Flowers in the Desert

Business is Flourishing in Iraq

Can you cast your mind back to 2003? Let me jog your memory. Kill Bill was the number one movie that year, the pop charts were dominated by Busted, Girls Aloud and the Black-Eyed Peas, and Den Watts appeared to return from the dead in EastEnders.

News outlets were obsessed with just one thing. No, not the B word, it was the I word. Iraq, and to be specific the war in Iraq as allied troops invaded the country in a highly controversial mission to depose the country’s leader, Saddam Hussein.

The war lasted eight years, in spite of President Bush Jr’s “mission accomplished” announcement just weeks after the initial invasion. But winning the peace has proven to be at least as challenging as winning the war, albeit with less bloodshed.

Sixteen years after the outbreak of the war, activity is gathering pace to renew the buildings, utilities and infrastructure, as Iraq re-establishes itself as a major economy in the Middle East. And about 200 UK companies are involved in the redevelopment.

UK exports reached £354 million in 2018, an increase of more than 50% in two years, and thirty times pre-war levels. Even now, the value of business with Iraq is modest by comparison with the rest of the world. Iraq just made it into the UK’s top 70 export markets last year, just behind Gibraltar. But the prospects are definitely rosy, and the government is doing everything it can to support British business here.

UK Export and Finance (UKEF) originally allocated £1 billion in funding to provide credit and financial support to help British businesses tender for opportunities. That was used up quickly, and UKEF recently doubled the support to meet the growing demand. The Department for International Trade sees particular opportunities for British businesses in construction, infrastructure, electricity and water supply, schools and hospitals.

Even now, Iraq is not a market for the faint-hearted. Exporters report significant challenges, particularly in security, corruption and government bureaucracy. Even seasoned exporters are finding it difficult to deliver orders, due to a lack of essential support such as insurance. But fortunately, help is at hand. In addition to government assistance through the Department for International Trade and UKEF, two bilateral organisations, the Arab British Chamber of Commerce, and the Iraq Britain Business Council are actively helping to turn opportunities into reality.

With its young and growing 38 million population, vast natural resources and a vital strategic location in the region, the outlook for the Iraq economy is beginning to look like it has turned a corner.


Strong and Herd have introduced a brand new programme of training to help exporters build more business and enter new markets. Follow the links for more details:


Export Development: Where to go next?

Export Distribution and Sales Channels

Pricing for Export


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