‘Iraq – a sustainable future’: IBBC’s Autumn conference is back with a bang and opens for business engagement

    28 Nov 2021

    The IBBC Autumn Conference in Dubai is a must-attend returned to in-person events on 22 November, at the Address Hotel, Dubai Marina, UAE. IBBC hosted many of the key companies and officials who make the decisions on Iraq’s future business. Among them were the main stakeholders in the energy sector in Iraq.

    This years conference under the theme ‘Iraq – a sustainable future’ had sessions on Finance, Energy, Industry & General Trading and Transport & Logistics and there were a tech conference online running in parallel with the afternoon sessions.

    On 22nd November, the overarching conference topic was looking to the future with ‘sustainability’ – whether in terms of energy and renewables, the Iraqi economy and its diversification, or sustaining finance, logistics and training. Underpinning much of this is the application of technology and modernizing ways to run a successful economy, with the tech forum’s online sessions.



    With a successful election now completed and a new Iraqi government being formed, organizers said it was a good time to discuss the prospects for reform and sustainability.

    IBBC members find that the Autumn conference was probably the best forum to meet the leaders in the region and those engaged with the provision of supply chains and decision making. Many of Iraq’s industry sectors have regional headquarters in Dubai, which enables the high turnout and interest in the networking opportunities.

    Organizers call the event speaker line-up probably the best for some years. It featured the Iraqi Minster of Oil H.E. Ihsan Abdul Jabbar Ismaael, who gave a keynote speech, H.E. Dr Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi UAE Minister of State for Foreign Trade. Dr Salem Chalabi, President and Chairman of the Trade Bank of Iraq, Iraqi Ambassador to the UAE H.E. Mudaffar Mustafa Al Jubouri and UK ambassador Mr Mark Bryson-Richardson, Mr Simon Penny, UK’s Consul General and Trade Commissioner for the region, and top academic Professor Frank Gunter on the economic outlook for Iraq.

    For those engaged with energy, Mr Zaid Elyaseri from BP spoke, and Dunia Chalabi represented new Iraqi entrants Total, who have signed contracts to invest USD 27 billion in and plan to bring in hundreds of expatriates into Iraq to develop the Ar-Ratawi oil field and build gas capture, solar power and injection water facilities. Leading figures from Oilserve, Ms Sara Akbar, and Hydro-C, Mr Hassan Heshmat, discussed sustainable energy, and a separate session was voted to Basrah Gas Company.

    The Finance panel included a stella line up with Emirates Credit Insurance Co, Standard Chartered Bank and IFC. Mr Aziz Khudairi heads the Industry panel and a significant group including Martrade and IBBC Autumn Conference Principal Sponsor Sardar Group.

    Finally, and in parallel, an online Tech forum session on Data and its benefits to Government, Economies, business, and citizens, included speakers from UK’s GDS, British Water, Agri-epicentre, Serco and Mastercard.

    Overall, the panels explored in more detail:

    •       how to ensure the current high oil and gas prices can bring investment
    •       rebalance the economy
    •       promote and develop agriculture
    •       enhance the food chain to increase employment and reduce food poverty.

    These discussions also addressed how to improve the water supply and waste reduction and considered the role of clean power generation in relation to climate change and initiatives to improve sustainability.



    This year’s IBBC Autumn conference has been particularly well attended, with an 100% upswing in attendees by members, new members, business associates, Government and interested parties. In a first, the conference was also available online to those unable to visit Dubai.

    On 22nd November, IBBC welcomed the new members, including MSELECT (HR services) and Al Busttan, and the return of founder member TBI, and returning Petronor. Sponsors too have diversified and expanded, with Sardar Group holding principal sponsor position, complimented by SAP, Hydro-C and GEMS as Gold sponsors, with Serco, Silver sponsors and Bell Finance as bronze sponsor and Basra Gateway Terminal reception sponsor.

    The previous evening delegates were hosted by the Iraqi pavilion at the Dubai Expo2020 where H.E. Mudaffar Mustafa Al Jubouri, Iraqi Ambassador to the UAE also met many delegates and spoke about investment in Iraq, along with Baroness Nicholson, delegates also visited the SAP pavilion to view latest technological developments. To view interview from pre-conference reception, please press here.



    The Overall theme of ‘Sustainability in Iraq’, covered issues such as diversifying the economy, the development of renewable energy and improved capture of gas and pollutants from the oil fields for energy use and how finance can enable the new economy to emerge. Complimenting the main conference, a successful online Tech forum explored the benefits of data to the Iraqi economy and pointers to modernization in all areas of society. The Tech conference, sponsored by SAP, can be viewed here

    Dr. Salem Chalabi, in particular gave an insightful analysis of the economic and political situation in Iraq and where the country and Government are heading, venturing the possibility of a coalition government. He emphasised the importance of the Government delivering the white paper reforms, which today have only had 2 of 14 recommendations adopted, and the imperative of diversifying and restructuring the economy. And the role of Banks In terms of helping deliver the infrastructure, and opportunities particularly in Housing,Water, Electricity, Consumer and Gas capture areas. TBI itself is lending for infrastructure projects, and with partners like IFC and overseas entities can ensure the necessary levels of investment that Iraq requires to combat climate and population needs, such as the aim of 33% of energy coming from clean energy by 2030 and the new project to convert 5mb desalinated water for oil production to free up natural water for consumers. Banks, too, must modernise and provide the digital banking and cross border transactions that business and people need.


    Following the initial speeches, we were interested by some thought pieces from Professor Frank Gunter, Lehigh University on Economic Outlook for Iraq, who emphasised the importance of delivering the white paper, as Iraq has a demographic time bomb and has to diversify its economy and expand the private sector to accommodate the 340,000 new young people on the jobs market each year, and the possibility of another drop in oil prices on which the economy relies. He also tackled the issue of corruption, that is stifling growth and investment, and how there must be a change in attitude and culture across Iraq, enabled by making it simpler and quicker to set up businesses and make better decisions, that will make the need or bribery unnecessary and reduce the economic incentives to corruption.



    Mr. Sean O’Brien of SAP, gave an interesting presentation on the Digitalisation of Iraq, and said tech offered many of the solutions to the current economic malaise, as it speaks to young people, enables efficiency, digital banking, consumer usage and retail and better decisions through application of data across the country. 

    Education, Training and Technology from Dr Tony Degazon, Gems / City & Guilds (C&G) explained the breath and scope of C&G services to change the skills dynamics in over 100 counties they operate in – especially providing internationally recognised qualifications from basic to higher level skills for companies and individuals to upgrade their capabilities. C&G are now entering Iraq, with partners like Stirling Education to deliver much needed practical expertise to companies and people alike.

    The Finance Panel was chaired by Mr Raed Hanna, Mutual Finance and panellists included: Mr Massimo Falcioni, Etihad Credit Insurance; Mr Bilal Al Sugheyer, IFC; Mr Mohammed Al-Delaimy, Standard Chartered Bank; Mr Vijay Kondepudi, Sardar Group.

    The Energy Panel: Moving towards sustainability chaired by Mr Vikas Handa, GCC Representative, IBBC and the panelists included: Ms Sara Akbar, OILSERV; Mr Hasan Heshmat, Hydro-C; Mr Marfa Asady, BGC; Mr Bassem Elkadri, SAP; Mr Ali Ward Humood, Director General for Technical Directorate, Ministry of Oil.  

    Finally the Industry & General Trading Panel chaired by Mr Aziz Khudairi, Khudairi Group. With distinguished panelists: Mr Waleed Alhakeem, Sardar Group, Miss Basima Abdulrahman, KESK; Mr Mounir Bouaziz, Dahlia Energy; Mr Khalid Mahdi, Accentia Franchise.

    The general consensus was that the pace and content of all the panels was of very high order.



    In rounding up the conference Mr Christophe Michels, thanked all the sponsors for their generous support, without which IBBC would not be able to field this level of activity, and the speakers, for whom their knowledge, wisdom and time has offered so many useful insights. He also hoped members had been able to network freely and meet the people they wished to engage practically with for business, and the IBBC team who have worked tirelessly to deliver this successful conference. He looked forward to meeting us all at the Spring Conference in London/s Mansion House on May 24th, and of course members at the Christmas party and AGM and dinner in January.’

    In conjunction the Tech Forum was conducted online to an international audience, sponsored by SAP, who’s Sean O’Brien gave a short presentation on the Digitisation of Iraq, and shared panel thoughts on Smart Cities with Mastercard’s Josh Berle and Padraig O’Hannelly editor of Iraq Business News (IBN) provided a fascinating overview of Iraq’s current use of data. Chairing the sessions was IBBC’s Ashley Goodall.

    The focus on the panels was to explore how data can benefit Iraq Government, business, Economy and citizens- for which we had a range of leading speakers from various sectors : Chris Ferguson, of Scott Logic and ex GDS lead on how UK Govt uses data, Prof Christina Slade of Charles Sturt University, on how to governments and organisations can start up data services quickly and inexpensively, Josh Berle of Mastercard, on how consumer data can be used for Smart cities, Shamal Mohammed (prev Agri-epicentre UK) on best practice in Agricultural data for management of resource especially in Middle East, and Raj Sandhu of Bikal on how legacy systems can be harnessed with AI to address water and social issues.

    In the second section, the idea was to demonstrate how data has been used practically by companies and could be adopted in Iraq. Josh Berle explained how Mastercard operates and supports Smart cities, Paul Dickensen of British Water/ Nuron on how data manages water supply and use in Middle East, and Riad Chehayeb of Serco, how Air traffic control benefits from data and the many other social activities that Serco undertake to manage personnel and deliver services for international clients. To end the session Will Follet of Restrata presented the way data is used to manage oil fields efficiently and also protect them from cyber-crime.

    To view the online recording of IBBC Tech Forum press here.

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