ILO and the Central Bank of Iraq launch new financial initiative supporting youth and small and medium enterprises from host communities and displaced populations in Iraq

With support from the Government of the Netherlands, the initiative will provide young women and men and small businesses with access to much-needed financial services that will help them start and develop their own businesses, while addressing barriers to decent self-employment.

News | 31 March 2021

Erbil, Kurdistan Region of Iraq (ILO news)
The International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Central Bank of Iraq (CBI), with support from the Government of the Netherlands, have launched a new financial inclusion initiative to support host communities and displaced persons in Iraq. The initiative will target young Iraqis and forcibly displaced entrepreneurs as well as existing businesses to access much-needed financial services that will help them start and develop their own businesses, while addressing other barriers in the business environment hindering access to decent self-employment.

The initiative is part of efforts under the PROSPECTS Partnership for improving prospects for forcibly displaced persons and host communities, which seeks to improve access to employment, education and protection.

An event introducing the new initiative to partners was held in Erbil and virtually under the Patronage of the Governor of the Central Bank of Iraq, Mr. Mustafa Ghaleb Moukhif represented by the Deputy Governor, Dr. Ammar Hamad Khalaf. It was attended by the Minister of Labour and Social Affairs in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI), Ms. Kwestan Mohamad and representatives of the Ministries of Labour, Planning, and Youth and Sports, ILO’s social partners as well as the Consul General of the Netherlands in Erbil, Mr. Hans Akerboom. It also brought together a broad spectrum of ILO’s development partners and key stakeholders from the banking and finance sector.

“This is the first initiative in Iraq to provide beneficiaries with training, funding and financial guarantee, all of which are perquisites to the success of any enterprise. The Central Bank of Iraq will provide financing through the One Trillion Dinar initiative which is made available to all Iraqis who wish to finance their projects through participating banks, while the financial guarantees will be provided by the ILO and the Iraqi Company for Banking Guarantees. Training will be provided by the ILO, which is training trainers to support beneficiaries of this initiative” said the Deputy Governor of CBI, Dr. Ammar Hamad Khalaf.

During the event, a new financial inclusion strategy, developed by the ILO was introduced. The strategy is based on three levels of intervention that support the expansion of access to finance.

First, youth and existing businesses will be trained on business management and financial literacy to allow them to better handle their finances and relations with banks and financial institutions; and refer them to partner banks to access the needed financial services.

Secondly, it will build the capacity of financial institutions by training their staff on credit assessment and analysis, exposure to international experiences in financial inclusion, and Business Development Service (BDS) providers through various business development and financial education courses using ILO’s training methodology.

Third, the initiative will leverage CBI’s One Trillion funds to provide loans to referred entrepreneurs, while providing support to CBI for an overall conducive environment for enhancing financial inclusion in Iraq.

“This initiative empowers youth from vulnerable communities to use their talents and support their ambitions. Together with interventions by the other PROSPECTS partners, this initiative promotes not only employability, but actual access to decent employment through the development of the private sector.” said Mr. Hans Akerboom, Consul General of the Netherlands in Erbil.

“We have developed this initiative to tackle the issue of youth unemployment by giving young women and men the tools and means to create jobs for themselves and other youth in line with the Decent Work Country Programme priorities,” said Dr. Maha Kattaa, ILO Country Coordinator in Iraq. “In addition to providing them with the means to access much-needed financial services, it is important to provide them with the necessary training, so they are better equipped to manage and grow their businesses.”

PROSPECTS is a global partnership, which brings together the ILO, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Finance Corporation (IFC), and the World Bank (WB).