year-old electronic engineering graduate Salih Mahmod, who devised the concept for the innovation hub back in 2014. He was in the first year of his engineering degree and frustrated with learning solely from books rather than also developing practical skills. Reading about makerspaces, that is, high-tech workshops offering digital training and opportunities to engage in dialogue and implement ideas, in Germany and elsewhere, he was inspired.

‘I thought, why not in our city.’ So he ordered computers and printers, but 20 days after taking delivery of the first computers, Isis descended on the city and he had to put his dream on the backburner for the time being.

Mahmod’s family fled the terror group, finding refuge in the northern Iraqi countryside. Determined to continue, he and his friends offered improvised computer and programming workshops for people from the region. When Mosul was liberated in summer 2017, he returned and hosted an engineering festival that drew more than 500 participants. The tremendous response spurred Salih Mahmod on to set about realising his original dream once again.

He decided to work with like-minded individuals to create a meeting space where young technology enthusiasts would be taught the skills they need, such as programming, the use of new robotics technology and business aptitude. The space would offer them inspiration and an environment in which to develop their innovative ideas, paving the way for the establishment of Iraqi start-ups. Mahmod found a small room and began by launching a project to produce parts for broken hospital machines.

Using a 3D printer, a group of young people created plastic screws and wheels that couldn’t be sourced locally, fixing incubators and other devices that had fallen into disrepair during the Isis occupation. ‘It was a clear example of how an innovative idea can be implemented in the field,’ said Mahmod.

Rapid response to the coronavirus pandemic

The young creatives were able to build on this experience when looking for ways to support the country’s medical professionals in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. The makerspace in Mosul quickly switched to developing face shields and is now working with Iraq’s four other innovation centres. Over 10,000 of these shields have already been manufactured and delivered to hospitals throughout the country in recent weeks.

This was all achieved by the Mosul Space, as the innovation centre in the old city is now known, having grown from small beginnings. Salih Mahmod had already made contact with GIZ several years ago. The federal enterprise is working throughout Iraq on behalf of the German Development Ministry to promote the establishment of an ecosystem for tech start-ups and young computer enthusiasts.

There are now five innovation centres in the country where Iraqis can be trained to meet new requirements on the labour market or prepare for self-employment. Over 5,500 people have now completed courses or attended events at these centres. Offerings include workshops and mentoring programmes for aspiring start-up entrepreneurs looking to find solutions to the challenges facing the country.

Talent platform in Erbil

It’s not just in Mosul either. An hour down the road in the autonomous Kurdistan region, another hive of entrepreneurship buzzes with creative energy. Re:Coded House is pioneering the co-working concept in the city of Erbil. Prior to the coronavirus lockdown, a growing community of young people used the space to develop projects. ‘People tend to come here with ideas and we support them to make them a reality,’ said Wafa Al-Attas, Iraq Innovation Advisor at non-governmental organisation Field Ready.

Wafa Al-Attas

She runs the makerspace in Re:Coded House and manages the fund for Mosul Space. Al-Attas explains that the concept is quickly catching on in Erbil, fuelling a fledgling creative ecosystem that, five years ago, didn’t seem possible. But strict regulations, cumbersome bureaucracy and limited infrastructure have dampened creative ambitions. Nonetheless, she says things have started to get off the ground. With GIZ’s support, Re:Coded House, which opened in April 2019, has become a platform for talented youth who want to bring their ideas to life.

Refugee refines handbag design

Before the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, the space was busiest in the evening, when students came after university classes to work on their projects. Book shelves and indoor plants add a cosy touch. Re:Coded House is normally also a social hub. ‘I don’t have many friends here in Erbil, but in the makerspace it feels like a family,’ said 26-year-old Sliman Khazal, who fled Syria before the war.

Sliman Khazal

He dreams of one day launching his edgy, geometric handbag designs onto the market. ‘Everyone in here is supporting me to work harder and dream bigger.’

Online courses during the lockdown

Mallak Al-Rifaie

Re:Coded House, Mosul Space and the other Iraqi innovation centres are focusing during the pandemic on online courses and video presentations on subjects such as ‘software products for the post-Covid 19 period’. 24-year-old computer expert Mallak Al-Rifaie has been working on these kinds of ideas for some time. As the only female on her university degree course, she initially met with a lot of opposition. ‘At first, all the boys told me that I didn’t have a right to be there.’

But classmates quickly changed their minds when she gained top grades for her project which saw her develop a digital system to allow individuals with limited mobility to stay at home and receive rapid assistance in an emergency. Al-Rifaie also specifically promotes training for children. One of her teams of school pupils even won a national robotics competition last year. ‘I taught them university-level coding and they grasped it incredibly quickly. This generation is really smart,’ she says. And she doesn’t appear to be worried about the future.

Contact: Inga Niere, inga.niere@giz.de

The research in Iraq was conducted prior to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. The young people used digital media to update the editorial team on their initiatives during the lockdown.

By John Lee.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) awarded dnata the IATA Safety Audit for Ground Operations (ISAGO) Registration in Iraq, following the successful completion of a comprehensive audit of the company and its ground-handling operations at Erbil International Airport (EBL).

Tom Alwyn-Jones, General Manager of dnata Erbil, said:

We are thrilled to mark an important milestone in our ongoing commitment to safety and security by achieving the prestigious ISAGO certification. We constantly invest in training, processes and technology and engage our highly-skilled people at all levels of the organisation to deliver world-class safety for our customers. The successful completion of IATA’s comprehensive audit demonstrates our ability to consistently achieve the highest standards across our operations.

“I thank our skilled team for their hard work and dedication. We continue to go the extra mile to provide service excellence to our customers, every day.

dnata provides ramp, passenger and cargo handling services to more than 40 airlines in Erbil. The company’s customer-oriented team in Iraq consists of over 300 highly-skilled aviation professionals, who assisted 1.8 million passengers and ensured the smooth and safe operations of 10,000 flights in 2019.

ISAGO is an audit program for ground-handling companies serving airlines at airports covering the areas of organization and management, load control, passenger and baggage handling, aircraft handling and loading and aircraft ground movement.

It offers benefits to airlines, ground handlers, regulatory as well as airport authorities. These include safer ground operations, fewer accidents and injuries, elimination of redundant audits, reduced costs, less damage and fewer audits, a uniform audit process and harmonized standards, improved safety oversight, harmonized auditor training and qualifications, improved quality standards, and enhanced understanding of high-risk areas within ground operations.

(Source: dnata)

Consul General in Erbil Virtually Meets President and Students of Sulaimaniya University

The U.S. Consul General in Erbil, Steve Fagin, met virtually with Dr. Ridha Hassan Hussein, President of Sulaimaniya University and students to discuss future academic collaboration, the impact of COVID19 and recent activities organized by the American Corner in Sulaimaniya.

Consul General Fagin encouraged the university students and staff to apply for exchange programs sponsored by the U.S. Department of State.

The U.S. remains committed to building academic linkages between U.S. institutions and universities in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region.

(Source: US Embassy in Baghdad)

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

Criticism mounts in Iraqi Kurdistan over unpaid teacher salaries

Ferhat is an English teacher at a public school in Erbil, the capital of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan Region.

His salary comes from the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), but five months into 2020 he has only been paid his monthly salary twice. Payment problems over the years forced him and other teachers to take on second jobs.

“It’s very difficult for us,” Ferhat told Al-Monitor. “Each one of us has to work after school to live.”

Click here to read the full story.

By John Lee.

IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, is investing over $26 million in a new 161-bed hospital in Erbil in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.

The facility will increase the availability of quality healthcare services and help address gaps in the country’s healthcare infrastructure. The $92 million Seema Hospital project is expected to open its doors in 2021. In addition to providing core health services, it will be one of the city’s first private hospitals with oncology, radiotherapy, and burn units.

Treatment capacity in existing public and private healthcare facilities in Iraq is limited, with damages to the system estimated at $2.3 billion because of the conflict, according to a World Bank report. The hospital is owned by the Macrom Company for General Trading.

Yaseen Al Bazzaz, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Macrom Company for General Trading, said

“Since opening our first hospital in 2006, we have grown into a leading provider of specialized health care services … Hundreds of patients are traveling desperately to neighboring countries for their medical needs. This will change once Seema Hospital opens and provides top-notch healthcare solutions.”

IFC is also contributing technical expertise, advising on environmental and social best practices, and providing guidance on corporate governance. The project is part of the World Bank Group’s strategy in Iraq to develop social infrastructure. Seema Hospital also will be one of the first buildings in Iraq to be certified by IFC EDGE, a platform that helps to determine the most cost-effective options for designing green buildings.

Tomasz Telma, IFC’s Senior Director for Manufacturing, Agribusiness, and Services, said:

“Iraq is a priority country for IFC, and we are committed to supporting its economic growth and health infrastructure … Investing in quality hospitals helps improve care, especially where there is often limited access to effective secondary and tertiary facilities, and introduce expertise, technology, and best practices to these markets.”  

IFC has increased its investments in Iraq during the last decade. Its committed portfolio stands at about $254 million, up from $20 million in 2010.

As Iraq and other countries battle COVID-19, the World Bank Group, in response to the crisis, has announced $14 billion package of financing to help support  countries to strengthen health systems and improve disease surveillance worldwide.

(Source: IFC)

By John Lee.

Harekar Company for Security Services LLC has won a contract with the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) to supply Vehicle Rental Services for the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) Iraq Programme in Erbil.

The contract is worth $119,700.

(Source: UNGM)

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Kurdistan Region of Iraq’s Ministry of Planning, in order to provide strategic guidance and technical support for the development of KRG Vision 2030.

Held in Erbil on 03 February 2020, the signing reaffirms the Region’s commitment to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Minister of Planning at the Kurdistan Regional Government, Dr. Dara Rashid Mahmud, said:

“The people of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq have been through a lot in the past years. They deserve a better life and upgraded social, economic and environmental conditions.

“We are confident that our strategic partnership with UNDP will provide us with the necessary tools and means to achieve sustainable development in a way that meets the aspirations of our people.”

Resident Representative of UNDP Iraq, Ms. Zena Ali Ahmed, said:

The global Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development emphasizes that no one should be left behind. This is precisely what we are working to achieve in Iraq by this expanded partnership with the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.

“The foundations for this work were established through our earlier cooperation, including the previous support to KRG Vision 2020. Only through sustainable development will the Region and Iraq realize sustainable peace and justice.”

The MoU provides a framework for cooperation to implement and monitor progress towards the SDGs in the Kurdistan Region, as part of broader efforts to achieve the SDGs in Iraq. It focuses on strengthening the institutional and analytical capacity of relevant stakeholders, including to meet the challenges of transitioning from a crisis to a sustainable development context.

Vision 2030 will be aligned with the new Government Programme 2019-2023, addressing reforms, service delivery, freedoms, democracy and coexistence, economy and finance, among other priorities.

Detailed information about the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the SDGs can be found here: sustainabledevelopment.un.org

(Source: UN)

By John Lee.

Bahrain’s Gulf Air has resumed services to Erbil International Airport (EIA).

At the inaugural event in Erbil International Airport, Capt. Suhail Ismaeel said:

“We’re happy to return to Erbil and operate direct flights to and from this Iraqi city … With three weekly direct flights between Bahrain and Erbil supplemented with great connectivity through our hub, this destination promises to be a key route within our growing network.”

Gulf Air’s flights to Erbil will further strengthen the airline’s existing Iraqi routes of Baghdad and Najaf.

(Source: Gulf Air)