Startups and Coding - Young Iraqis conquer innovative Technologies
Title: ICT – Perspectives for the Modern Youth in Iraq
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Lead executing agency: Ministry of Planning Iraq (MoP)
Overall term: 2017 to 2020
Iraq’s population is one of the youngest in the world. Almost two thirds of all Iraqis are under 25 years of age. Many of them are internally displaced persons within their own country or refugees from neighbouring countries. What they all have in common is that they have few employment prospects; one in five of them is unemployed.
Job opportunities are dwindling in the country’s largest sources of employment, the oil industry and the public sector. Oil production generates 99 per cent of Iraq’s state revenues, yet it accounts for just one per cent of the country’s total workforce. More than half of the working population is employed in public services. However, with state revenues waning due to falling oil prices, this offers no long-term prospects. The private sector, on the other hand, has hardly developed at all to date.
Young Iraqis are increasingly interested in the field of information and communication technology (ICT) as a possible area of work. The foundations that are in place for this are good: mobile broadband internet is available almost nationwide and therefore enables flexible working. However, neither the available training courses nor the university curricula meet the Iraqi labour market’s requirements. The founding of successful startups is still rare due to the lack of government support structures and insufficient access to loans or capital from investors.
Young jobseekers, especially women, internally displaced persons and refugees, are benefiting from better employment prospects in the field of ICT. The entrepreneurial ecosystem for tech startups in Iraq has evolved and is offering them new employment opportunities.
The project is helping young people in Iraq to find job prospects in the ICT sector. In Baghdad, Basra, Erbil, Sulaymaniyah, and Mosul, innovation hubs are being set up and equipped with coworking spaces and technical facilities such as 3D printers, laser cutters, and robotics equipment. The centres also offer practical business trainings for tech startups as well as programming courses. In this way, young Iraqis can gain further qualifications in line with labour market needs or prepare for self-employment.
Following the training, the participants are matched with interested investors and potential employers. Thus, the activities provided by the hubs are supposed to lay the foundation for long-term employment prospects. At the same time, it is intended that Iraqi investors perceive startups as an investment opportunity and local tech companies discover the potential of the national workforce.
Furthermore, the project contributes to the reduction of conflicts and promotes social cohesion. Innovation hubs in different regions, some of which are in conflict with each other, are interlinked. This enables young Iraqis to jointly develop solutions to problems. This promotes dialogue and will help respond more effectively to interregional challenges in the future.