It’s nearly 50 degrees Celsius and your skin is burning just walking from building to building. It’s like being inside a hair dryer. And it isn’t out of the ordinary to see armed guards posted on top of local buildings or to hear news of a tragic car bombing that happened right in the path of your daily commute.
What if travelling from one end of the city to the other became a potentially dangerous endeavor? Would you risk your life for a professional development opportunity? How about to help rebuild your country? A group of business-minded individuals in Baghdad, Iraq is doing just that.
These individuals—a mix of public and private bank-employees and industry workers—have started progressing through FITT’s international business certificate program at the Central Bank of Iraq’s Banking Studies Center. The goal is to learn how to open up their country to banking and business practices that are more modern, and to help pave the way for foreign importing, exporting and investment opportunities which didn’t exist until now.
There are currently about 40 banks in Iraq, approximately 9 of which are state-owned. And although it’s hard to believe, banking there is still largely performed on paper, with abacuses and without any communication between financial institutions.
There’s also good news though. Sanctions dating back from between the First and Second Gulf Wars are finally starting to lift. This is giving the country and its professionals the opportunity to move forward and get back in touch with the global business community. They are setting up mobile banking, a reliable credit-card system and a credit information bureau.
These initiatives, including the FITTskills training program, are being run in partnership by the Central Bank of Iraq and USAID’s Iraq Financial Sector Development Project. The training began in Baghdad at the end of June with a course in International Trade Finance. This first class included 20 students, more than half of whom were women and all of whom had never received training like this before.
They faced challenges to take the course, including travelling through areas where bombings and gunfire are common due to sectarian conflict. In fact, anywhere there’s a large gathering of people is potentially a target. And there are also the challenges of unstable electricity and poor or non-existent internet connections. Half of the students opted to write their final exam at the Central Bank where at least there’s a generator and the internet connection is just slightly better than North American dial-up.
Despite these risks and challenges, the participants are thrilled to have this training opportunity, and several citizens from across Iraq have already gone to the Banking Studies Center Facebook page to request similar training in their own cities.
Is the FITTskills program for you?
Developed by business for business, FITTskills meets the needs of those who are
- seeking to enhance their import-export career standing,
- new to exporting or importing,
- and those who simply want add to their expertise or gain valuable educational credits.
The International Trade Finance FITTskills course is just the beginning. There are plans to provide three more courses in the program, including Legal Aspects of International Trade, Global Supply Chain Management and International Trade Management. And after that, the program could potentially expand into other regions of the country.
It’s an exciting time for the Iraqi business community and the country as a whole. The Banking Studies Center has reopened after years of dormancy, the economy is growing and opening up to the world again, and citizens are having the opportunity to see what they’ve been missing out on for decades.
We are pleased to have Professor William (Bill) Kosar, CITP, delivering the FITTskills program in Iraq. Bill has been affiliated with FITT for nearly 20 years, and has taught all of the courses; some numerous times. He has also helped write FITTskills exams and, as a lawyer, helped to write our Legal Aspects of International Trade textbook.
Stay tuned for more updates on our international trade training initiatives in Iraq in the coming months.
Here at FITT, we’re very excited to be a part of this project and to see Iraq continue developing its global market potential!
Isn’t this a great initiative? What do you think?