USAID Helps Young Iraqi Entrepreneurs Create Businesses and Jobs
The U.S. Embassy, through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID),announced last week that 27 young Iraqi entrepreneurs from Baghdad, Karbala, Wasit, Muthanna, Najaf and Dhi Qar provinces have been awarded microfinance loans worth $87,700 through USAID’s Iraqi Youth Initiative to help them start new businesses that will create an estimated 54 new jobs.
With statistics showing that more than half of Iraq’s young urban males are unemployed, with female participation in the workforce even lower at 19%, there is a clear need for a program dedicated to helping those seeking their first job or assistance starting a business of their own. Progress made by the Iraqi Youth Initiative, which forms part of USAID’s TijaraProvincial Economic Growth Program, reflects U.S.-Iraqi cooperation under the auspices of the Strategic Framework Agreement to support private sector development and economic growth in Iraq.
Funded with $12 million from the U.S. Ambassador’s Targeted Development Program, and targeted at those who are 18 – 35 years old, the initiative offers young Iraqi entrepreneurs business skills, entrepreneurial opportunities and the chance to qualify for loans to start their own businesses. In order to become eligible for these loans, individuals undergo a rigorous selection process that includes five days of general business training, three days of private consultation, and analysis of the business plan by a Business Review Panel. The program is offered at fifteen Small Business Development Centers and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in fourteen provinces supported by USAID-Tijara.
Since the start of the initiative in April 2010, loans valued at $3,625,100 have enabled 1,045 young entrepreneurs to build businesses that today employ 2,220 Iraqis. The initiative has also trained 1,222 young Iraqis in its apprentice training program and 690 participants have been placed in apprenticeships with local company sponsors for three months of on-the-job skills development.
In accordance with the Iraqi Youth Initiative’s motto – “Build a Brighter Future” – the Embassy’s assistance program is dedicated to creating sustainable employment opportunities which are crucial to the creation of a more peaceful and prosperous Iraq. The pace of job creation is increasing. More than 1,000 new jobs were created during the last quarter of 2011 thanks to loans totaling $1.63 million. Over 3,800 individuals have benefited from the Tijara program thus far. An additional 1,300 young Iraqis will complete similar training by the end of June, and over $4.45 million more is budgeted to loan to young entrepreneurs.
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