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)

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani will travel to Iraq on March 11 for an official visit.

Heading a high-ranking delegation, the Iranian president will be visiting the Arab country at the official invitation of Baghdad.

It will be Rouhani’s first official visit to Iraq during his tenure.

On Monday, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi met with Prime Minister of Iraq Adil Abdul-Mahdi in Baghdad to make arrangements for Rouhani’s forthcoming trip.

The Iranian president’s visit would come against the backdrop of Tehran’s efforts to boost its foreign trade in the US sanctions era.

Iraq’s foreign minister said recently that his country is “not obliged” to abide by sanctions imposed by the US against Iran and would be pursuing options to continue bilateral trade.

President of Iraq Barham Salih paid a visit to Tehran in November 2018 with a ranking delegation for a series of political and economic talks.

Speaking at a joint press conference with his Iraqi counterpart at that time, Rouhani said the value of trade and economic interaction between Tehran and Baghdad stood at around $12 billion, adding that the two neighbors have the potential for a $20-billion trade target.

Earlier this month, governors of the central banks of Iran and Iraq signed an agreement to develop a payment mechanism aimed at facilitating banking ties between the two neighboring countries.

According to governor of the Central Bank of Iran Abdolnaser Hemmati, Iran is going to open euro and dinar-based accounts to process transactions for trade in oil and gas.

Describing Iraq as Iran’s major partner, Hemmati said the two countries have agreed to make the banking ties much stronger.

He also stated that Iraqi companies can reciprocally open accounts in Iranian banks and conduct transactions in dinar.

In December 2018, Chairman of Iran-Iraq Chamber of Commerce Yahya Ale-Eshaq said the central banks of Iran and Iraq were finalizing negotiations to begin trade in their own currencies.

Iraq’s Foreign Minister Mohamed Ali Alhakim has made it clear that his country cannot cut off trade ties with Iran under the US sanctions.

(Source: Tasnim, under Creative Commons licence)

UK Export Finance (UKEF) will support a €30.2 million contract for the refurbishment of Al Mussaib power station in southern Iraq, the UK government has announced.

The support will enable the rehabilitation of a 320 megawatt (MW) turbine, that will help improve the overall efficiency and output at the power station.

Al Mussaib power station, located close to Baghdad, is one of the main providers of electricity for the city. Increasing its output will help secure the supply of basic electricity to Baghdad residents.

Minister of State for Trade and Export Promotion, Baroness Fairhead (pictured) said:

I am delighted that UK Export Finance is supporting the first phase of the refurbishment, which will have such a significant impact on the supply and security of electricity in southern Iraq.

“The demand for UK expertise on complex projects like this highlights the UK’s leadership in this sector and I am delighted that UK Export Finance is supporting projects that will have such a direct impact on improving the country’s infrastructure and the lives of the Iraqi people.

“I encourage likeminded businesses to get in touch with UKEF to learn more about the kind of financial support we can provide.”

This announcement follows the agreement between the governments of the UK and Iraq signed in March 2017, which re-affirmed the UK’s commitment to Iraq’s continued economic development.

Darren Davidson, Managing Director – Power Generation Services, Power & Gas, Siemens UK said:

“The refurbishment of the Al Mussaib power plant will be hugely important both for the citizens of Baghdad and for our international business. UKEF’s support demonstrates the UK government’s commitment to improving Iraq’s infrastructure and the UK’s energy sector.”

(Source: UKEF)

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

 Baghdad defends advantages of Iraq-Jordan agreement from critics

Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi and his Jordanian counterpart, Omar al-Razza, signed 14 economic agreements Feb. 2 between the two countries, during their meetings on the Iraqi-Jordan border, where a joint industrial city will be established.

The agreements include the transport, trade, health, agriculture, finance and energy sectors.

The recent economic agreements between the Iraqi and Jordanian governments have raised controversy in Iraq, as some Iraqi political and economic institutions believe these understandings favor Jordan and harm Iraq. The Asaib Ahl al-Haq (League of the Righteous), headed by Qais Khazali, said “the Iraqi citizens will pay the tax of these agreements.

As with most other issues in Iraq, these agreements divided Iraqi political camps into two. One was welcoming, and the other denounced the agreements as having no economic feasibility for Iraq — especially those related to extending a pipeline from Iraq’s oil-rich government of Basra to Aqaba.

Click here to read the full story.

GE Power has announced that it has provided an advanced 9E gas turbine to Iraq’s Al Qudus Power Plant.

The company will also service up to seven GE 9E gas turbines at the facility throughout 2019, including maintenance, supply of parts and rehabilitation.

GE is installing the new gas turbine at the site and it is expected to generate up to an additional 125 megawatts (MW) of electricity.

The service agreement will enhance the reliability of operations at the plant, helping to maintain a stable supply of up to 875 megawatts (MW) of power over the course of the coming year.

GE employs up to 300 people in Iraq, with offices in Baghdad, Basra and Erbil.

(Source: GE)

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

Economic treaty between Iraq, Jordan stirs Iraqis’ discontent

Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi and his Jordanian counterpart, Omar al-Razza, signed 14 economic agreements Feb. 2 between the two countries, during their meetings on the Iraqi-Jordan border, where a joint industrial city will be established.

The agreements include the transport, trade, health, agriculture, finance and energy sectors.

The recent economic agreements between the Iraqi and Jordanian governments have raised controversy in Iraq, as some Iraqi political and economic institutions believe these understandings favor Jordan and harm Iraq. The Asaib Ahl al-Haq (League of the Righteous), headed by Qais Khazali, said “the Iraqi citizens will pay the tax of these agreements.”

Click here to read the full story.

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

Riyadh woos Iraqis with security talks, economic projects

Falih al-Fayadh, head of the Popular Mobilization Units and Iraq’s national security adviser, visited Saudi Arabia Jan. 31 in a sign of the new and improved ties between the two countries.

As Fayadh is close to Iran and widely viewed as a pro-Iran candidate for interior minister in the government of Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, his visit aimed to reassure Riyadh that the PMU will target neither it nor its interests in Iraq.

A few days before Fayadh’s visit to Saudi Arabia, Riyadh renewed its support for Baghdad, especially in terms of security, in a Jan. 24 phone call between Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Abdul Mahdi.

In light of the tension prevailing over the region, the phone call emphasized Riyadh’s desire to make up for the past and create a positive relationship with Iraq.

Click here to read the full story.

The Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC) has announced that it has launched it’s ‘IBBC Women’s Group’, dedicated to empowering and advancing women’s careers and networks across all areas of business in Iraq, the Middle East and Internationally.

Under the Chairmanship of Samar Thamer of AMS Iraq and coordinated by IBBC’s Agne Abramauskaite and Ashley Goodall, the Women’s Group will be organising events, talks and networking opportunities for those who wish to participate in this progressive and exciting new venture.

Background

IBBC Women’s Group primarily wants to encourage and reinforce the role of women’s socio-economic development in the Middle East Region.

We will work with our members to share knowledge and best practice, via networking opportunities, online platforms and events to ensure that standards are raised to benefit women in the ME. We want to encourage men and women to speak up and share the best practice and showcase greater awareness of women’s prospects globally.

IBBC Women’s Group is a part of Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC), which facilitates business, trade and investment, for the benefit of the Republic of Iraq and its members, seeking to bring together Iraqi, British and international companies and public sector bodies through a joint platform identifying mutual interests and common goals.

It is a powerful network of some of the most important global corporations as well as key Iraqi and British companies and enjoys the highest-level of support from governments and Global Organisations.

Activities

  • Reinforce measures to promote women in corporate leadership through the IBBC
  • Increase women’s access to mentorship and training opportunities that could led by the companies and academic institutions that are linked with IBBC
  • Support social awareness and promote gender equality at work and communities
  • Create networking, business and mentoring events on and off line
  • Influence the Iraqi government where possible to drive progress towards women’s empowerment

If you have an interest in the IBBC’s Women’s Group and would like to participate, please join our newly created LinkedIn & Facebook groups to keep up to date on activities going forward:

https://www.facebook.com/2241576649458055/photos/2241577296124657/

https://www.linkedin.com/groups/8731839/

(Source: IBBC)

IBBC completes Trade Mission to Baghdad with largest ever delegation of UK, International & Iraqi Businesses 9-12 Feb 2019

The Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC) visited numerous Iraqi government ministers and officials during a highly successful trade mission to Baghdad on 9-12 February 2019.

The delegation was the largest ever led to the Republic of Iraq by the IBBC and included meetings with the Prime Minister, H.E. Dr Adil Abdul-Mahdi and Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister H.E. Dr Fuad Hussein.

The delegation was supported by Her Majesty’s Ambassador to Iraq Jon Wilks CMG and the UK’s Department of International Trade. A reception was held for members and guests at the British Embassy in Baghdad courtesy of the Ambassador on Sunday 10 February.

Meetings were held with the following officials:

  • H.E. Dr Adil Abdul-Mahdi, Prime Minister
  • Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Dr Fuad Hussain
  • Minister of Health Dr Ala Al Alwan
  • Minister of Transport Dr Abdullah Luaibi
  • Minister of Electricity Dr Luay Al Khateeb
  • PM’s Advisory Commission
  • Chairman of National Investment Commission Dr Sami Al Araji

Christophe Michels, Managing Director of IBBC stated:

“We were delighted to be able to organise such a large delegation of some of the most prominent UK, Iraqi & International companies operating in Iraq to meet with essential political figures in the new administration.

“After a series of highly productive meetings and discussions across a range of sectors, we feel confident that compared to previous years, Iraq in 2019 will see a significant level of progress in investment and economic growth to the benefit of the country and its people.”

The IBBC Spring Conference at the Mansion House taking place on 10 April in London will build upon the success of this mission. We expect a high-level delegation of Iraqi government figures to attend, as well a UK government presence and numerous senior industry and academic experts. For more information and registration: https://www.iraqbritainbusiness.org/event/spring-conference-at-the-mansion-house

Numerous IBBC Member companies joined the delegation, representing the major companies doing business in Iraq, across the most important sectors of the economy:

Al Bilal Group

Al Burhan

Al Nukhba-OFS FZCO

Al Maseer Insurance

ARCHS

Dar Group

EY

Exxon Mobil

Field Energy Services

G4S

GE

Gulfsands Petroleum

International Islamic Bank

Khudairi Group

KPMG

Management Partners

Menzies Aviation

Ratba’a Contracting Co. LLC

Serco

Siemens

Standard Chartered Bank

Zaha Hadid Architects

(Source: IBBC)