According to recent figures, Iraq’s economy has expanded dramatically in recent years. Its GDP has doubled since 2003, and the World Bank now says that over each of the past two years, the economy grew by more than 8%. Iraq’s own Central Bank predicts even higher growth. It is a story repeated in very few other markets around the world. Despite its troubles, Iraq is becoming a nation that cannot be ignored, and for all the right reasons this time around.
The IBBC’s expansion into Erbil has proved hugely successful and most beneficial to the Kurdistan Region. We enjoy the highest-level of government support from the UK and the EU. We are also fully supported in our goals by the Iraqi Government, KRG, and the Iraq National Investment Commission. But the IBBC is more than a business initiator. It promotes best practice and international standards, along with transferring technology and know-how. As well as holding major trade conferences in London and Iraq, the IBBC also arranges frequent trade delegation visits, varying in location between Baghdad, Basra and Erbil, where we also have permanent offices.
An unprecedented 50 business leaders and academics accompanied us on the most recent delegation to the capitals of Iraq and the KRG. In Erbil, both the chairman of the city’s Chamber of Commerce, Dara Khayat, and Minister Falah Mustafa, the Head of the Department of Foreign Relations, had positive things to say about British business. They both spoke of their eagerness for local firms to foster and develop their already solid relationships with UK companies.
For the first time, the most recent visit to Iraq included representatives from our Education and Training Sector Table. The committee meets regularly to discuss ways in which British companies working in Iraq can help educational provision there. Thirteen senior representatives of British higher education, some from ancient and some from newer universities and institutions, were included in the delegation. All were keen to revive the historic academic linkage of the United Kingdom and Iraq. “Education is the start, middle and finish of almost every aspect of reconstruction and development in Iraq,” said a Vice Chancellor during the trip.
Any IBBC member company can come to the sector meetings. We have now created a new category of membership geared towards universities, paralleling that which exists already for corporate companies. Bath Spa University in the West of England is our first member in this category. The Table is also keen to encourage more provision in Iraq of English language teaching, since good knowledge of English is a gateway to higher levels of employment and to courses overseas.
IBBC members also hold regular sector tables on Oil and Gas, Professional and Financial Services, and Construction and Infrastructure. It is very clear that the UK is one of Iraq’s most favoured nations, and our members must continue to take full advantage of the opportunities now presenting themselves in this particular part of the Middle East. Yes, there are serious obstacles for all. However, with knowledge, skill, and professionalism, these can all be dealt with and controlled. Iraq is a wonderful and astonishing nation. Despite its present, its future is very bright. We want to ensure that our members play a very big part in that.