Case study: Opening new horizons for small firms in Iraq
The ‘four Cs’ – COVID, climate, conflict and cost-of-living – greatly tested small businesses around the world and set back the Sustainable Development Goals. This case study, from the ITC Annual Report 2022, highlights how the International Trade Centre helped entrepreneurs find new ways to prosperity through trade.
As Iraq works to emerge from years of conflict and recover from an economic crisis, the country’s agriculture and agrifood sectors, under the right conditions, have the potential to contribute to much-needed economic growth and diversification, job creation and enhanced sustainability and resilience.
This was the message from public and private-sector leaders at the opening of the first Iraq National Trade Forum on 28 November 2022. Held in Baghdad, the two-day forum provided an opportunity for Iraqi MSMEs in farming and food processing, packaging and logistics to connect with international suppliers and investors.
Through the EU-funded SAAVI project, ITC jointly organized the forum with the International Organization for Migration. The forum hosted more than 450 participants from all Iraqi governorates, including business leaders, international suppliers, investors, banks, policymakers, BSOs, representatives from local and national authorities, as well as international development partners.
During the forum, Iraqi small and medium-sized companies had opportunities to forge business deals and secure investment. International suppliers and Iraqi firms held one-on-one business-to-business (B2B) meetings at the event. The forum also featured an exhibition of innovative firms under the theme Made in Iraq, with representation from all Iraqi governorates.
More than 150 Iraqi companies and international buyers took part in the forum, which saw 170 B2B sessions linking more than 70 companies. The event facilitated $2.5 million in potential deal value.
Feedback from companies pointed to other encouraging long-term outcomes:
- 56% reported that the forum had initiated investment opportunities
- 58% reported that the forum had initiated a business partnership
- 80% reported that they may change their business practices as a result of B2B sessions
- 84% reported that they are more aware of business and trade as a result of the B2B sessions
Three partnerships were signed during the forum with major companies in support of SAAVI agribusiness alliances. The SAAVI agribusiness alliance model is an innovative business model that offers farmers support to improve their production capacities, upgrade their business models, develop their own local business plans and establish long-term mutually beneficial partnerships with buyers.
The event demonstrated that there is a vibrant and aspiring Iraqi private sector in agribusiness and related sectors ready to contribute to the economic development and diversification of the country by exploiting trade and investment opportunities. For many small and medium-sized enterprises that attended, the Iraq National Trade Forum was a leg up in that direction.