Thursday, May 29, 2008

Good News from Iraq: 29 May 2008

From MNF-I, Iraqi Businesses Display Wares at Expo.

BAGHDAD — More than 70 Iraqi business owners gathered in the Babylon hotel on the Karadah Peninsula in southeastern Baghdad for the inaugural Rebuilding - Karadah Expo and Conference, May 23-24.

Entrepreneurs and shopkeepers met at the hotel to display their products and services and to meet other Karadah business owners and community leaders. Participants setting up booths represented businesses in the fields of retail sales, construction, durable and industrial goods and even a beekeeper selling honey. In addition, several non-government agencies and municipal officials set up and visited booths, and various Arab media organizations covered both days of the conference and expo.

The Iraqi Chamber of Commerce and Industry hosted the two-day event, which Baghdad-2 embedded Provincial Reconstruction Team (e-PRT) officials estimate more than 2,000 visitors attended. Conrad Tribble, leader of Baghdad-2 PRT, a Washington D.C., native, said this was the largest event of its kind to take place in Baghdad outside the International Zone in a long time.

“The event was a success because it sent a strong message to government leaders of Baghdad that business owners are an important voice of the community,” proclaimed Tribble. The business owners of Karadah have a positive message, he said.

Baghdad-2 e-PRT, based at Forward Operating Base Loyalty, sponsored 10 booths at the expo for local small-business owners, while the main Baghdad PRT, based in the IZ, sponsored 10 booths too.

In addition to leading the team, Tribble serves as the e-PRT’s political specialist, drawing on his 20 years of experience as a State Department foreign services officer. He said his mission is to bring civilian development and diplomacy to the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division operating environment.

“What we are trying to do through our participation is to stimulate the private sector as well as see what kinds of businesses would come out,” explained Tribble, crediting the Iraqi Chamber of Commerce and Industry for planning and executing the expo and conference.

Madeeha Hasan Odhaib, a Karadah business owner and member of the Karadah District Advisory Council, whom Time Magazine recently named one of the world’s top 100 most influential people of 2008, attended the event. She employs 100 Iraqi women in the sewing factory in the district.

“I’m happy that Iraqi ladies of Karadah are allowed and encouraged to participate in events such as these,” said Odhaib, whom Queen Rania of Jordan nominated for the Time Magazine honor.

Baghdad’s provincial governor, Hussein al Tahan; Sabir al-Isawi, the mayor of Baghdad; and Mu’in Hamid Abd al-Majid al-Kadhimi, Baghdad Provincial Council chairman, attended the event to support Karadah businesses.

Baghdad e-PRT-2 and Baghdad PRT sponsored the Business-2-Business trade show in February, in which more than 300 businesses from throughout the capital participated. That “monumentally successful” event, explained Tribble, spawned the idea for each local district to have its own expo, highlighting local business owners and addressing their concerns. Next month, the Rusafa District of Baghdad will host their expo, and it won’t be long before every district in Baghdad has celebrated their inaugural business expos.

Tribble commented that “this is sort of developing a Baghdad-wide wave of enthusiasm and attention to the private sector, which we all like to think is the primary stimulus for economic growth … the main potential for employment growth over the next several years.”