Top Mountain in partnership with USAID is launching a business incubator and employment program. The goal of the program is to promote economic growth and increase employment opportunities to support minorities from Ninewa targeted by ISIS.

Program activities will focus on achieving three core objectives designed to support this goal. Firstly, outreach campaigns will be used to increase interest in entrepreneurship and careers in the private sector.

Secondly, the project will build capacity in both technical and soft skills that will help beneficiaries start businesses and become more competitive in the job market. Lastly, the project will help to build professional networks that increase business and employment opportunities for persecuted minorities from Ninewa.

USAID is the world’s premier international development agency and a catalytic actor driving development results. USAID has funded this program under the New Partnership Initiative (NPI) that aims to assist populations in Iraq recovering from the genocide perpetrated by ISIS.

Top Mountain is a consulting firm based in Iraq focused on stabilization, economic development, and promoting employment and entrepreneurship. This program is aligned with Top Mountain’s mission to support economic development and stability in Iraq.

For more information please contact info@topmountain.co

(Source: Top Mountain)

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.

Top Mountain LLC hosted the first annual Business Canvas Erbil conference which was attended by 120 participants and took place in the Dedeman hotel.

The conference was funded by the European Union and German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development through GIZ.

The event was also sponsored by GroFin Iraq, a financing organization that provides loans of up to $2 million to SMEs in Iraq.

The goal of the conference was to inform the audience about the future of economic development in the Kurdistan Region and promote the services of Top Mountain Business Incubator.

Throughout the conference, speakers and panelists reviewed the challenges and opportunities related to the job market and entrepreneurship.

During his presentation on the future of the startup ecosystem in Iraq, one of the Co-founders of Top Mountain explained that within the next few years startups in Iraq will begin to rapidly multiply and grow as financing and technical skills become more widely available.

This predication is based on the rapid growth in startups that has occurred throughout the MENA region over the last 3 years. Some of the key conclusions reached by panelist and speakers are that companies in Iraq must expand their internship programs to help train the next generation of skilled workers.

Panelists also noted that lack of access to finance is the most critical challenge to SME growth. Despite the challenges facing businesses in Iraq, most of the attendees and panelists remain optimistic and anticipate a bright future for Iraq’s economy.

(Source: Top Mountain LLC)

The Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC) has hosted a dinner in honour of Mr Xavier Rolet, CEO of the London Stock Exchange Group.

After dinner, Mr Rolet spoke about the transforming power of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs), particularly in emerging markets such as Iraq.

He said that SMEs can spearhead profound societal change in countries which face political and other factors of instability, and spoke of the various initiatives his company is taking globally to build up and promote SMEs.

IBBC Managing Director, Christophe Michels, added:

It was an immense honour and privilege for IBBC to host Mr Rolet, one of the busiest actors in the global economy.

“The dinner with Mr Rolet was part of the wide ranging effort the IBBC is undertaking to put Iraq firmly on the map as a country to do business in.”

Members in attendance included representatives of Amec Foster Wheeler, Bath Spa University, Constellis, EY, Garda World, HWH & Associates, International Islamic Bank,  Mott MacDonald, Pell Frischmann, Perkins +Will UK, Petrofac, Rolls-Royce, Standard Chartered Bank and UB Holding.

(Source: IBBC)

By Lara Saeed (pictured), Managing Editor, Bite.Tech. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Over the past 6 months, we at Bite.Tech have been mapping out the startup ecosystem in Iraq which consists of all the stakeholders who directly add value and and drive the startup ecosystem providing entrepreneurs, investors, and new comers with an overall guide of the ecosystem.

With this map we can also identify the main challenges the Iraq’s startup ecosystem faces and the initiatives the Iraqi ecosystem needs to go through for it to become a high-potential site amongst regional startup ecosystems. For example, a notable missing section on the map is investments/funding.

E-commerce:

  1. Chanbar is an online platform that allows merchants to create online stores within 24 hours, users can start to sell products online immediately after a simple setup. Payment can be made through Zain cash.

CO-Working Space

  1. Tech Hub: the first tech focused co-working space in Iraq, the Erbil location is already accommodating several startups and is running workshops, with a Baghdad branch soon to follow.

Media:

  1. Bite.Tech is an online newsletter published in English covering the tech startup ecosystem of Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan.

Events:

  1. HackaErbil: a two-day hackathon, participants are required to present new and innovative projects.
  2. Startup Weekend: Powered by Google, Startup Weekend teaches its participants how to network and build their startups within 54 hours.
  3. Pitch Bootcamp: a two-day career accelerator program that helps participants develop their skills, and improves their chances of finding jobs. The concept is from Spark Agency in Portugal who have organized these events around the world.
  4. Rwanga: the NGO running the Rwanga Awards. The event is open to anyone who wishes to showcase their work in the fields of writing, photography, scientific discoveries and many more.

Maker Space:

  1. Fikra Space: an open space in Baghdad for people who have common interests in computers, technology, science, arts and other fields.
  2. Science Camp: a space for anyone with interest in computing technology, digital arts, design, green energy, recycling & digital arts run in Basra?

Education:

  1. Al-Mansour University Incubator: The incubator is located in Al-Mansour University. They guide and support entrepreneurs through brain storming sessions, business analysis and more.
  2. MSELECT: a staffing agency with a training academy offering internationally certified public and private courses in business, IT, soft skills, vocational subjects and more.
  3. Re:Coded: the mission is to equip refugees and vulnerable youth in conflict affected areas with fundamental coding skills and professional experience that together create access to careers in technology.
  4. Code Lab: an intensive software development boot camp that meets virtually on Facebook. The boot camp focuses on writing clean and efficient code to produce scalable and maintainable software products.

 

By Hal Miran, Editor-in-Chief, Bite.Tech.

Tech has grown in prominence as a key sector in global economic health. It is now commonly accepted that an economy in which entrepreneurs have the freedom and resources to create and innovate tend to perform much more robustly.

Intriguingly, one study on the effect of tech on a country’s economy has said that there is a much greater positive spillover effect than has been widely thought1.

The world has entered the new dawn of the technology era. Sure, we’ve had major waves of technological advances since the start of the Industrial Revolution in the late 18th century4. But nothing like this.

Artificial Intelligence, the Internet of Things, Robotics and Automation are set to disrupt the entire world, with virtually every major sector already recently disrupted by technological innovation.

It is a safe bet to assume that global tech is set to grow exponentially. The bottom line is that tech has already demonstrated its crucial importance to economic health, which is only set to increase.

What this means is that more than ever, tech entrepreneurs will be needed in this new tech-driven world to power economic growth.

Tech entrepreneurship in Iraq: Breaking the country’s dependence on oil

The oil sector has not been reliable since 2014, with prices fluctuating wildly. So long core for the Iraqi economy, the country can no longer depend exclusively on the fuel. What has occurred in global oil markets in the last few years is a warning that Iraq must pay attention to.

Iraq is so dependent on the fuel that the government, recently asked for the country to be exempt from the OPEC production cut agreement5, as it is desperate to produce as many barrels of oil as it can.

Tech entrepreneurship can break this dependence and help the economy to grow in ways that the oil sector, crucial as it has been for Iraq for so long, can never achieve.

How have other countries benefited from a booming tech sector?

In the U.S, the tech sector accounts for 7% of GDP and employs almost 7 million people2. In the UK, tech accounts for 8% of British GDP3. In these countries and indeed around the globe it is set to grow further, both in developed and developing economies.

By Hal Miran, Editor-in-Chief, Bite.Tech.

It might be surprising to know that the region of the Middle East has become a blossoming entrepreneurial, tech startup hub. From Jordan to Lebanon and Iran to Egypt, the region has made significant progress with innovation driving tech startup growth. Israel has more startups per capita than anywhere else in the world.

Iraq has been the notable absentee from this tech ecosystem growth. Over the last 18 months Bite.Tech has dedicated time researching the Iraqi tech ecosystem, along with a group of committed, talented writers and entrepreneurs. We believe that we are on the verge of imminent breakthroughs and of establishing our own strong tech ecosystem here in Iraq.

When most people think of our country, they think of the wars and the ensuing conflict that crippled the country. But this is only very recent history in the country that gave birth to one of the greatest commerce and trade regions the world has ever known. It is a country steeped in the history of human civilisation.

Now, Iraqis are hopeful of leaving the recent issues that have plagued the country in the past and to harness its considerable resources to drive economic recovery.

One key area for this to happen is the fostering of a tech entrepreneurial community. In the last few years, a large group of tech entrepreneurs has emerged, who have created the beginnings of an Iraqi tech ecosystem from scratch. And it is now beginning to show signs of advancing beyond its primary stage.

The Blossoming Iraqi Tech Startup Space

The impact of the conflict witnessed in the country since 2003 has led to a dearth of foreign investment. It has also badly affected the education system. This has led to a lack of capital and of talent, respectively. Up to now, the tech startup community has had to be innovative and adaptable to deal with problems in financing, infrastructure and human resources.

By Padraig O’Hannelly.

A new LinkedIn group has been created to help promote new businesses in Iraq.

The Iraqi Crowdsourcing Group is dedicated to Iraqi entrepreneurship, projects, business ideas, solutions to problems Iraqi startups face, and innovation to ensure that successful and efficient new businesses are created.

It has been set up by Aziz Al Nassiri, founder of by RiTS, a small innovative Iraqi consultancy established in 2004, that has already established Iraq’s first Startup Incubator in a collaboration with Al Mansour University, to encourage and inspire their graduates to initiate their own business projects.

Al Nassiri told Iraq Business News:

Eventually we hope to add crowdfunding to help solve the biggest obstacle Iraqi entrepreneurs face. We hope to connect professionals from all disciplines, academia, government, businessmen and students with Iraqi entrepreneurs and startups.

“We will soon follow up with a website and mobile app to help this group become a main source for inspiration to youth, males and females.

“If you are interested in supporting the creation of a vibrant and ethical Iraqi private sector that absorbs most of the 450,000 new entrants to the Iraqi job market every year, then joining this group is a must. Please spread this message to all your contacts on Linked in.

Link:  https://www.linkedin.com/groups/10318903

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

In order to expand his men’s shoe business, Mohammed Jizani had to borrow $100,000 from a loan shark. As is common in such cases, he was forced to pay the lender $4,000 a month in interest until the final payment on his debt.

Jizani, who owns four shops in Baghdad, imports most of the goods he sells from Turkey. He tried to get a loan from local banks, but lacked sufficient collateral. Even the feasibility study he prepared to outline the profits he expected from his business proved useless.

“Dealing with the usurer is easy,” he said sarcastically, “while banks do not seem to be interested in small business expansion.”

Al-Monitor found out that the Iraqi moneylender Jizani dealt with owns a foreign exchange office in the Jamila area, east of Baghdad. He lends money to merchants like Jizani and has developed relationships with owners of small factories that produce foodstuffs as well as wholesale food stores.

Charging excessive interest, called “riba” in Arabic, is prohibited as a sin under Islamic law. But Jizani, a practicing Muslim, said a lack of liquidity can lead otherwise dedicated Muslims to make deals with predatory lenders.

Such was the case with Ahmed Jabbar of Baghdad. Extended unemployment led Jabbar to buy a taxicab with money from such a lender. But he said he believes the money he borrowed does not constitute an act of riba. He told Al-Monitor, “I took from one of the operators $10,000 and I will pay them back in Iraqi dinars with an interest amount equivalent to about $3,000.”