By John Lee.

Jordan’s Capital Bank has said that it has signed a letter of intent to acquire assets and liabilities of Lebanon’s Bank Audi.

It’s Chairman told Reuters that the bank has already begun due diligence on buying Bank Audi’s Iraqi units.

Click here to see the stock market annoucement.

Click here to read Reuters interview

(Sources: Amman Stock Exchange, Reuters)

The post Capital Bank to buy Lebanon’s Bank Audi first appeared on Iraq Business News.

By John Lee.

On Wednesday evening, the Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab received an Iraqi delegation headed by Oil Minister Ihsan Abdul-Jabbar, representing Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, and which included Deputy Health Minister Hani Al-Aqabi, Chargé D’affaires, Amin Al-Nasrawi, Political Advisor Ahmad Jamal and Oil Minister’s Office Head Haidar Obaid, in the presence of Energy and Water Minister Raymond Ghajar and PM’s Advisor, Khodor Taleb.

The delegation briefed the Prime minister on the Iraqi medical provisions that arrived in Beirut and the petroleum products that departed Baghdad.

After the meeting, Minister Abdul-Jabbar said:

In response to the directive of the Prime Minister, Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, we came from the Ministry of Oil along with the Deputy Health Minister and a number of general and specialized surgeons, carrying aid amounting to 20 tons of medical and health materials, as an expression of Iraq’s solidarity with the suffering of brotherly Lebanon due to the recent incident that took place.

“An atmosphere of desolation and expectation prevailed in Iraq, in the face of the major event that afflicted Beirut. May Lebanon return to normalcy and live safe. The Iraqi government is committed to engage with Lebanon in the face of this ordeal. The fuel convoys have left Baghdad en route to Beirut via the Syrian border.

“Premier Al-Kadhimi promised the Lebanese government to provide Lebanon with fuel; Iraq will be of invaluable assistance and support for the Lebanese government. The medical staff will remain in Beirut until the Lebanese authorities consent to their return, and medical assistance will remain available. We express our heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims and missing persons, and we wish recovery for the wounded people.

(Source: Lebanese PM Press Office)

By John Lee.

The Iraqi Civil Aviation Authority (ICAA) has reportedly extended of the ban on regular flights in the country until 15th July.

According to Xinhua, the ban includes both domestic and international flights with the exception of those of emergency, medical evacuation and air cargo as well as planes that cross Iraqi airspace.

In another exception, Iraqi Airways will resume commercial flights between Baghdad and Beirut starting 2nd July.

(Source: Xinhua)

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Iraq-based International Network for Cards and Digital Payment Services (INC Iraq) and a Lebanese fintech startup NymCard that is digitizing how payments cards are issued, delivered, and used, in collaboration with Visa have launched the first digital-only (prepaid) payment card ‘Neo‘ in Iraq to serve the underbanked Iraqi population, the two companies announced in a joint-statement to MENAbytes.

The virtual card that can be requested through Neo’s mobile app within seconds will enable users to make online purchases on both local and international websites. The entire KYC process is digital. Neo’s mobile application (available for both iOS and Android) comes with a mobile wallet that allows users to keep an eye on their expenses.

The users can recharge their topup their Neo wallet through INC Iraq’s network of offline agents and then add the money from wallet to their card. A company representative, speaking to MENAbytes, said that INC plans to have 2,500 agents in its network within 12 months.

More here.

(Source: Menabytes)

By John Lee.

On Wednesday, the Lebanese President, General Michel Aoun, welcomed the Vice President of Iraq, former Iraqi Prime Minister, Dr. Iyad Allawi, with whom he discussed the bolstering of Lebanese-Iraqi relations in all areas, especially on economic matters.

Following his meeting with President Aoun, Xinhua quotes Vice President Allawi as saying:

“We have discussed with Lebanese President Michel Aoun the possibility of creating partnership between Lebanese and Iraqi businessmen and we will be following up on our agreements to make sure they are put in action very soon.”

He reportedly added that Iraq is keen to benefit from the Lebanese expertise in the banking sector.

(Source: Govt of Lebanon, Xinhua)

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)

By John Lee.

The Speaker of the Lebanese Parliament has reportedly called for the restoration of an oil pipeline between Iraq and Lebanon, which ceased operation during the Iran-Iraq war more than 30 years ago.

On the last of a four-day visit to Iraq, during which he met with Iraqi President Barham Salih, Nabih Berri is also quoted as saying:

“We discussed Lebanese investment in Iraq and especially the subject of the oil installations between Kirkuk and Tripoli, a topic we must return to.”

(Sources: Al Bawaba, Office of the Iraqi President)

By John Lee.

A delegation of major Lebanese companies have arrived in Baghdad for a series of meetings with Iraq’s National Investment Commission (NIC).

The were accompanied the Lebanese Minister of Telecommunications, Dr. Muhamed Shuqair, and the opening meeting was attended by the Iraqi Minister of telecommunications, Dr. Naeem Al- Rubaiee; NIC Chairman, Dr. Sami Al- Araji; Chairman of the Damaged Areas Reconstruction Fund, Mustafa Al- Heti; and the Head of the International Finance Corporation (IFC) office in Iraq, Mr. Ziad Badr.

In his opening speech, Dr. Al-Araji invited Lebanese companies to get involved in the Iraqi market “in a way that is consistent with the historical and social relations between the two countries“.

(Source: NIC)