By John Lee.

At its regular meeting on Tuesday, the Iraqi Cabinet has decided to renew the licenses of mobile phone companies for a period of five years.

The offer is conditional on the companies paying 50 percent of their outstanding debt, and agreeing to provide 4G services.

(Source: Govt of Iraq)

The Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC) held a well attended video conference on the subject of ‘The Adoption of Fintech and Online Safety and its impact on the Iraqi Economy‘, for members and a wider audience of Tech specialists in UK and Iraq.

The key speakers included:

  • Hugo Rousseau – Program manager for Fintech at Tech UK- who spoke on emergent trends in Tech and with companies emerging from UK.
  • Yazen Altimimi- Ceo Zain Cash, Iraq’s largest on line transactor and Telecom, who shared his view of the Iraqi Fintech market and the opportunities and challenges within it.
  • Ian Taylor- VP Government relations in EU for Mastercard- who provided an overview of the importance and relevance of Government if bringing forward changes to the Tech ecosystem, the regulatory framework and as a key drive for, change.
  • Botan Osman: CEO Restrata -The importance of safety and security software and crisis management expertise.

The panel provided insights into aspects and impact of Fintech for Iraq, including the benefits of an online and cashless economy, that development of Fintech in London has benefitted from being a financial centre and now has over $5bn FDI alone on Fintech.

Overall benefits of Fintech encompass transparency, efficiency and cost reduction, prevention of fraud and  Financial inclusion for the 32million Iraqis who do not have a bank account ( 2 billion world wide). But also the point that a cash economy is expensive and possibly more so than costs of implementing an online economy. The panel discussed the need for Government to lead and adopt technological changes that facilitate public uptake,including the mandating of online transactions in various service areas and including E Govt for licenses and driving changes with the Central Bank as well as a clear and positive regulatory framework  that is not too restrictive in the first instance, but fosters trust .

It was agreed that the public and consumer has a low trust in banking and online banking, for historical reasons- and that marketing and online wins need to be communicated to them to encourage adoption – something Zain Cash is doing, to realise its ambition to become Iraq’s first digital bank. To this point. Mastercard also added that the cost of online security has to be factored into costs for transactions, but that once its operating at scale the costs come down.

Tech UK also note that new non traditional players are entering the financial services market- such as Telecoms, and the giants like Apple, Google, and in Africa- E-PESA has been hugely effective in supporting development of the economy and overall efficiency – something that Iraq could rapidly adopt  as it has a high penetration of smart phones already.Data sharing, AI and Open Banking are impacting on the kind of services and shaping the agendas in EU in a positive way for both consumers and businesses.

Botan Osman made the relevant points that online tech and safety during Covid crisis has come to the fore as people are working remotely from home, but still need to remain vigilant on production platforms and safe from hackers- so Restrata have a platform that enable monitoring of assets and people and their online safety – Given the financial  efficiency pressures on oil and gas production, online monitoring and reduction in personnel  go hand in hand with their system capabilities, and this is likely replicated across many sectors in Iraq and Internationally.

He said that ‘ now is the time’ to make radical changes in Government and business, to adapt to COVID and low oil prices, and to embrace the opportunity and benefits Tech brings . Overall it was agreed that a mindset shift is required among Government and populations to embrace the opportunities now.

For more information on the panel, please view the video here.

Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC) Tech forum Video Conference

Monday 27th April, 2:00 – 2:45 pm UK time.

Topic:

To discuss the adoption and benefits of Fintech and Cyber Tech and likely impact on the Iraqi economy, based on experiences elsewhere.

Speakers:

  • Hugo Rousseau: program mgr financial services TechUK (the UKs largest Tech association)
  • Yazen Altimimi: MD ZainCash – Iraq’s largest telecom operator and online transactor
  • Botan Osman: MD of Restrata -Software safety
  • Ian Taylor: Governmental Director of Mastercard Europe.
  • Ashley Goodall – IBBC (Chair)

Hugo Rousseau to provide an overview from UK of Fintech and Cyber in relation to dynamics of the Tech economy, and its benefits to UK plc, and likely benefits to Iraq.

Ian Taylor to provide insights into Mastercard digital operations and how they use Fintech to work with Govt and Financial service providers, and the likely opportunities for Iraq.

Yazen Alminimi – overview of Digital / Fintech operation in Iraq and how Zain’s online payments are being adopted – challenges and opportunities in Iraqi market and role of the Central bank?

Botan Osman – how Software tech can secure and support the development of online company digital services in Iraq.

 

General discussion: 10 Minutes

 

Please submit any questions you might have in advance for speakers to: London@webuildiraq.org

Total time- 45 minutes.

Please register using this link: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_jVTT3VMpT0CQw1a__meuyA

(Source: IBBC)

By John Lee.

Mobile telecommunications company Zain has reported that its Iraqi revenue was stable at USD 1.1 billion last year, despite a competitive landscape and economic and political issues in Zain stronghold regions.

Announcing its results for 2019, the company said:

[Zain Iraq] EBITDA grew strongly by 10% Y-o-Y amounting to USD 465 million (43% EBITDA margin) based on the operational transformation program.

“Accordingly, the operation reported a net profit of USD 63 million for 2019, up 28% Y-o-Y. Zain Iraq’s focus on customer experience, services expansion across the country and cost transformation combined with growth of data and digital revenue were key drivers of this exceptional performance.

“Retention and customer loyalty initiatives also resulted in the company serving 15.7 million customers.

(Source: Zain)

Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC) fields significant Baghdad meetings with Dr Barham Salih, President of Iraq, and Ambassadors, to strengthen private sector business in Iraq.

IBBC President Baroness Nicholson and MD Christophe Michels, Rasmi Al Jabri, IBBC Deputy Chairman and Mohanad Al Khatab Baghdad Office Manager, met this week with the President Dr Barham Salih and a range of Government of Iraq Ministers and business leaders.

The team updated the President on the work of IBBC and it’s members in Iraq. There followed wide ranging discussions on current affairs in Iraq and internationally. The President was ‘delighted to see IBBC in Baghdad in these challenging times and complimented the organisation for its ongoing and very effective work. He said that he was willing to support IBBC fully whenever required.’

Additional meetings included the Chief of Justice Faik Zidan, to follow up on his recent visit to London when IBBC hosted him, and to discuss the legal framework in Iraq and current affairs.

Dr Sami Al Araji, Head of the National Investment Commission (NIC) also agreed to plan future regular joint activities in Baghdad as the situation returns to normal.

Further meetings included Civil Society activist Mrs Hana to understand the many reasons for the protests and the latest news from Tahir Square and around the country. IBBC expressed sympathy for the movement and discussed ways in which the protest movement could succeed in some of it’s demands without facing a full confrontation with the security forces.

At the US Ambassador Tueller’s residence, the Ambassador, guests and Ambassadors from Canada and Australia and John Tucknot UK Deputy Head of mission, discussed the work of IBBC and how to strengthen collaboration with the US, Canada and Australia, to support the private sector. IBBC is widely recognised as being the most successful trade council in Iraq.

Thanks also to IIB, Al Burhan Group, G4S, Zain and March Group for their support during the visit.

(Source: IBBC)

Seedstars World, the largest seed-stage startup competition for emerging markets and fast-growing startup scenes, hosted its Iraq round this Friday, at The Station, where 8 selected startups were invited to present their companies in front of the local jury panel.

The local winners were chosen for their innovative sustainable solutions on their different fields. The 1st winner of the competition was IOT Kids,  an online platform teaching kids how to code using scratch and also direct courses in certain private schools. IOT Kids will go on to represent Iraq at Seedstars Regional Summit.

In second place went to Tabib Baghdad, an online booking platform that connects doctors with patients.

Third place was taken by Ur Transport, a revolutionary airboat eco friendly design which will serve as the major future infrastructure for rivers.

After a careful screening and training on Day 1, the Seedstars team shortlisted 8 of the best seed-stage startups in Iraq who pitched on August 2 for the opportunity to compete at the Seedstars Summit, that annually takes place in Switzerland. The list of the Jury members will included Ali Hili, Youth and Entrepreneurship at Zain Iraq, Bassem Abdel Hadi Hassan, Spokesperson for the Central Bank of Iraq (CBI), Noor Alhandal, Chairman at Ashur International Bank, Khaled Alabadi, Project Manager at GE, Dhafer Hasan, Programme Analyst at UNDP and Anas Al-Chalabi, Business Development Manager at Social n’ Tech

A lot of partners have supported Seedstars at making this event happen. The Main Partners of the Event are Central Bank of Iraq continue to position themselves as great believers in the impact of entrepreneurship. The Local Partners of the event are The Station and Social N’ Tech . Further support is provided by Careem, one of the regions most successful startups, as Entrepreneurship Partners.

In order to provide local entrepreneurs with this opportunity and aiming to deliver the best possible event, Seedstars closely worked with Mohammad Salah, who is representing the initiative throughout the year. “As the Seedstars ambassadors in Baghdad, we’re more than proud to have hosted the competition in Iraq; This event was a massive networking and funding opportunity to the finalists. Bringing Seedstars to Iraq will open the door for other global incubators, accelerators and competitions by encouraging them to expand to Iraq. we are here to make a difference, to create opportunities and give exposure to the ecosystem” explains Mohamad Salah , Managing Director at Social N Tech.

Mira Charkawi, Community Events Manager at Seedstars also said:

“At Seedstars, we believe talent and good ideas are everywhere. We see ourselves as a platform connecting investors to the next generation of startup entrepreneurs in places where normally people wouldn’t think startup ecosystem have such traction, growth and buzz. We are very excited to have been in Baghdad, highlighting such a bustling entrepreneurship ecosystem and we are here to witness the reality”.

Continuing on its world MENA tour, Seedstars World’s next stop is in Cairo taking place at Seedstars Seedspace on the 21&22 of August. Seedstars World is looking for smart startups that solve regional issues and/or develop profitable products for the global market. Startups are invited to apply on the above mentioned websites.

(Source: Seedstars)

By John Lee.

Zain Iraq‘s revenues for the first half of 2019 were up 14 percent on the same period last year.

In its results for first six months of 2019, the company said:

Zain Iraq performed exceptionally well in H1 2019 when compared to H1 2018 with revenue reaching USD 522 million and EBITDA reached USD 220 million, up 14% reflecting an EBITDA margin of 42%.

“The operation reported a Net Income of USD 25 million for H1 2019, up 39% on the USD 18 million profit recorded for H1 2018.

“The operator added 600,000 customers (up 4% Y-o-Y) to reach 15.3 million and witnessed significant growth in data Revenue, as well as profitable progress in the enterprise (B2B) segment.

(Source: Zain)

(Picture: Bader al-Kharafi, Vice Chairman and CEO of Zain)

Zain Iraq becomes first operator in the Middle East to introduce purchase solution via Facebook

Zain Iraq, the country’s largest mobile operator by customer numbers, announces the introduction of a solution that enables customers to purchase offers via their Facebook app, making it the first operator in the Middle East to provide this functionality, and among the first 10 providers to do so worldwide.

The service, which is available on Android devices, and via the portal on iOS phones, was introduced by Zain Iraq in coordination with Facebook.

Ali Al Zahid (pictured), Zain Iraq CEO, commented:

“Zain wants its services to be as convenient as possible by providing the best customer experience. Being the first operator in the Middle East to launch this solution gives us tremendous confidence that we are building the next positive differentiator in our market.

“Our business is evolving, with customers in search of simple solutions that are easy to use, and which fit neatly into their daily lives. I am extremely proud of our team who cater to every need of our 16-million customers.”

Facebook is extremely popular in Iraq, numbering over 20 million accounts. Zain Iraq counts the highest number of Facebook phone users in the country with over 5 million  followers, according to figures from the social media platform.

(Source: Zain)

Zain Iraq becomes first operator in the Middle East to introduce purchase solution via Facebook

Zain Iraq, the country’s largest mobile operator by customer numbers, announces the introduction of a solution that enables customers to purchase offers via their Facebook app, making it the first operator in the Middle East to provide this functionality, and among the first 10 providers to do so worldwide.

The service, which is available on Android devices, and via the portal on iOS phones, was introduced by Zain Iraq in coordination with Facebook.

Ali Al Zahid (pictured), Zain Iraq CEO, commented:

“Zain wants its services to be as convenient as possible by providing the best customer experience. Being the first operator in the Middle East to launch this solution gives us tremendous confidence that we are building the next positive differentiator in our market.

“Our business is evolving, with customers in search of simple solutions that are easy to use, and which fit neatly into their daily lives. I am extremely proud of our team who cater to every need of our 16-million customers.”

Facebook is extremely popular in Iraq, numbering over 20 million accounts. Zain Iraq counts the highest number of Facebook phone users in the country with over 5 million  followers, according to figures from the social media platform.

(Source: Zain)

The Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC) held Iraq’s first International Tech Conference in Baghdad at the Babylon Rotana Baghdad Hotel on 30 April, hosting government ministers, private industry, entrepreneurs, investors, and representatives from the leading UK and Iraq Tech companies.

The purpose of the Conference was to drive confidence, investment and awareness of the power of the new tech economy and how it can benefit Iraq.

The event – Iraq Tech Conference – was led by Ashley Goodall, IBBC’s Marketing Adviser. Keynote addresses were given by H.E. Dr Sami Al Araji, Chairman of the National Investment Commission and Mr Ashraf Al Dahan, Chairman of the CMC Board of Commissioners.

The agenda for the day comprised four panels: Consumer Tech panel, E-Government Panel, Business Fintech and a Consumer Fintech Panel.

Fintech in particular is making strides forward with the blessing of the Central Bank of Iraq (CBI), as Mr Waleed Eidi, Advisor to the Governor of the Central Bank, explained and encouraged the adoption of steps to include Women, those excluded from banking and the digital economy and young people.

The CBI is being ambitious in encouraging banks and financial institutions to modernise and offer new ways to distribute the flow of funds for investment and those who need it. This will also have a big impact on the overall economy and growth.

Ahmed Elkady of EY echoed the importance of Fintech as he led the Consumer FinTech Panel discussion onto technical infrastructure and what needs to happen to grow the opportunity for financial transactions. He was ably supported by National Bank of Iraq’s Eyad Mahmoud and Roger Abboud of Arab Payment Systems – who are modernising banking transactions – and Douglas Way of Almaseer Insurance – who are enabling business to reduce risks and transact insurance products rapidly and scalably.

The conference also embodied eight presentations:

  • “How technology is driving the business and consumer world in Iraq and Internationally” by Zain Iraq;
  • Online Literacy” by Dr Victoria Lindsay, Country Director – Iraq for the British Council;
  • Automating & digitising BP and Iraq” by Zaid Elyaseri, Country Manager-Iraq for BP;
  • Restrata Product Announcement” by Botan Osman, CEO for Restrata;
  • “Five One Labs” by Patricia Letayf, Co-Founder and Director of Operations for Five One Labs;
  • Blockchain and AI – The Future Talk” by Muhana Almrahleh, Director – Head of Information Technology Advisory for KPMG (Jordan); and,
  • How Re:Coded are Training the Next Generation of Technology Leaders in Iraq” by Zahra Shah, Country Manager-Iraq for Re:Coded.

Attendees were able to enjoy one-to-one meetings and conversations.

As part of the Tech Conference on April 30, IBBC hosted an Evening Reception for Entrepreneurs and Start-ups at The Station, Baghdad, the evening prior on 29 April. The evening, planned in partnership with Iraq Tech Ventures and Arabnet, showcased the growing tech community in the country and gave an outstanding platform for some of the leading start-ups and entrepreneurs in a more informal setting.

The participating start-ups pitched their business in 5 minutes to a panel of seven judges composed by: Mohammed Khudairi, Managing Partner of Khudairi Group and Founder of Iraq Tech Ventures; Hal Miran, CEO of MSelect and Founder of Bite.Tech and TechHub; Richard Greer, Venture Capital Investor in Asia, Middle East, & UK and Philanthropist in Northern Iraq; Zahra Shah, Iraq Country Manager for Re:Coded; Ali Ismail, Co-Founder of Fikraspace and Co-Founder & Partner of Solo Creative Studio; Patricia Letayf, Co-Founder and Director of Operations for Five One Labs and Maryam Allami, Advisor for Deutsche Gesellschaft fuer Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH.

Through this first international Tech Conference in Iraq, IBBC aims to provide a foundation, a platform and focus for Tech in Iraq and give inspiration and confidence to those building a modern Iraq.

For more information on the Iraq Britain Business Council, visit our website at https://www.iraqbritainbusiness.org/

To contact IBBC for Interviews, registration and sponsorship please contact london@webuildiraq.org

(Source: IBBC)