Iraqi youth identify need for greater support on entrepreneurship

28 October 2022
ITC News

The International Trade Centre (ITC) conducted the lraq National Youth Entrepreneurship Barometer to identify the challenges that youth face in setting up an enterprise. The survey was also instrumental in assessing the youth’s perception of the business environment in the country. 

The findings and recommendations of the Barometer were presented at the ITC Youth Workshop held in Baghdad. The workshop was organized through the European Union funded “Strengthening the agricultural and agri-food value chain and improving trade policy in Iraq” (SAAVI), implemented by the International Trade Centre. The Barometer was produced jointly with the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC). 

More than 25 youth entrepreneurs, representatives from ministries, key organizations and associations attended the workshop to discuss the results of the Barometer. 

Local stakeholders were introduced to the next steps in addressing the challenges at the workshop. 

Ministry representatives including the Assistant General Manager for the Ministry of Agriculture, Mr. Faisal Kadhim, and the Directorate of Vocational Education for the Ministry of Education, Ms. Aula Hashim Al-Obaidi attended the workshop.  

More than 600 youth across five governorates (Baghdad, Basra, Ninewa, Anbar, Kirkuk), participated in the Barometer, sharing their views on issues affecting youth entrepreneurship. 79% considered entrepreneurship to be a desirable career choice. However, 92% had never received support from an incubator, an accelerator or a youth association. 68% of respondents identified access to finance as a key hurdle in setting up a business.  

The Youth Barometer findings underscored the need to support youth by providing access to participatory networks for utilizing training opportunities and building their capacity as entrepreneurs. This includes technical assistance, peer support and guidance, access to experts, and finance.  

Mr. David Cordobes, Head of Youth & Trade Programme at ITC, opening the workshop said, “Today the SAAVI project takes another step forward for supporting youth by presenting the first report of the Iraq Youth Barometer. This bi-annual stock taking aims to gain a greater understanding of how youth perceive the business ecosystem. This first report will serve as a key guide in addressing critical challenges to youth participation in the agri-business value chain. The activities, which are initiated today will have far-reaching implications on the Iraqi business landscape and the capacities of youth and influence the activities to be implemented under SAAVI.” 

 Key recommendations include: 

  • Government, donors and development partners should work with financial institutions to provide affordable and accessible financial services with lowered requirements specifically for youth, such as reduced collateral, to access finances for their businesses. 
  • Clarify government focal points, regulations and laws surrounding registration, business incorporation, licenses, etc. and promote awareness raising campaigns to share this information with aspiring entrepreneurs at a local level. 
  • Business ecosystem support systems for youth in the form of training, mentorship, information exchange, and internship and apprenticeship opportunities need to be fostered 
  • The private sector should develop links with secondary schools, universities, and TVET programs to improve knowledge about entrepreneurship opportunities and better inform skills in demand in certain industries. 
  • Raise awareness on economic opportunities for youth and women along the agricultural value chain and promote local and national role models embodying the realization of entrepreneurial aspirations and ambitions, together with the private sector and education institutions. 

The ITC is also setting up Young Entrepreneurs (YE!) Chapter in Iraq to support youth entrepreneurs to access networks, experts, and technical assistance to build scalable agri-business ventures in consideration of the findings. The Chapter will serve as an immediate step towards addressing the challenges highlighted by youth in establishing a business. 

ITC will collaborate with Oxfam Iraq Response Innovation Lab (IRIL) to support the expansion of this Chapter in Iraq. Activities for youth entrepreneurs to expand their skills and their access to networks with the Ye! Chapter will commence in November 2022.  

The IRIL is currently setting up the workplan for the coming year and has opened a call for the Ye! Advisor to ITC for Iraq. Interested young entrepreneurs who want to support the strengthening of youth entrepreneurship in the country can apply here.