Life as a refugee

Supporting youth entrepreneurs in Iraq

Over half of Iraq’s population of over 40 million are under the age of 25. While youth are one of the most valuable resources for building a prosperous Iraq, this potential needs further nurturing and support.

Updated 05 Jan 2022

Supporting youth entrepreneurs in Iraq

Supporting youth entrepreneurs in Iraq

Unemployed youth in Iraq

Notably, it is estimated that a quarter of working age youth are unemployed. And while challenges pre-date COVID-19, the pandemic has disproportionately impacted and interrupted their access to decent jobs.

Yet, Iraqi youth are hardworking and resourceful. One such young person is Ali, 20, in Al Khalis, Diyala Governorate, who has recently started a business.

DRC has been working with the UN Development Program (UNDP) to provide business training and grants to youth like Ali, thanks to funding from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), provided through KFW Development Bank. 

Ali used to work as a daily worker in the bird (poultry) food sector when he decided to apply for a business grant. Daily work in Iraq is challenging, as it provides limited income and no security or savings. However, already having experience in the market, Ali decided he could put those skills to use to start a shop selling bird food for livestock:

“I like this field because I used to work as a worker and had a good amount of experience.”

With the grants – provided in in two instalments – he quickly hit the ground running with business start-up:

“[With the first instalment] I managed to buy half the items I needed to start the business, and after a short time I received the second instalment and bought the remaining items.”

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"I tend to be optimistic"

In addition to providing start-up grants, the project also supports participants with training to help them run and grow their business.

Hassan, 20 – who was supported to start up a shop selling business parts – found this component particularly useful: 

“I have learned how to create a business plan and how to calculate the income and expense of my small business and gained some good management skills in running the business.” 

Developing a business plan – a requirement to receive a grant – also helped keep him on track: 

“According to the business plan which I have wrote, I have searched and checked everything related to the [running of] the business. So, the difference [in the way it’s run] is really noticeable in a positive way.”

Both Hassan and Ali live busy lives. In addition to starting up and running a business, they are also working on completing their studies. Ali says this balance keeps him very busy: 

“I spend most of my time studying and working.”

While both unwed, the income from their businesses is also helping support their families. Hassan, for his part, is also a poet – a talent he hopes to further pursue and develop alongside his business plans.

In a situation where access to livelihoods can be challenging, DRC and UNDP are supporting the creation of businesses that can provide valuable sources of income and skills development to help Iraqi youth meet the future. And while their businesses are new and they’re still working to complete their studies, both Ali and Hassan have high hopes for that future. 

“Setbacks, in any situation, are tough. However, I tend to be optimistic and do what I have to do to reach my goals,” says Ali. Hassan, for his part, leaves us with some rather poetic words of hope: 

“We should always be optimistic and hope that someday it will get better.”

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