Finding that first job always is difficult for young adults. It’s especially difficult in Iraq where adults face 13 to 30 percent unemployment depending upon the community. But prospects for youth employment improved in a dozen communities with the introduction of the Iraqi Youth Initiative. The program teaches business skills to ambitious young adults aged 18 to 35 at USAID-Tijara’s network of 12 Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs).
Young adults who exhibit entrepreneurial skill and write a detailed business plan are referred to one of seven microfinance institutions (MFIs) also supported by USAID. These MFIs are prepared to give loans averaging $3,000 to deserving candidates. Ongoing mentoring by Initiative staffers, plus the SBDC and MFI, ensures implementation of the business plan and the timely repayment of the loan.
After taking a “How to Start a Business” course at the Al-Murshed SBDC in Kirkuk, 19-year-old Mostafa Arouan Medhat used his new accounting and management skills to become a backyard beekeeper. A $2,000 microfinance loan from Kirkuk’s Al-Aman microfinance organization enabled him to jump-start his business with prebuilt bee hives. Six months later, following the autumn harvest, he sold his honey for $6,000.
Around 100 young people, 19 percent of them women, have received loans totaling $198,000. The primary goal of the Youth Initiative, however, is finding jobs for deserving young people. Toward that end, 78 Iraqi companies are working with the program to provide apprenticeships and new jobs for deserving youths. Over 240 previously unemployed young Iraqis today have permanent jobs because of the program and more jobs are on the way.
Last updated: August 21, 2013