By Akanimo Sampson
An agency of the United Nations in Ieaq has sealed a Memorandum of Understanding with telecommunications company, Asiacell, to support innovation under the Enterprise Development Fund (EDF), a livelihoods programme that contributes to economic recovery and private sector revitalisation through tailored support to Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).
The innovation component (EDFi) supports early-stage tech businesses and tech start-ups in Iraq that can contribute to the local economy and create jobs for young people in the tech sector.
This is coming as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)officially known as the Islamic State (IS) and also known by its Arabic language acronym, Daesh, conflict displaced six million people in Iraq, disrupted the national economy and limited employment opportunities for citizens.
Sixty per cent of jobs in Iraq are in the private sector, within SMEs; very large numbers of those businesses experienced loss as a result of the conflict and need support to rebuild.
In Fallujah, for example, the UN agency, International Organisation for Migration (IOM) market assessment found that 69 per cent of construction businesses and 66 per cent of food-related businesses saw their workshops looted or burned between 2014 and 2017.
Mosul and numerous other areas also showed high levels of damage and limited access to finance – challenges that the Enterprise Development Fund is designed to help businesses overcome.
IOM Chief of Mission in Iraq, Gerard Waite, said ‘’we strongly believe that the engagement of the private sector is a necessary condition for successful and sustainable economic recovery and job creation. IOM Iraq looks forward to a long, productive collaboration with Asiacell, as we work to expand job creation and improve economic opportunities across Iraq.’’
Adding, Asiacell CEO, Amer Sunna, said this week’s Monday marked the start of a strategic partnership between Asiacell and IOM that will bring the EDFi into effect in Iraq, pointing out, ‘’Asiacell looks forward to contributing to the development of youth skills and capabilities and setting the foundation for a powerful and sustainable economy.’’
EDF aims to restore essential economic infrastructure by providing financial capital to SMEs in economic sectors that were successful prior to the conflict but suffered loss and damage and have a high demand for labour.
By targeting key sectors and providing necessary funding, the EDF encourages rapid but also large-scale job creation. The fund has received hundreds of applications since the pilot phase was launched in September 2018, and 142 business grants have been approved to date.
‘’After the liberation of Mosul, I sold a small plot of land that I owned and tried my best to reopen my factory’’, explained Moufaq Ahmed Mohamed, an EDF beneficiary and owner of an oxygen plant. ‘’I started with only two workers. Later, I received a grant from IOM which enabled me to buy a generator which is crucial to my work.’’
‘’(Before that) I frequently lost hours of work due to sudden power outages’’, he continued. ‘’This generator was a boon to my factory; I have been able to produce more, enabling me to hire more people and expand to 11 workers — which means feeding 11 families. This makes me very happy; this kind of support for the private sector contributes to the revival and rebuilding of Mosul.’’
EDF forms part of IOM’s work in support of the people and Government of Iraq to promote sustainable recovery across the country.
IOM Iraq’s EDF is supported by the US Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM); the European Commission’s Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development (DG DEVCO); KfW, the German Development Bank; the Government of the Netherlands; and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).