Small businesses key to kick start Iraq's economy

Small businesses key to kick start Iraq's economy
An Iraqi woman who started selling vegetables to support her family and now runs a successful business employing eight, is an example of how small businesses can rejuvenate the Iraqi economy.
2 min read
15 March, 2015
Iraqis walk in Baghdad's newly opened shopping mall on December 12, 2013. [AFP]

After losing her husband in a bombing in the Iraqi capital Baghdad Siham Abdul-Hameed, known as Om [mother of] Mahmoud, was left to care for a family of ten, including students and young girls.

She had to look for work, but nothing was available because of deteriorating economic conditions. She decided to buy a "satuta" (a small three-wheeled cart) to sell fruit and vegetables, the Iraqi lady told al-Araby al-Jadeed.

Om Mahmoud, aged 50, said she moved from selling vegetables to trading in foodstuff at the wholesale market in the Allawi area of the city. Soon she was able to buy a small store.

"Working as a woman at a market run by men is very difficult, but the need to provide for your family forces you to overcome the difficulties," she said.

Om Mahmoud did not give in and gradually climbed the ladder of the business world.

     A total of 11 percent of the Iraqi workforce is unemployed according to official statistics.

"I sell lots of food products daily, but security events in the northern, Anbar and Salahuddin governorates affects the sale of food, especially rice, butter and flour. The price of a sack of rice can vary by around 50,000 dinars, flour around 20,000 and butter around 20,000 to 40,000," she explained. She said her income had grown and she had opened a second store at the wholesale market, which she runs with her 17-year old daughter.

Om Mahmoud employs eight workers at her store paying them 16 dollars a day.

Speaking to al-Araby al-Jadeed, Iraqi economic expert Ahmad al-Azzi stressed the importance of small businesses, which create job opportunities, and helps solve the country's unemployment problem. A total of 11 percent of the Iraqi workforce is unemployed according to official statistics.

Al-Azzi said the unemployment rate had increased after the events of 10 June which displaced over two and a half million Iraqis.

The ministry of labour and social affairs has a budget for helping the unemployed, widows and graduates open small businesses. However, the process is riddled with corruption as most loans go to people with contacts in government departments.

Iraqi Minister of Labour and Social Affairs Mohammad al-Sawadny told al-Araby al-Jadeed: "The ministry supports any citizen trying to establish a small business. We ask them to submit a project plan, before offering financial support.”

Sawadby said 800,000 families were being supported by social welfare programmes.

This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.