Iraq: The Land of Opportunity
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It’s been nearly seven months since Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki visited the Chamber to mark the transition from a predominantly security-based relationship to a partnership centered on economic engagement.
At that gathering, Prime Minister Maliki told our audience of business and government leaders that “we are at the threshold of a new phase in the relationship in between the two [countries], based on mutual interests and mutual desire.”
He continued to say that “it is now not the generals, but the corporations and businessmen, who will be in the front of this stage.”
Recently, I returned from a trip to Iraq, and am pleased to confirm that the prime minister’s assessment is absolutely true. While there, I met with a number of Iraqi and American business people and government officials who are working to make this latest iteration of the Iraq-U.S. relationship one defined by cooperative commercial engagement that creates jobs and grows each of our economies.
I was particularly impressed by an individual that I had the pleasure of meeting in Baghdad. Ahmed Izzedien, CEO of Legend Lands Co., was determined to partner with a large American company. With a grand vision and an incredible work ethic, Ahmed found that partner—Microsoft.
In 2010, Ahmed’s Legend Lands Co. and Microsoft announced that they would launch the first officially certified Microsoft Learning Center in Iraq. In just over a year, the learning center graduated approximately 1,000 students, teaching these entrepreneurial Iraqis the skills they need to land high-level, well-paying jobs. On the heels of that success, earlier this year, Microsoft announced that Legend Lands Co. would be the first official distributor for their products inside Iraq.
With a population of more than 30 million, a government budget of more than $100 billion and a growing middle class, Ahmed sees incredible opportunity throughout Iraq for American companies of all sizes from all sectors.
“The country essentially needs to be rebuilt from scratch, meaning there are huge opportunities in every sector,” said Ahemd. “The media focuses on the troubles and largely neglects to draw attention to the truth that Iraq is open for business and Iraqis want more U.S. companies to come here.”
Ahmed noted that when American companies fail to “walk through that door,” our global competitors are happy to fill the void.
“The competition from Europe and Asia has been aggressive in entering the Iraqi market,” Ahmed suggested. “But it’s not too late, and my hope is that more American companies will see Iraq for what it really is: a large, emerging market that offers great possibilities for businesses of all stripes.”
Ahmed’s message couldn’t be more on point. While the challenges of doing business in Iraq shouldn’t be ignored, the reality is that the security situation has improved and business opportunities there are numerous ranging from the vibrant Kurdistan Region in the north and dynamic Basrah province in the south to bustling Baghdad and cities and regions in between. The Chamber recognizes this potential in Iraq and is working to expand and deepen the commercial relationship between our countries by enlisting more American businesses to engage in this effort.
To learn more about the Chamber’s U.S.-Iraq Business Initiative, please visit www.usiraqbusiness.com.