The Enablers

Empowering Iraqi youth as partners for trade, prosperity and peace

28 November 2022
H.E. Ville Varjola, Ambassador of the European Union to the Republic of Iraq

The European Union in Iraq together with its partners create jobs for the country's youth, with a focus on agriculture and food security

Iraq is a young country. Roughly half of the population of more than 40 million is aged 24 or under, a proportion higher than the regional average of the Middle East and North Africa.

Youth eco­nomic empowerment is an essential element of inclu­sive economic growth, to unleash the full potential of Iraq’s human resources, foster economic dynamism and establish a solid foundation for future growth. Youth empowerment is also critical in support of peacebuilding and improving the political stability in the country, as dis­affected youth is often a cited reason for instability and conflict.

Iraqi youth face several challenges due to long-standing issues in education, labour markets and the business environment. The compounded crises arising from con­flict, instability, economic turmoil, and the COVID-19 pandemic have further exacerbated the challenging situation for Iraqi youth.

During these crises, youth are particularly vulnerable; as new employees with less experience, they are among the first to be let go by firms scaling back employment, and young entrepreneurs often have smaller business networks and less resources to fall back on when the survival of their firms is threatened.

Creating jobs for youth: Our core work

For the European Union, creating jobs for youth in Iraq is one of the core objectives of our work.

Together with our partners from the Iraqi Government and the private sector, we have identified the agriculture and agri-food value chains as particularly promising areas for youth employment and entrepreneurship, as well as supporting food security in Iraq.

We also believe that expanding exports and markets through improved trade policy can contribute to further boosting the growth of new economic activity.


The European Union is proudly supporting the development of economic opportunities for Iraqi youth through the Strengthening the Agriculture and Agri-Food Value Chain and Improving Trade Policy (SAAVI), implemented by the International Trade Centre.

Key areas of support to Iraqi youth under SAAVI include:

  • Raising awareness among the country’s young innovative forces to the variety of economic prospects that arise from the agribusiness industry.
  • Providing skills for employability and entrepreneurship as well as opportunities for youth to enter and succeed in the labour market.
  • Providing access to finance to selected young entrepreneurs to support their business proposals.
  • Assisting young agripreneurs with training, mentorship, and advisory support through the Iraqi YE! Chapter.
  • Engaging with relevant stakeholders to improve their understanding on best practices and services for entrepreneurship and employability.
  • Identify concerns and needs of young entrepreneurs along the value chain to understand the significant challenges to entrepreneurship and support them in leveraging data to build solutions.

The European Union stands ready to support Iraqi youth, and partner with them and the International Trade Centre to create a peaceful and prosperous future for more generations to come.