News Highlights IZDIHAR Newsletter

IZDIHAR News Archives

IZDIHAR Newsletter: Small Business Development Centers Flourish after One Year
A special edition of the IZDIHAR Newletter focuses on the achievements of the Small Business Development Centers in Iraq and how they have helped business men and women launch and grow their businesses, create new jobs, and benefit their communities.
Download PDF >>

Awareness Conference Highlights the Need to Reform the Copyright Regime in Iraq
31 January 2008 - The first-ever Iraqi Copyright Awareness conference, co-hosted by the Iraqi Ministry of Culture and the USAID-funded IZDIHAR project, was held at “Al Rasheed” Hotel in Baghdad on January 28. The event gathered some fifty participants including authors, creators, painters and innovators, government and parliament representatives. Among the audience were personalities such as Abdul Hadi Khadum, renowned author of several widely read children’s books and film scripts, and Jabar Al-Jabri, Deputy Minister of Culture.
More >

Fifteen Entrepreneurs in Hilla Receive Business Grants with Support from Local SBDC
29 January 2008 - The awarding in Iskandariya of small grants to fifteen local entrepreneurs turned January 27 into a day of joy and pride for the community. The recipients - six start-ups and nine existing businesses – were awarded a total of $27,250 that will help them expand their operations.
More >

Iraq Submits Key Accession Package to the World Trade Organization
26 January 2007
- On January 24, the Government of Iraq submitted responses to the second round of World Trade Organization (WTO) questionnaires to the headquarters of the organization in Geneva, as well as key technical documentation including the country’s formal “action plan” laying out a strategy and timetable for reforming its trade regime. In addition, Iraq submitted technical documentation on a variety of trade issues, such as subsidies, intellectual property rights legislation and removal of trade barriers.

More >

IZDIHAR Advances the United States-Iraq Business Dialogue
On December 11, 2007, the USAID-funded IZDIHAR project hosted a three-way video teleconference that advanced the United States-Iraq Business Dialogue – a process established in early 2007 by bilateral agreement between the US Department of Commerce and the Iraqi Ministry of Trade to facilitate private sector business growth in Iraq and to strengthen trade and investment ties between the two countries.
More>  

Over 700 Iraqis Benefit from Cost and Management Accounting Course
A total of 727 Iraqi students and professional accountants, auditors, businessmen and managers from all over Iraq participated in a course on Cost and Management Accounting organized by the USAID-funded IZDIHAR project from October through December of 2007.
More >

Achievement Awards for Microfinance Professionals Mark the Successful Conclusion of the 3rd Microfinance Partners Workshop
The Third Iraq Microfinance Partners Workshop, organized on November 17 by the USAID-funded IZDIHAR project, brought together over 70 microfinance professionals and practitioners from all over Iraq in a forum to assess the progress of the industry and debate major issues relevant for its ongoing development.
More >

The Fallujah Branch of “Al-Takadum” Microfinance Institution Makes First Loans
14 December 2007 - After the successful opening of its main office in Al Qaim in August, the Iraqi microfinance institution “Al Takadum Organization in Al Anbar” moved on to expand its operations and opened a second office in Fallujah. On November 15, the Fallujah branch of the organization disbursed the first two loans - one for home improvement, one for the development of a clothing shop - totaling $4,000. One week later, on November 22, the number of disbursed loans reached 14 and totaled to $32,200.
More >

Iraqi WTO Accession Officials Get First-Hand Knowledge about Latest Intellectual Property Rights Developments
14 December 2007 - The USAID-funded IZDIHAR project recently organized and secured the participation of a high-level delegation of the Iraqi Government to a four-day workshop on the latest developments in laws and policies governing patents, trademarks, copyrights and the enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR). The event was sponsored by the US Patent and Trademarks Office and was held in Amman, Jordan.
More >

USAID Programs Reach Out to Salah ad Din Communities
27 November 2007 – USAID community outreach initiatives facilitated by the Izdihar and Inma projects in two cities of the Salah ad Din governorate – Balad and Ad Dujayl - drew full houses and significant interest from local communities.
More >

Iraqi Microfinance Institution in Salah ad Din Disburses First Loans
27 November 2007 - A new, indigenous microfinance institution in Salah ad Din established with the support of the USAID-funded IZDIHAR project vigorously kicked off its lending activities on November 11 when it disbursed 13 loans totaling $35,600. The recipient of the first loan was the owner of an electrical components shop, who borrowed $3,000 to purchase additional inventory for his business.
More >

New Iraqi Microfinance Program Opens for Business in Salah ad Din
11 November 2007 - In October, a new Iraqi indigenous microfinance program began providing access to funding to local entrepreneurs in Tikrit, the capital city of the Salah al Din governorate. Soon it will expand and open satellite offices in four other districts of the governorate: Bayji, Dujayl, Al-Dhlo'ya and Al-Dour.
More >

Six Iraqi Professionals Receive Certification as IT Trainers
11 November 2007 - The second generation of Iraqi “Trainers of Trainers” (ToT) received their certificates at the outset of the “Vision Forward 2: Strategic Seminar for Iraqi Small Business Development Centers”.  The seminar took place in Baghdad in September and was organized by the USAID-funded IZDIHAR project.
More >

Tikrit University Studies Development of Small Business Development Center
11 November 2007 - The first Business Roundtable Luncheon organized by the Salah al Din Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Tikrit has sparked interest at Tikrit University in the development of a new Small Business Development Center in the city.
More >

Agricultural Market Rehabilitation Project is Launched in Baghdad
18 October 2007 - IZDIHAR has joined forces with the Inma Agribusiness Program to launch an agricultural products market rehabilitation project designed to improve the conditions for the sellers as well as for the buyers in Baghdad’s wholesale and retail markets for agricultural products.
More >

SBDC Staff Learn to Conduct Microfinance Activities
18 October 2007 - The key staff of the Small Business Development Center in Tal’Afar recently attended a training program on the “Pillars of Microfinance”, organized by the USAID-funded IZDIHAR project. The program was conducted by a certified Iraqi CGAP trainer.
More >

BCED Fosters Economic Development in Babil
7 October 2007 - The Babylon Center for Economic Development (BCED) recently organized and facilitated a conference that gathered 50 representatives of government, private sector businesses and non-governmental organizations to discuss and prioritize agricultural development activities in Babil province.
More >

Voucher Program Contributes to the Sustainability of Baghdad SBDC
7 October 2007 - Two months after the successful start of the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Voucher Program operated by the Iraqi Association of Securities Dealers (IASD), the vouchers are already making a significant contribution to the financial sustainability of the organization.

More >

Newly Established Iraqi Microfinance Institution Awards First Loan in Al-Anbar
17 September 2007- A select gathering of over 50 people, including local sheiks, religious leaders, local administration officials and business people, recently participated in the official opening in Al-Qaim of a newly established indigenous microfinance institution – the “Al-Takadum Organization in Al-Anbar”.
More >

Small Business Development Center in Hilla Builds Sustainability
17 September 2007 - The Babil Center for Economic Development (the Small Business Development Center in Hilla) ensured its financial viability over the next seven months as it signed a second Memorandum of Acceptance with the North Babil eProvincial Reconstruction Team (ePRT).
More
>

The Iraqi Company for Bank Guarantees Receives First Tranche of USAID Grant Funds
17 September 2007 - To support development of small and medium enterprises in Iraq, the first $500,000 tranche of a $5 million grant awarded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) was transferred in early August to a deposit account held by the Iraqi Company for Bank Guarantees (ICBG).
More >

Investment and Trade Seminars Draw Full House and Top Officials
30 August 2007 - In mid-August, two trade and investment seminars – in Erbil and Sulaimaniyah – helped update the business community and government officials regarding Iraq’s WTO accession status while sparking lively discussions regarding the impact of the new investment laws on attracting foreign investment, particularly in the Kurdistan Region.
More >

ICBG Promotes Financial Transparency within Iraqi Banking Community
29 August 2007 - The Iraqi Company for Bank Guarantees (ICBG) set an example of transparency to its shareholders by preparing its interim financial statements to June 30th 2007 in accordance with the International Accounting Standards.
More >

Iraqi Union of Accountants and Auditors Provides Training to the Central Bank of Iraq
28 August 2007 - Through a training partnership developed with the Central Bank of Iraq (CBI), the Iraqi Union of Accountants and Auditors (IUAA) recently provided a much-needed course in International Accounting Standards and International Financial Reporting Standards (IAS / IFRS) to CBI employees.
More >

The Website of the Iraqi Microfinance Industry Goes Live
14 August 2007 - A new website dedicated to the Iraqi microfinance industry - www.imfi.org – offers information on upcoming events, resources, training and employment opportunities, and acts as an informal network for the microfinance industry in Iraq.

New Indigenous Microfinance Institution Will Open in Al-Anbar
14 August 2004 - The network of microfinance institutions active in Iraq will soon expand into new areas, as preparations for the opening of the Al-Takadum microfinance institution in Al-Anbar province move into the final stage.
More >

Operational Assessments for Microfinance Institutions
14 August 2007 - As part of the overall technical assistance to indigenous and international microfinance institutions active in Iraq, the USAID-funded IZDIHAR project recently completed operational and financial assessments for the Ninewah Business Center and Relief International. 
More >

Specialized Training Workshop on Intellectual Property Rights
14 August 2007 - The Members of the Copyright Committee of the Ministry of Culture of the Government of Iraq recently participated in a specialized training workshop on the main challenges of copyright-related intellectual property rights in Iraq and the draft copyright law. 
More>

Small Business Development Centers Foster Synergy with Microfinance Institutions
31 July 2007 - A new generation of 14 business development trainers earned their certification during the “Vision Forward Strategic Seminar for Iraqi Small Business Development Centers” organized in Erbil by the USAID-funded IZDIHAR project.  The program also certified four master trainers and three advanced trainers.  Soon all trainers will be delivering business-related courses to indigenous entrepreneurs.
More >

Two Provincial Reconstruction Teams Obligate To Purchase 420 Vouchers for Business Development Courses
30 July 2007 - The successful start of the Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) Voucher Program initiated by the USAID-funded IZDIHAR project has been confirmed by the interest expressed by the embedded Provincial Reconstruction Teams (ePRTs) in Hilla and Baghdad. Between the end of June and the end of July, these two ePRTs obligated to purchase 420 vouchers.
More >

Iraqi Business People Embrace the Small Business Development Centers’ Voucher Program
15 July 2007 - The voucher program initiated by the USAID IZDIHAR project to promote the activity of the Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) is off to a good start in Baghdad.  Two days after the District Advisory Councils (DACs) started advertising the voucher program, the Baghdad SBDC, managed by the Iraqi Association of Securities Dealers (IASD), received 12 applications from local businesspeople interested in taking the “How to Start-Up or Improve a Business” course.
More >

First Iraqi Professionals Receive Certification in Microfinance Training
5 July 2007 - In a recent graduation ceremony in Erbil, 11 Iraqi microfinance professionals stood up one by one, smiled happily and walked proudly to receive the diplomas acknowledging that they are the first Iraqi nationals certified to deliver microfinance courses in Arabic.  The ceremony took place during the Second Microfinance Workshop for Partners and Practitioners organized by the USAID-funded IZDIHAR project.
More >

IZDIHAR and Provincial Reconstruction Team in Kirkuk Facilitate New Source of Loan Funds for Iraqi Small Businesses
1 July 2007 - An Iraqi woman who started a business in tailoring two years ago and wants to expand it by purchasing a sewing machine is the first recipient of a loan facilitated by a new source of funding for Iraqi small businesses: Kiva.
More >

Visit our NEWS ARCHIVES for more stories about the progress being made in Iraq to expand the private sector and create new jobs.

   

 Local entrepreneurs from Hilla receive small business grants.

Local entrepreneurs from Iskandariya were happy to receive small business grants.

USAID official presents award to representative of CHF's microfinance institution in Iraq

USAID/Iraq Mission Director, Mr. Christopher Crowley (center), awards the “Best Performing MFI” prize to CHF at the Third Iraq Microfinance Partners Workshop held November 2007.

Photo of many workshop participants seated in large conference room engaged in presentations on Intellectual Property Rights

A workshop in Amman occasions a substantive exchange of experience among high level represntatives of Middle East countries regarding patents, trademarks, copyrights and Intellectual Property Rights.

Participants in a community gathering in Ad Dujayl discuss econonmic development opportunities offered through USAID programs.

Training participants view slide show about managing microfinance activities

Staff engaged in starting up a new microfinance program in the Salah ad Din governorate receive specialized training.

Photo of Photo of seminar participants around table

Participants in the "Vision Forward" seminar attend a training session.

Photo of voucher

The voucher gives Iraqi business people access to business development training.

Iraqi female entrepreneur working at sewing machine

Fatima received a $1,200 loan to expand her tailoring business.

Image of Iraqi women working in computer lab.

Women participants in the “How to Start-up or Improve a Business” course develop computer skills.

Image of training event on technical barriers to trade

Government officials and businesspeople in Erbil learn about technical barriers to trade and trade promotion.

ICBG and USAID sign Historic Grant Agreement

ICBG Board Members discuss with USAID and IZDIHAR representatives details of $5 million(USD) grant agreement.

Entrepreneurs participate in course at Small Business Development Center in Hilla.

The Small Business Development Center Opened in Hilla on 24 November 2006.

National Microfinance Summit participants listening to opening remarks

National Microfinance Summit gathers diverse stakeholders to discuss microfinance in Iraq.
Microfinance lender interviewing prospective client

Participants in a recent MFI training program observed client interviews at the National Microfinance Bank in Jordan.

 

Back to Top

Awareness Conference Highlights the Need to Reform
the Copyright Regime in Iraq

31 January 2008 - The first-ever Iraqi Copyright Awareness conference, co-hosted by the Iraqi Ministry of Culture and the USAID-funded IZDIHAR project, was held at “Al Rasheed” Hotel in Baghdad on January 28. The event gathered some fifty participants including authors, creators, painters and innovators, government and parliament representatives. Among the audience were personalities such as Abdul Hadi Khadum, renowned author of several widely read children’s books and film scripts, and Jabar Al-Jabri, Deputy Minister of Culture.

The conference discussed the existing copyright regime and how it is being reformed to meet the needs of Iraqi authors, businesses, software programmers and other innovators. Specific improvements addressed included how the penalties will be increased, rapid judicial enforcement, and especially how Iraq’s accession into the World Trade Organization (WTO) will help Iraqis enforce their rights abroad as well.

Abdul Hadi Khadum emphasized the relevance of these issues when he explained to the audience how, on the one hand, he and fellow Iraqi authors had lost opportunities due to copyright infringement, and on the other hand benefited from correct copyright enforcement abroad by receiving royalty fees which help them sustain their work.

The “questions and answers” session dealt with real problems faced by participants, such as enforcement of royalty payments and illegal translation of copyrighted material abroad. The debate helped explain how Iraq’s emerging copyright regime would address these problems, for example through WTO accession and stronger regional cooperation.

"Today's event was a wonderful opportunity to communicate to Iraqi creators, innovators and the general public. We showed the importance of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) reform to stimulate Iraqi innovation, protect its cultural and artistic creations, advance the Iraqi economy and increase our country’s standing as an advanced nation in the global trading community. The participants clearly showed strong interest in learning about the hard work that has been done by Iraq on in IPR reform and with IZDIHAR’s vital assistance," said Ali Omar Fatah, Chief Legal Counsel, Ministry of Culture.

The participants also asked for more events to be organized on copyright issues and expressed interest in being informed on the progress of the Iraqi Intellectual Property Law and the accession into WTO.


Back to Top

Fifteen Entrepreneurs in Iskandariya Receive Business Grants with Support from Local SBDC

29 January 2008 - The awarding in Iskandariya of small grants to fifteen local entrepreneurs turned January 27 into a day of joy and pride for the community. The recipients - six start-ups and nine existing businesses – were awarded a total of $27,250 that will help them expand their operations.

The competition was fierce. The local Small Business Development Center (SBDC) invited all 113 participants in the “How to Start-Up or Develop a Business” course from Iskandariya to submit business plans. Out of the 32 applications received, the ones that did not exceed the $2,500 funding ceiling were selected. The SBDC staff then met the applicants and visited the premises of the existing businesses. At the end of the process, SBDC advised the donor – the US Military at recommendation of the North Babil ePRT – on the selection of the recipients.

Three business plans submitted by women made it into the final selection. Among the happy winners were two sisters that were granted $2,500 to open a barber shop. Their mother was so overwhelmed with joy that she cried at the awards ceremony hosted at the Iskandariya Nahia Council Building.

 “The ceremony was a great success, and we were very happy that our role in the process and our cooperation with the North Babil ePRT has brought new opportunities to the businesspeople that received the grants”, said the Executive Director of the SBDC.

The Small Business Development Center in Hilla was established with the support and technical assistance of the USAID-funded IZDIHAR project. Since its inception through the end of December 2007, the Center offered 25 iterations of the “How to Start-Up or Improve a Business” course. A total of 300 established or aspiring businesspeople attended, out of which 66 were women.


Back to Top

Iraq Submits Key Accession Package to the World Trade Organization

26 January 2007 - On January 24, the Government of Iraq submitted responses to the second round of World Trade Organization (WTO) questionnaires to the headquarters of the organization in Geneva, as well as key technical documentation including the country’s formal “action plan” laying out a strategy and timetable for reforming its trade regime. In addition, Iraq submitted technical documentation on a variety of trade issues, such as subsidies, intellectual property rights legislation and removal of trade barriers.

The submission of this technical documentation meets a key procedural requirement that must be completed by all aspiring WTO members. By fulfilling it, the government met the agreed parameters that were set at the first meeting of the WTO Working Party on Iraq’s accession thus paving the way for scheduling the second working party meeting.

The first meeting was held on May 24, 2007 and was widely considered a success that added to Iraq’s credibility among trading partners. Prior to it, the USAID-funded IZDIHAR project designed and implemented an extensive training program that prepared the Iraq’s WTO delegation to successfully carry out the meeting and respond to WTO members questions. Thereafter, in preparation for the second Working Party meeting, IZDIHAR provided a range of technical support to help Iraq complete the accession package that was submitted a few days ago.

Subject to WTO schedule, it is hoped that a second working party meeting might be arranged for, as early as April 2008. It will delve deeper into specific negotiating issues of concern. The second meeting will also launch individual, one-on-one meetings with prominent WTO members, such as the US, the EU, Japan and others.


Back to Top

IZDIHAR Advances the United States-Iraq Business Dialogue

On December 11, 2007, the USAID-funded IZDIHAR project hosted a three-way video teleconference that advanced the United States-Iraq Business Dialogue – a process established in early 2007 by bilateral agreement between the US Department of Commerce and the Iraqi Ministry of Trade to facilitate private sector business growth in Iraq and to strengthen trade and investment ties between the two countries. 

High level representatives of major American companies like Nortel, Case New Holland, JP Morgan, Exxon, Pepsi, representatives of the US and Iraqi Chambers of Commerce, USAID, government officials from the US Department of State, US Department of Commerce and the Iraqi Ministry of Trade conferred in front of the cameras in Baghdad, Erbil and Washington, DC.

“It was a historic moment – the first joint transcontinental video teleconference meeting of the US-Iraq Business Dialogue”, said Mr. Timothy Mills, President of the American Chamber of Commerce-Iraq and Chair of the US Section of the US-Iraq Business Dialogue, who attended the conference on the IZDIHAR premises.

The participants in the conference discussed and approved a report of the Dialogue to the US Secretary of Commerce and the Iraqi Minister of Trade. The report provides advice and counsel to the American and Iraqi Governments through jointly-agreed recommendations on various topics that impact business ties between Iraq and the US. It is likely to be presented in February 2008 at a Secretarial-Ministerial Meeting with the Dialogue.


Back to Top

Over 700 Iraqis Benefit from Cost and Management Accounting Course

A total of 727 Iraqi students and professional accountants, auditors, businessmen and managers from all over Iraq participated in a course on Cost and Management Accounting organized by the USAID-funded IZDIHAR project from October through December of 2007.

The course was delivered at seven universities and colleges and at several local chapters of the Iraqi Union of Accountants and Auditors (IUAA), of which all the students and professionals are members.  The 3-month course was conducted in cooperation with the Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT) and the Small Business Development Centers (SBDC).

All 21 lecturers administering the course are graduates of the “Training of Trainers” program on CMA organized by IZDIHAR. The project also provided a number of supplementary materials, including sample policy manuals, sample disclosure forms, and accounting Info Sheets, to all participants.

The course enabled participants to assess in detail where profits are made, how costs are controlled, and what are the benchmarks of good bookkeeping. Additionally students are taught that maintenance of good records is directly related to meeting reporting requirements, leading to positive results when applying for loans. 

Back to Top

Achievement Awards for Microfinance Professionals Mark the Successful Conclusion of the 3rd Microfinance Partners Workshop

The Third Iraq Microfinance Partners Workshop, organized on November 17 by the USAID-funded IZDIHAR project, brought together over 70 microfinance professionals and practitioners from all over Iraq in a forum to assess the progress of the industry and debate major issues relevant for its ongoing development.

The lively debate sparked by the presentations made to the workshop focused on issues that ranged from financial transparency to sustainability and increased cooperation between microfinance institutions and the Small Business Development Centers (SBDC). Particular attention was given to the possibility that the MFIs and the SBDCs work together to launch a new microfinance product, the “start-up loan,” requested by many Iraqi entrepreneurs that attended the courses provided by the business development centers.

One happy indication that the industry has grown and matured was the ceremony in which the staff of the international and indigenous microfinance institutions (MFI) operating in Iraq were honored, for the first time, with performance awards.  The Director of the USAID Mission in Iraq, Mr. Christopher Crowley, personally awarded the certificates that acknowledged, among others, the “Best Performing Loan Officer” and “The Best New Entrant to the Iraqi Microfinance Industry”.
 
“Microfinance in Iraq has greatly improved since last November, when we participated in the first National Microfinance Summit,” said one of the keynote speakers, Ms. Lene Hanson. “The industry is much more mature now and the level of professional debate is definitely higher than last year,” said Ms. Hanson, currently Chief of Party of a World Bank Microfinance project in the West Bank.

Since November 2006, three new indigenous institutions joined the microfinance family in Iraq. Between November 2006 and October 2007, the amount of the loans disbursed by all microfinance institutions operating in the country grew from 39,173 loans worth $78,844,339 to 62,460 loans worth $131,376,528.

“This workshop was instrumental in taking stock of progress since the MF Summit held at the same time last year; and it marks a turning point, one that will allow for a re- alignment of programmatic interventions that will ensure the sustainable growth of the industry in the coming years”, said Mr. Vohra, Chief of Party of the IZDIHAR project.


Back to Top

The Fallujah Branch of “Al-Takadum” Microfinance Institution Makes First Loans

14 December 2007 - After the successful opening of its main office in Al Qaim in August, the Iraqi microfinance institution “Al Takadum Organization in Al Anbar” moved on to expand its operations and opened a second office in Fallujah. On November 15, the Fallujah branch of the organization disbursed the first two loans - one for home improvement, one for the development of a clothing shop - totaling $4,000. One week later, on November 22, the number of disbursed loans reached 14 and totaled to $32,200.

The Fallujah branch of “Al Takadum” operates on the Islamic lending principles, known as Al Murabaha. The office employs a staff of seven and opened for business on November 3. “Borrowers could not believe their eyes. They were thrilled to have working capital to buy inventory and repair their homes. They were also content to have the local Fallujah religious leaders making it ‘halal’”, said “Al Takadum”’s local Branch Manager in the city. 

The establishment of the office in Fallujah is the result of the successful cooperation of the USAID-funded IZDIHAR project and the US Military. IZDIHAR trained the staff, provided the loan capital and technical assistance in setting up the policies and procedures, while the US Military covered the refurbishment and equipment costs.

Since its inception in August until the end of October, “Al Takadum”’s main office in Al Qaim has lent $194,450 to 85 borrowers. The organization is planning to open soon a third office in Ramadi.


Back to Top

Iraqi WTO Accession Officials Get First-Hand Knowledge about Latest Intellectual Property Rights Developments

14 December 2007 - The USAID-funded IZDIHAR project recently organized and secured the participation of a high-level delegation of the Iraqi Government to a four-day workshop on the latest developments in laws and policies governing patents, trademarks, copyrights and the enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR). The event was sponsored by the US Patent and Trademarks Office and was held in Amman, Jordan.

Eight Middle East countries attended the workshop, which resulted in significant benefits for Iraq’s efforts to join the World Trade Organization (WTO). The event came at an ideal time, as Iraq’s Ministry of Planning recently submitted the draft legislation on IPR to Iraq’s Ministry of Justice. The legislation was drafted with the support and assistance of IZDIHAR.

Intellectual Property Rights are often considered the top trade policy priority of the United States and European Union. Hence, Iraq’s adherence to high intellectual property rights standards is vital to its bid to join the WTO.

The Iraqi delegation consisted of eight high level political and technical staff of the relevant IPR departments of the government. The officials got direct, hands-on training from the representatives of the US Patents and Trademarks Office, which is considered the world standard bearer on these matters. The Iraqi delegation also had a substantive and highly informative exchange of experience with representatives of other Arab countries on challenges on the way to WTO accession and solutions to overcome them.

Another key outcome of the workshop was a series of highly productive side meetings that were held with officials of the US Trade Representative Office responsible for negotiating Iraq’s accession into the WTO. Agenda items included the timing of the second WTO Working Party meeting, as well as US and Iraqi expectations moving forward on the accession process.


Back to Top

USAID Programs Reach Out to Salah ad Din Communities

27 November 2007 – USAID community outreach initiatives facilitated by the Izdihar and Inma projects in two cities of the Salah ad Din governorate – Balad and Ad Dujayl - drew full houses and significant interest from local communities.

Organized and hosted by the South Salah ad Din Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT), both conferences aimed to inspire entrepreneurial spirit and generate momentum for the establishment of civic groups which will serve as the foundation for sustained economic and agricultural development opportunities in this heavily agricultural area.  In each meeting, an Izdihar representative shared information on new opportunities for micro-, small and medium enterprise development and a representative from the Inma Agribusiness Program spoke about the agricultural development programs that the project has been implementing in Iraq, offering guidance on development of local plans for creating sustainable agricultural projects. 

In Balad, the meeting opened with remarks from the Mayor and the Chairman of the City Council.  The Director of the local branch of Rafidain Bank chaired the event, which was attended by over 100 local participants. A representative of the USAID-funded Izdihar project introduced the audience to the concept of Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) and the training programs they offer, the opportunities for microfinance and the assistance that the Iraqi Company for Bank Guarantees can offer to facilitate loans to small and medium sized businesses. 

A lively discussion ensued with the participation of the Director of Rafidain Bank and the Manager of the local Agricultural Bank, who advised and discussed the banking products available to the area’s farming community. The local business center actively participated and is to become the point of contact for members of the community wishing to take advantage of the programs Izdihar has established in support of the development of the private sector in Iraq.

In Ad Dujayl some 80 people gathered in the local Youth Theater and Center for the presentations.  The meeting rapidly took on an agricultural focus, covering issues such as transportation, markets, and the availability of credit.  Microfinance and other credit products were discussed with the assistance of the local bank manager.  The meeting closed with a commitment from many members of the audience to participate in the training programs and actively develop an agricultural action plan.

During the trip to Salah ad Din, the representatives of IZDIHAR and Inma also visited the Balad Canning Factory, the largest single factory in the region, with production lines ranging from tomato paste to bottling of juices, water, and milk.  The factory has fallen into disuse and has been badly looted. However, the owner is actively soliciting funds and technical assistance to bring this important facility back into operation. This will provide significant employment opportunities and will bring a much needed economic lift to the governorate.


Back to Top

Iraqi Microfinance Institution Disburses First Loans in Salah ad Din 

27 November 2007 - A new, indigenous microfinance institution in Salah ad Din established with the support of the USAID-funded IZDIHAR project vigorously kicked off its lending activities on November 11 when it disbursed 13 loans totaling $35,600. The recipient of the first loan was the owner of an electrical components shop, who borrowed $3,000 to purchase additional inventory for his business.

In total, eight loans went to the development of small businesses and five were targeted for home improvements. Three of them were awarded to female borrowers. The business loans cover activities ranging from a tailoring shop to a cosmetics store and a medical laboratory. The borrowers are residents of two cities of the governorate – Tikrit, where the main office is located, and Alam.

“I am very happy because our hard work finally paid off”, said the Manager of the new microfinance institution.  “When we disbursed the first loan, people could not believe their eyes. But as they saw it happen for real, this resulted in a great demand for our loan products, which made me even happier.  This is a major accomplishment for our small institution, and I wish this activity continues as it will help decrease the insurgency in Salah ad Din. I want to extend my gratitude to IZDIHAR for its efforts in supporting our institution”, said the Manager.      

The establishment of the new microfinance institution was a joint effort of the USAID-funded IZDIHAR project, the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Salah ad Din and the US Military. IZDIHAR assisted the microfinance institution – initially registered as a non-governmental organization - in changing its by-laws to accommodate the microfinance activities. It also provided extensive training to the staff, helped set up the policies and procedures of the institution and provided loan capital.

The new microfinance institution officially opened for business on October 31st, only 11 days before it awarded the first loans. The institution currently has six staff members and is planning to expand by opening four satellite offices in Bayji, Al-Dhlouiya, Dujayl and Al-Dour.

It is the fourth Iraqi indigenous microfinance institution established by USAID through the cooperation of IZDIHAR with the US Military and the PRTs.


Back to Top

New Iraqi Microfinance Program Opens for Business in Salah ad Din

11 November 2007 - In October, a new Iraqi indigenous microfinance program began providing access to funding to local entrepreneurs in Tikrit, the capital city of the Salah ad Din governorate. Soon it will expand and open satellite offices in four other districts of the governorate: Bayji, Dujayl, Al-Dhlo'ya and Al-Dour.

The program is managed by a local non-governmental organization whose by-laws and governing bodies were adapted to match the needs of a microfinance institution. In August, the NGO Board identified and selected candidates for the staff of the program, who were trained in September by representatives of the USAID-funded IZDIHAR project.

The training, organized in Tikrit, was very well received and highly valued by the 31 participants.

“Being from Ad Dujayl, Bayji, Tikrit and Ad Dawr, the attendees represented a wide geographic and social spectrum. They described the IZDIHAR staff as the best trainers they had ever experienced”, said a representative of the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Salah ad Din in a letter of commendation addressed to IZDIHAR. The PRT initiated the establishment of the microfinance program and has cooperated with IZDIHAR in making it possible.

“It was useful and properly organized. The course quality was excellent. The best thing that I got from it is how to give a loan and how to assess the borrower”, said one of the participants. ” The course was very clear, direct and simple. I got important and valuable information from the training. This is the first time that I have a clear idea about microfinance“, said another.

Six of the trainees were recruited and employed for the main office on the new microfinance program, renovated and refurbished with the support of the US Army. IZDIHAR will provide them with further training on credit, human resources and other policies pertaining to the good functioning of a microfinance program.


Back to Top

Six Iraqi Professionals Receive Certification as IT Trainers

11 November 2007 - The second generation of Iraqi “Trainers of Trainers” (ToT) received their certificates at the outset of the “Vision Forward 2: Strategic Seminar for Iraqi Small Business Development Centers”.  The seminar took place in Baghdad in September and was organized by the USAID-funded IZDIHAR project.

Six Iraqi professionals were certified in the field of Information Technology – one as Master Trainer, one as Advanced Trainer and the other four as Trainers. They all successfully underwent an intensive training program, which included specialized IT topics as well as training techniques.

“We are very pleased to receive this certification, which will enable us to share our knowledge with Iraqi professionals and entrepreneurs. Information technology is vital for the development of effective businesses”, said one of the newly certified trainers.

Aside from the certification of the trainers, the seminar also provided a forum where participants could debate on current and strategic issues of relevance to the five Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) currently operating in Iraq. With the support and assistance of the USAID-funded IZDIHAR project, the SBDCs were established and are being managed by local organizations which offer business development courses and advisory services.


Back to Top

Tikrit University Studies Development of Small Business Development Center

11 November 2007 - The first Business Roundtable Luncheon organized by the Salah al Din Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Tikrit has sparked interest at Tikrit University in the development of a new Small Business Development Center in the city.

Advisors from the USAID IZDIHAR project provided the keynote presentation on “Building a Bankable Business Plan” at the early October event, which gathered over 60 representatives of the private sector, banks and microfinance institutions, provincial government and the university.

A professor from Tikrit University commented, “I value your efforts towards development of the economy in Salah al Din. I participated in the Business Roundtable and it was a rich source for many ideas.  I read the brochure about the Small Business Development Center, and I read the CD, and now I am working on assessing the situation, as we want to establish such a Center here. Currently I feel there are many problems, but your assistance encourages me to continue”.


Back to Top

Agricultural Market Rehabilitation Project is Launched in Baghdad

18 October 2007 - IZDIHAR has joined forces with the Inma Agribusiness Program to launch an agricultural products market rehabilitation project designed to improve the conditions for the sellers as well as for the buyers in Baghdad’s wholesale and retail markets for agricultural products. The proposal was discussed at a meeting held between the Chairmen and Heads of Economic Sections of Baghdad’s District Advisory Councils (DACs), representatives of the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) Baghdad and USAID contractors.
 
The DAC representatives proposed that the rehabilitation should commence with four pilot projects covering two wholesale markets and two retail markets that are linked to them, with an equal representation for the Rusafa and Karkh districts.  DAC representatives committed to assist IZDIHAR and Inma with assessment of the markets (e.g., measurements, needs survey, engineering specifications), which is needed in order to move the projects forward as well as to facilitate contact between USAID contractors, the traders’ representatives and Government of Iraq entities, including local administration bodies.

“This joint initiative addresses a number of significant problems that affect the functioning of the agricultural markets and hinder the proper supplying of the residents of Baghdad. We hope that the synergy between IZDIHAR and Inma will improve the situation not just for the shoppers but also for the farmers in the neighboring region who should see their incomes increasing as a result”, said IZDIHAR’s Chief of Party, who moderated the meeting.


Back to Top

SBDC Staff Learn to Conduct Microfinance Activities

18 October 2007 - The key staff of the Small Business Development Center in Tal’Afar recently attended a training program on the “Pillars of Microfinance”, organized by the USAID-funded IZDIHAR project. The program was conducted by a certified Iraqi CGAP trainer.

The course covered issues critical to operation of a microfinance institution, such as loan terms and conditions, loan procedures, loan follow up, collection and controlling delinquency. The training equipped SBDC staff with up to date microfinance techniques that will facilitate the processing of micro-loans, a new line of activity for the SBDC. Until June, when the SBDC awarded its first loans, participants in its business development courses were referred to local microfinance institutions or banks.

“It’s great to have a complete idea about how to make a database system for lenders”, said one participant. “We learned how to follow up the loans and collect the installments. The training has provided us with a new vision. The knowledge that we gained will help us handle all matters related to microfinance”, said another. A third one added that he was happy to get such an important qualification and that he is looking forward to working in this field and contributing to the progress of his community. All participants said they are interested in taking future courses.

The training will help the SBDC in Tal’Afar better fulfill its mission to facilitate access to funding for small and medium size businesses. Since November 2006, when they were established with the support and technical assistance of the USAID-funded IZDIHAR project, the five SBDCs in Iraq referred 110 entrepreneurs to banks and microfinance institutions, of which 26 received loans.


Back to Top

BCED Fosters Economic Development in Babil

7 October 2007 - The Babylon Center for Economic Development (BCED) recently organized and facilitated an agricultural development conference that gathered fifty representatives of government, private sector businesses and non-governmental organizations, including community agricultural unions and agricultural associations. The participants took stock of issues in irrigation, transportation, marketing and trade that affect the agricultural sector, which is the largest employer in the province. It was an event with 100% Iraqi attendance, organized and hosted by the BCED at the suggestion of the Babil embedded Provincial Reconstruction Team.

The success of the conference illustrates the increased capacity of the BCED to act as a knowledge center and development factor at the level of the governorate. In recognition of its potential and the quality of its training programs and business advisory services, the Center was invited to join the Babil Provincial Economic Development Team that was formed in August this year. This initiative brings together members of the Provincial Council and representatives of the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in a forum that debates ideas and crafts strategic plans for the province. BCED is represented in the Economic Development Team by its Executive Manager.

“We are working together to identify the economic activities that we must include with priority in the development plan of the province for the next year. As far as our center is concerned, aside from the business development courses and advisory services that we will continue to deliver, we have been asked to prepare a business and marketing plan for the rehabilitation of Hilla Textile”, said the Executive manager of the BCED.

The Center has been assisted by the USAID-funded IZDIHAR project in establishing and developing the capacity to run the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) in Hilla. BCED has been offering training courses and advisory services to the local business community since November 2006. 


Back to Top

Voucher Program Contributes to the Sustainability of Baghdad SBDC

7 October 2007 - In early July of this year, the Iraqi Association of Securities Dealers (IASD) implemented the pilot stage of the Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) Voucher Program. In cooperation with the District Advisory Council (DAC) of Karrada, IASD ran a “How to Start-Up or Improve a Business” course for an audience of fifteen. The participants had been selected by the DAC, and their attendance fee was paid for with vouchers purchased by US Army units.

Two months after the successful start of the program the vouchers are already making a significant contribution to the financial sustainability of the IASD. The number of coupons - whose intrinsic value is $125 - purchased in August rose to 205. Additionally, 185 vouchers were obligated by three embedded Provincial Reconstruction Teams (ePRT) and one ministry of the Iraqi Government, and the demand seems to be growing.

“The Karada and 9 Nisan District Councils are extremely impressed and the participants have been very pleased with the training they have received on the “How to Start-Up or improve a Business” course from the Small Business Development Center”, said one ePRT representative. “When I first heard about the SBDC business training vouchers I was not sure how well they would be accepted. I was surprised by the strong local demand for the courses, both from experienced businesspeople and those looking to start up an enterprise. We have filled up the classes weeks in advance”, said a representative of another ePRT.

“Our cooperation with local authorities – the District Advisory Councils – and with the Provincial Reconstruction Teams that operate in Baghdad has so far been highly beneficial for all parties involved. As we substantially expanded our outreach at the community level, more Iraqi entrepreneurs gained access to our business development courses. By getting trained they can make an increased contribution to local development – which is a goal that the Councils, the PRTs and all of us share”, said the IASD Executive Manager. “We will pursue this cooperation, as the vouchers have proved very instrumental for us in achieving sustainability”, said the Executive Manager.

Since 2005, IASD has benefited from the technical assistance and support of the USAID-funded IZDIHAR project. As of last November, IASD has been running the SBDC program in Baghdad. In this capacity, through the end of August this year it has offered 15 “How to Start-Up or Improve a Business” courses to 224 Iraqi participants.


Back to Top

Newly Established Iraqi Microfinance Institution Awards First Loan in Al-Anbar

17 September 2007 - A select gathering of over 50 people, including local sheiks, religious leaders, local administration officials and business people, recently participated in the official opening in Al-Qaim of a newly established indigenous microfinance institution – the “Al-Takadum Organization in Al-Anbar”.

It was a major event that enjoyed the strong support and boosted the pride of the community. “This is a very important achievement for Al-Qaim, because it will help develop the local community and increase trade”, said one of the local sheiks that attended the opening ceremony.

On August 21st, the day of the opening, the Imam of Al-Qaim issued a “fatwa” (religious decree) authorizing the functioning of the microfinance institution according to Islamic lending principles. On the basis of the fatwa, the Mayor of the City of Al-Qaim, who cut the ribbon at the opening ceremony, wrote an official letter to all the residents of the city describing the way the “Al-Takadum” microfinance institution will operate.

On Friday, August 24th, the validation that the fatwa is “halal” (acceptable) was announced in all mosques of the city and the residents were encouraged to borrow from the microfinance institution. The leaders of Al-Qaim emphasized that they regard the establishment of “Al-Takadum” as a well-deserved reward, since the local tribes succeeded in uprooting the insurgents and securing the city by themselves. 

The new institution awarded the first loan – worth $2,000 - on the day of the official opening to the owner of a mobile phone shop, who is seeking to expand his business. The staff of “Al-Takadum” already received thirty loan applications, out of which fifteen were approved.

The establishment of the new institution in Al-Anbar is the result of a remarkable joint effort by the USAID-funded IZDIHAR project, the US Military and the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Al-Asad.  Since the official legal registration of “Al-Takadum” on July 9th, several IZDIHAR staff members traveled to Al-Qaim to identify, recruit and train the staff and help establish operational policies and procedures for the effective functioning of the institution.

“The experience of visiting the cities of Al-Anbar where the new microfinance institution will be functioning was humbling, especially to drive around and see the extent of the destruction caused by the insurgency”, saidIZDIHAR’s Chief of Party.  “The main focus is now to get people back to open their shops.  We are strongly committed to make this happen quickly, then gradually extend the activity of the new institution to cover the main cities of Al-Anbar.”


Back to Top

Small Business Development Center in Hilla Builds Sustainability

17 September 2007 - The Babil Center for Economic Development (the Small Business Development Center in Hilla) ensured its financial viability over the next seven months as it signed a second Memorandum of Acceptance with the North Babil eProvincial Reconstruction Team (ePRT).

The Memorandum requires the Babil Center for Economic Development (BCED) to organize and facilitate an Agriculture Development Conference that will gather representatives of several ministries of the Government of Kurdistan region - Agriculture, Irrigation, Transportation and Trade – and members of the Agricultural Unions of North Babil. 

BCED was also asked to deliver a training course for representatives of the agricultural unions, focusing on agribusiness planning, legal operation of agricultural NGOs in Iraq and agribusiness accounting.

“This is the second Memorandum of Acceptance that we are signing with the North Babil eProvincial Reconstruction Team”, said the Executive Director of BCED. “The funds made available for the activities outlined by the Memorandum will consolidate our financial sustainability and will help us expand our activities at the level of the province”, added the Executive Director.

The Small Business Development Center in Hilla is part of the network of five business development services that were set up by Iraqi organizations with the help and assistance of the USAID-funded IZDIHAR project.  Founded in November 2006, the SBDC in Hilla has offered 12 iterations of its core activity, the “How to Start-Up or Improve a Business” course, to 150 people as of August 1, 2007.


Back to Top

The Iraqi Company for Bank Guarantees Receives First Tranche of USAID Grant Funds

17 September 2007 - At the semi-annual General Assembly of the Iraqi Company for Bank Guarantees (ICBG) meeting held on August 4th in Amman, the Chairman of the ICBG Board of Directors announced attainment of a signficant milestone in the life of the young organization.  He informed the audience that, since ICBG had satisfied all conditions precedent to the disbursement of grant funds by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), on August 2nd the first $500,000 tranche of a $5 million grant awarded by USAID was transferred to the ICBG’s deposit account at Citibank N.A. in Amman. 

“I thank the USAID Mission in Iraq for its support to the ICBG, and I urge all shareholder banks to promote bank lending activities to small and medium size enterprises in Iraq. Such increased access to finance will certainly contribute to the development of sustainable economic growth for the private sector and help generate employment opportunities throughout Iraq”, said the ICBG Chairman.

The Iraqi Company for Bank Guarantees, Ltd. was established by 11 Iraqi private banks with the help and assistance of the USAID-funded IZDIHAR project. The objective of the ICBG is to assist Iraqi small and medium size enterprises (SMEs) gain increased access to bank loans. It provides partial guarantees of both principal and interest for loans made to SMEs by privately owned banks operating in Iraq.


Back to Top

Investment and Trade Seminars Draw Full House and Top Officials

30 August 2007 - In mid-August, two trade and investment seminars – in Erbil and Sulaimaniyah – helped update the business community and government officials regarding Iraq’s WTO accession status while sparking lively discussions regarding the impact of the new investment laws on attracting foreign investment, particularly in the Kurdistan Region.

Speakers at the seminars, organized by the USAID IZDIHAR project, explained what needs to be considered and what steps need to be taken in order to set up an investment project in Iraq: the laws involved, company registration and customs and taxation issues.

The Erbil event was held in collaboration with the Kurdistan Economic Development Center. IZDIHAR’s contribution focused on the analysis of the investment law, which was complemented by presentations from the Registrar of Companies and the Director General of Customs and Taxation.

The Sulaimaniyah event focused on the status of Iraq’s bid for accession into the World Trade Organization (WTO), the  import and export laws, the need to remove red tape and the importance of intellectual property protection in developing an attractive investment climate. The seminar further addressed specific trade challenges currently facing Iraqis, such as substandard imports from China flooding the Iraqi market and deceptive practices.

Both events drew a full house. Distinguished participants included the Minister of Planning, the Director General for Taxation and Customs, representatives of the Erbil and Sulaimaniyah Chambers of Commerce, the Chair of the Iraqi Businessmen Union and business leaders and representatives of the Provincial Reconstruction Teams.

The seminars followed a forward-looking conference in Sulaymaniah entitled “Kurdistan Investment Future” sponsored by the Kurdistan Investment Board and the Sulaimanya Chamber of Commerce. Presentations by two IZDIHAR representatives focused on assessing the current investment environment in Iraq and comparing investment legislation to similar laws of Malaysia and Saudi Arabia.  Particular emphasis was placed on the importance of One-Stop-Shops, Investor Guides and decreasing red tape in attracting foreign direct investment.


Back to Top

ICBG Promotes Financial Transparency within Iraqi Banking Community

29 August 2007 - The Iraqi Company for Bank Guarantees (ICBG) set an example of transparency to its shareholders by preparing its interim financial statements to June 30th 2007 in accordance with the International Accounting Standards.

The financial statements were prepared by the Iraq-cooperating firm of PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) “F.H. Al-Salman & Company”, Public Accountants and Auditors and presented to the Semi-Annual General Assembly of Shareholders that took place in Amman in early August.

This represents a “first-time ever” in Iraq and the example has been recognized as such by the banking community.  A number of the more progressive Iraqi banks embraced the report and requested the ICBG to assist them in meeting the challenges of preparing financial statements that comply with the international accounting and financial reporting standards. 

Continuing its policy of transparency, the Iraqi Company for Bank Guarantees will be issuing semi-annual financial reports in accordance with best international accounting and auditing practices.

The Iraqi Company for Bank Guarantees Ltd was established by 11 Iraqi private banks with the help and assistance of the USAID-funded IZDIHAR project to assist Iraqi small and medium size enterprises gain increased access to bank loans.  It became operational in November 2006.  By early August 2007 it had issued 18 guarantees worth $358,361, which support approved loans totaling $482,816.


Back to Top

Iraqi Union of Accountants and Auditors Provides Training to the Central Bank of Iraq

28 August 2007 - Through a training partnership developed with the Central Bank of Iraq (CBI), the Iraqi Union of Accountants and Auditors (IUAA) recently provided a much-needed course in International Accounting Standards and International Financial Reporting Standards (IAS / IFRS) to CBI employees.

Thirty-four CBI employees, selected from a number of CBI departments, attended a comprehensive 60-hour IUAA course that started on July 15 and ran through mid-August. The Governor’s Office, the Department of Accounting, the Internal Controls Department and the Treasury Department were all strongly represented among several other departments. The CBI’s Training Coordinator noted that the participants were nominated because they are seen to be champions for spreading the knowledge about IAS / IFRS across the organization quickly.

IZDIHAR has been working with the IUAA in developing a modern UNCTAD-compliant educational curriculum for Iraqi accountants and auditors, which has received regional recognition and has been implemented across Iraq. The training program that commenced with the IAS / IFRS course will include another four courses: Fundamentals of English for Bankers; Basic Excel; Auditing Methods, Methodology and Standards; and Internal Auditing and Internal Controls for Bankers.


Back to Top

The Website of the Iraqi Microfinance Industry Goes Live

14 August 2007 - A new website dedicated to the Iraqi microfinance industry - www.imfi.org – offers information on upcoming events, resources, training and employment opportunities, and acts as an informal network for the microfinance industry in Iraq.


Back to Top

New Indigenous Microfinance Institution Will Open in Al-Anbar 

14 August 2004 - The network of microfinance institutions active in Iraq will soon expand into new areas, as preparations for the opening of the Al-Takadum microfinance institution in Al-Anbar province move into the final stage.

The new microfinance institution will commence operations with a staff of six and is expected to open for business in late August.  The staff was recruited and trained by the USAID-funded IZDIHAR project and the building that will host the office has been undergoing renovation.  The loan capital will be provided by IZDIHAR and the operational capital will come from the US Military MNF-W CERP funds.

“We are pleased that Al-Takadum will soon open for business and will start awarding micro and small loans to the communities it serves.  The opening of a new, indigenous microfinance institution illustrates our strong commitment to the development of the private sector and our desire to encourage and support the entrepreneurial spirit of Iraqi people”, said Baljit Vohra, IZDIHAR’s Chief of Party.

The mayors of other Iraqi cities have also expressed strong interest in hosting local offices of Al-Takadum.


Back to Top

Operational Assessments for Microfinance Institutions

14 August 2007 - As part of the overall technical assistance to indigenous and international microfinance institutions active in Iraq, the USAID-funded IZDIHAR project recently completed operational and financial assessments for the Ninewah Business Center and Relief International.  The assessments consisted of a thorough review of policies and procedures, of the loan tracking and accounting system, of their financial statements and loan portfolios. The assessments were complemented by recommendations that will be part of the milestones the microfinance institutions need to achieve in order to get additional funding.


Back to Top

Specialized Training Workshop on Intellectual Property Rights

14 August 2007 - The Members of the Copyright Committee of the Ministry of Culture of the Government of Iraq recently participated in a specialized training workshop on the main challenges of copyright-related intellectual property rights in Iraq and the draft copyright law.  Organized by the USAID-funded IZDIHAR project, the workshop was held in Erbil from July 14 to July 17.  In the wake of the new draft intellectual property Law under consideration by the Government of Iraq, it focused on skills training in applying and interpreting Iraq’s draft copyright law, as well as understanding the implications of WTO-improvements to Iraq’s existing intellectual property regime.


Back to Top

Small Business Development Centers Foster Synergy with Microfinance Institutions

31 July 2007 - A new generation of 14 business development trainers earned their certification during the “Vision Forward Strategic Seminar for Iraqi Small Business Development Centers” organized in Erbil by the USAID-funded IZDIHAR project.  The program also certified four master trainers and three advanced trainers.  Soon all trainers will be delivering business-related courses to indigenous entrepreneurs. 

The certification of the new trainers – Iraqi professionals with expertise in business planning, marketing, accounting, IT, etc. – is one of the major outputs of the seminar, which represented the first summit of the five Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) that started operating in November 2006.  Twenty-two participants – representatives of IZDIHAR, Amaluna and a special guest speaker from Al-Thiqa Kirkuk - attended the event.

The focus of the event was to build synergy between the centers and the microfinance institutions (MFIs) active in Iraq, in order to increase access to funding for existing small businesses. To that end, the active exchange of information occasioned by the training sessions included substantial debates that resulted in a number of ideas for developing new strategies of cooperation with the microfinance institutions.

So far, the SBDCs have been active in referring the graduates of the “How to Start-Up or Improve a Business” to local microfinance institutions for loans. Out of the 571 Iraqis that graduated from the course by June 30, 2007, 99 got referrals and 26 of them actually received loans.

Designing a marketing campaign targeted to the microfinance institutions, to enable them to better understand what the SBDCs do, was seen by the five SBDC leaders at the seminar as crucial in fostering closer cooperation.  Cross-training MFI loan officers at the SBDCs and the staff of the centers at the microfinance institutions was embraced as another good strategic direction. The training of the MFI clients whose loan applications were rejected was also deemed as important to further stimulate local economies.

“Our partnership with microfinance institutions and banks is a key issue for the success of our efforts.  The number of actual loans awarded to our graduates is an important benchmark in assessing the viability of our services. In this respect, working together with the MFIs to make sure that they develop loan products to meet the needs of the  aspiring entrepreneurs is one of our TOP priorities”, said the Executive Manager of the Women Empowerment Organization that runs the Small Business Development Program in Erbil.


Back to Top

Two Provincial Reconstruction Teams Obligate To Purchase 420 Vouchers for Business Development Courses

30 July 2007 - The successful start of the Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) Voucher Program initiated by the USAID-funded IZDIHAR project has been confirmed by the interest expressed by the embedded Provincial Reconstruction Teams (ePRTs) in Hilla and Baghdad. Between the end of June and the end of July, these two ePRTs obligated to purchase 420 vouchers.  Each voucher provides access for one Iraqi current or aspiring private entrepreneur to receive the main training product delivered by the SBDCs: the 5-day “How to Start-Up or Improve a Business” course.

“We very much thank the North Babil ePRT for their tremendous support to our training program”, said the Executive Manager of the Babylon Center for Economic Development (BCED), which runs the SBDC in Hilla. “The recent Memorandum of Agreement that we signed for the delivery of our course to 200 business persons in Al-Iskandariyah is a solid confirmation of the quality of our services”, said the manager. The first course is expected to be delivered in that area on August 19th.  BCED also noted that they were extremely impressed with expeditious voucher obligation.  In total from discussion to proposal to the signing of the memorandum, less than three weeks passed.

Only five months passed since March, when the “architecture” of the SBDC Voucher Program was designed until the printing orders started coming in. The roll-out and marketing stages, the “pilot project” in Baghdad and the first orders all fit into this period. Currently, the local organizations that are running the program are discussing very specific target audiences for the 5-day “How to Start-Up or Improve a Business” course, such as non-violent prisoners in Kirkuk, farmers in Tal’Afar and women villagers in Erbil.


Back to Top

Iraqi Business People Embrace the Small Business Development Centers’ Voucher Program

15 July 2007 - The voucher program initiated by the USAID-funded IZDIHAR project to promote the activity of the Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) is off to a good start in Baghdad.  Two days after the District Advisory Councils (DACs) started advertising the voucher program, the Baghdad SBDC, managed by the Iraqi Association of Securities Dealers (IASD), received 12 applications from local businesspeople interested in taking the “How to Start-Up or Improve a Business” course.

“The launching of the voucher program is a good step forward and we regard it with great optimism”, said one of the DAC chairmen attending an information session for community representatives on the roll-out of the voucher program at the community level.  “It will help us open doors for all businesspeople in our community”, said the chairman.

IASD staff are currently reviewing the applications and preparing for the start of the course, scheduled for the first week of July. “We are very pleased about the enthusiastic community response to the voucher concept”, said the Executive Director of IASD.  “The vouchers will help us reach out to a greater audience of existing and aspiring businesspeople and provide them with business development services.”

The voucher program will run in all five provinces where the SBDCs are located. The program involves the distribution of coupons with an intrinsic value of $125, which compensate the centers for the costs associated with the delivery of the 5-day course entitled “How to Start-Up or Improve a Business”.


Back to Top

First Iraqi Professionals Receive Certification in Microfinance Training

5 July 2007 - In a recent graduation ceremony in Erbil, 11 Iraqi microfinance professionals stood up one by one, smiled happily and walked proudly to receive the diplomas acknowledging that they are the first Iraqi nationals certified to deliver microfinance courses in Arabic.  The ceremony took place during the Second Microfinance Workshop for Partners and Practitioners organized by the USAID-funded IZDIHAR project.

The event held major significance for the 11 trainees - three women and eight men – who had undergone rigorous training and invested many hours of study and preparation to obtain the certification.  In addition, each of them was required to deliver two training sessions in their area of specialization.

“This certificate will help me improve professionally, academically and financially.  Microfinance is new to Iraq, and I am fortunate to have learned about this field.  Besides, I always dreamed of opening a consultancy on accounting and auditing standards.  With the knowledge and experience that I gained in this course I now feel ready to start such a business”, said a woman who was the top performer among the 11 graduates and was awarded a special USAID/IZDIHAR commemoration plaque.

Certification of the 11 Iraqi microfinance professionals comes from CGAP-Sanabel.   CGAP (Consultative Group to Assist the Poor) is a consortium of 33 public and private development agencies working together to expand access to financial services for the poor in developing countries.  Sanabel is a regional network for microfinance institutions (MFIs) in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region whose members collectively serve more than 90% of the total active microfinance clients.  It is the only authority certifying microfinance trainers in the Arab world.

The intensive CGAP Training of Trainers Program completed by the 11 trainees included six essential subjects: Delinquency Management, Accounting, Financial Analysis, Human Resource Management, Product Development and Operational Risk Management.

Providing training to the microfinance institutions (MFIs) has been one of the key commitments of the USAID-funded IZDIHAR project since its inception.  The project has also provided grants for operational and loan capital for the MFIs, as well as technical assistance for indigenous microfinance institutions


Back to Top

IZDIHAR and Provincial Reconstruction Team in Kirkuk Facilitate New Source of Loan Funds for Iraqi Small Businesses

1 July 2007 - An Iraqi woman who started a business in tailoring two years ago and wants to expand it by purchasing a sewing machine is the first recipient of a loan facilitated by a new source of funding for Iraqi small businesses: Kiva. It is an organization that facilitates access to capital by brokering loans from people all over the world to micro-entrepreneurs in economically challenged countries.

Fatima is a 55-year-old mother of three girls, whose husband died two years ago in a terrorist attack in Kirkuk. She applied for a $1,200 loan from Al-Aman, an indigenous Iraqi microfinance institution. Thanks to an initiative taken by the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Kirkuk, Al-Aman was recently accepted as a partner to receive loans from Kiva. The USAID-funded IZDIHAR project made the partnership possible by conducting, at Kiva’s request, an audit and an assessment on Al-Aman.

Less than two hours after Al-Aman posted Fatima’s story on Kiva’s web site, 31 lenders from five countries joined forces to lend the full amount that she had requested and her loan was funded. “We are very pleased at having facilitated this loan”, said Al-Aman’s Executive Director, “we are looking forward to expanding our cooperation with Kiva, for the benefit of the local entrepreneurs in Kirkuk”.

Al-Aman is a non-governmental organization that was established with financial support from IZDIHAR - for its loan capital - and from the US military for its operations capital. Based on the successful cooperation with Al-Aman, Kiva will develop new partnerships with other microfinance institutions operating in Iraq. IZDIHAR will assist Kiva by conducting audits, upon its request, as well as an assessment of borrowers on a monthly basis.

Kiva has pledged to raise $15,000 in loan capital every month for Al-Aman’s micro-entrepreneurs. 


Visit our NEWS ARCHIVES for more stories about the progress being made in Iraq to expand the private sector and create new jobs.

Back to Top

 

 

 

 

 

IZDIHAR Logo    
Link to Home Page Link to Portal Site Link to Site Map Page Link to Contact Us Page
Link to Overview Page Link to Project Activities Page Link to Progress Page Link to News Page Link to Resource Page
Link to News Highlights Page  
Link to Privatization News Page
Link to Investment Promotion News Page
Link to Trade Policy & Market Access News Page
Link to Business Management Services News Page
Link to Capital Markets News Page
Link to Small & Medium Enterprise/Bank Lending News Page
Link to Sustainable Microfinance News Page
Link to News Achives Page