ILO’s Financial Inclusion Strategy in Iraq

Based on a mapping study of Iraqi’s financial sector conducted during PROSPECT’s inception phase and in close discussions and consultation with the Central Bank of Iraq and the Iraqi Company for Banking Guarantees, the ILO developed an innovative collaboration model in response to the identified challenges in access to finance and within entrepreneurship ecosystem in Iraq.

Within the framework of the Partnership for improving prospects for forcibly displaced persons and host communities (PROSPECTS), a programme funded by the Government of the Netherlands, the ILO’s focus in Iraq is on supporting thousands of forcibly displaced persons and host community members to access more and better livelihoods and decent job opportunities. It is doing so through an integrated approach supporting market-driven skills training; improving public employment services; implementing labour intensive infrastructure projects; promoting financial inclusion and entrepreneurship with focus on supporting business start-ups and small, and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

As part of its efforts to support private sector development with a focus on financial inclusion and entrepreneurship, particularly for young Iraqis and forcibly displaced persons, the ILO is collaborating with different partners to enhance financial sector functioning and engagement in Small and Medium (SME) lending while addressing barriers for access to decent self-employment for forcibly displaced persons.

In this context, the ILO and the Central Bank of Iraq (CBI) joined forces and signed a cooperation agreement at the end of 2019 to devise a new financial inclusion model for SMEs in Iraq. Following extensive discussions and consultations with CBI, the Iraqi Company for Banking Guarantees (ICBG) and partner banks, the ILO and CBI will launch their joint financial inclusion initiative in March 2021, developed under the framework of the PROSPECTS partnership and the one trillion initiative.