The Youth Entrepreneurship Barometer survey, conducted by the International Trade Centre (ITC) and the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), aims to understand the needs and challenges faced by youth entrepreneurs in Iraq, particularly in the agricultural value chain.
The report presents findings from the second iteration of the survey, conducted in five governorates: Anbar, Baghdad, Basra, Kirkuk, and Ninewa. The key themes explored include inclusiveness, access to skills and education, ease of starting a business, running a business in a competitive manner, and nec- essary support from the business ecosystem, including business support organization, government and public stakeholders as well as financial institutions.
This iteration of the Barometer engages several important trends and findings. Firstly, while there is a strong positive perception of entrepreneurship in Iraq, women face significant barriers in accessing entrepreneurial opportunities, with no women surveyed owning their own businesses. Moreover, regional differences exist, with women in smaller towns reportedly facing additional challenges compared to those in larger cities, for example, Sara, 24, noted that 65 percent of all respondents from Anbar governorate echoed Saras sentiments.
The report also finds differences across governorates — with respondents in Baghdad and Ninewa reporting more positive perceptions of access to business development support (BDS) compared to Anbar, Basra and Kirkuk. BDS means providing sup- port for the growth of micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises through training, technical assistance, marketing assistance, improved production technologies, and other related services.
In line with the previous Barometer, access to skills and education remains crucial for youth entrepreneurship. While technical and Vocational Education and Training TVET programmes are largely perceived as offering the most support for a future career as an entrepreneur, there remains a need for more job creation or improved matchmaking between employers and job seekers, as many respondents reported difficulties in finding employment after graduating.
Regarding the ease of starting a business, the avail- ability of communication technologies shows steady improvement, with increasing access to digital tools. However, there are still variances in physical infra- structure across different locations, impacting the use of online marketplaces and the ability to trans- port goods. This is most evident in Kirkuk, where over 40 percent of respondents reported poor road conditions impeding connectivity.
Barometer findings indicate an overall lack of available support networks and limited awareness of existing ecosystem support for youth entrepreneurs. There is a clear need for greater investment in ecosystem support, training, and financial assistance to enhance youth engagement and foster business development. Attention should also be given to ensuring equal access to support for both men and women looking to start their own enterprises and contribute to the economy.
Additional attention is also required to improve ac- cess to education and skills, enhance infrastructure, and strengthen support networks.
By empowering youth entrepreneurs and creating an enabling environment, Iraq can unlock their potential to contribute to economic growth and sustainable development. The identified key recommendations are presented below: