In one year, business.mot.gov.iq has helped almost 3,000 entrepreneurs register a business and put the Middle Eastern nation on the ease of doing business map.
© Focus and Blur/Shutterstock | Entrepreneur selling traditional vegetables in Baghdad.
The number of people registering businesses in Iraq through the country’s online portal has steadily grown over the past year.
In November 2022, over 275 companies were registered through business.mot.gov.iq – more than five times the number recorded during the first month after going live on 8 November 2021.
In just one year, the portal has helped over 2,981 entrepreneurs establish their business as a legal entity in the digital business environment.
Formalizing business operations entails benefits for the entrepreneur, employees and government.
The advantages for the business owner include better access to loans and the ability to establish their brand. For workers, a job with a registered company means adequate labour and social protection.
For the government and national economy, registered businesses contribute to tax revenue, social security and the overall gross domestic product (GDP). The registry also helps governments better understand the business environment and how they can provide the right support.
The portal was set up jointly by UNCTAD, the governments of Iraq and the United States, and the Global Entrepreneurship Network.
From 35 steps to a matter of minutes
By creating an online “single window” for business registration, the partners simplified a process that used to take 35 steps and countless hours of waiting in line at different government offices.
Now everything can be done in just five steps, a few clicks and a matter of minutes. Seven Iraqi agencies, including the ministries of trade and foreign affairs and the chamber of commerce, provide their services through the single window.
“The exciting results from the first year show that there’s demand and a need for an online tool for would-be business owners,” says Bita Mortazavi, a project manager in UNCTAD’s investment and enterprise division.
“Entrepreneurs need to be able to open a company quickly and without too much administrative heavy lifting.”
About 95% of those who have used the portal are Iraqi nationals. The others are entrepreneurs from Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait and Lebanon who have decided to open a business in Iraq.
Empowering women and young entrepreneurs
The online tool is helping all entrepreneurs but is especially useful for those who struggle more than others to register their business in person.
These include women, who normally have less time to complete the administrative hurdles due to traditional roles as caretakers in Iraq’s society, and young people, who often lack the financial resources and experience needed to complete the paperwork or hire a lawyer.
Over 150 women entrepreneurs have so far used business.mot.gov.iq. One of them is Sanaa Abdel Rahim Shakeel, a 30-year-old entrepreneur from Baghdad who recently registered Qobat Al Iraq General Trading.
The company, which she started in August this year, imports clothes and other goods from abroad and employs two people full time.
Ms. Shakeel says the process was quick and seamless, allowing her to easily pay online all the fees and take care of follow-up actions, such as collecting the registration certificate and connecting with partner agencies.
“It was a good experience on a properly organized website that is easy to access,” she says. “A tool like this is good for entrepreneurship.”
She adds that by helping Iraqi women formally establish their businesses, the tool is empowering them to achieve their personal and professional goals.
Putting Iraq on the ease of doing business map
Thanks to the online portal, Iraq is now among the top-rated countries for ease of business registration, alongside Australia, Denmark, Estonia, Kenya, Oman and Sweden. It scores 10 out of 10 across all dimensions of the Global Entrepreneurship Registration ranking of online business registration services.
“The simple online process was achieved without needing to change current laws and regulations – a major achievement,” says Jonathan Ortmans, president of the Global Entrepreneurship Network.
He adds: “It has also transformed the role of public servants, from that of administrative paper-pushers to empowered problem-solvers who will continue to help fuel the country’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.”
The success of business.mot.gov.iq has inspired the Iraq Council of Ministers to initiate plans to extend it from the nation’s capital Baghdad to all 14 Iraqi provinces and to include up to 50 government services, from issuing identity documents, passports and drivers’ licenses, to delivering tax ID cards.