Navigating the Minefields of Iraq and Other Post Conflict Countries with Leanne Case | Vzir #47
Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq, Sierra Leone, Bosnia-Herzogovina, Somalia, Timor-Leste…. All are examples of what are termed “post conflict” countries. If, like me, almost all you learn of these countries is from the news media, you’d be forgiven for thinking that in most of these the conflict still goes on. And so it does, to an extent – but they’re all countries that are undergoing reconstruction, not only of their infrastructure but of their government, their economies, education and health systems.
Such reconstruction – aided by developed countries’ foreign aid programmes and international financial institutions and aid agencies – is essential. It’s necessary to reinstate a quality of life for their populations, 99% of which probably never wanted conflict in the first place and just to get on with their lives. But reconstruction programmes that employ local labour are also proven to reduce violence, calming down the remaining pockets of conflict. Similarly, initiatives to develop SMEs have been shown to promote stability and development.
Where does international business come into all this? Well, the activities of foreign companies and inward investment are critical to the success of reconstruction. Most of those businesses are large multi-nationals – but there is tremendous scope for smaller companies that are brave enough to go into these countries. The rewards can be significant. Most of the foreign SMEs that enter these markets are part of the supply chain to the majors, or are from countries that have cultural connections – but they’re not essential prerequisites.
Pretty obviously, for many companies it’s an opportunity to build market leadership where there is little or no competition. Those prepared to invest can capture undervalued local firms and get access to their unique markets. The local economies might be small at the moment, but the populations are significant, and the rate of growth is fast. Valuable reconstruction projects are up for grabs. There are often financial incentives. There’s also a lot of unemployed talent, not only seeking an income but genuinely aching for an opportunity to shine.
Against these benefits, there are of course many risks that a business in a stable country wouldn’t face. There are tensions at every level of society, and sometimes those play out against an international firm. Thoughtless hiring and HR policies can exacerbate rather than sooth issues between different ethnic groups. Companies may not be prepared for rapid changes in laws and taxes.
Those challenges may all look forbidding, but the opportunities are compelling. And all the risks are manageable with the right advice and support.
Where can that be found? How can a company assess the benefit/risk balance for a specific project or expansion plan? What are the challenges that companies entering conflict zones face? Resolving these issues and steering companies to success in post-conflict economies is bread and butter for our podcast guest, Leanne Case and her colleagues at Vzir. In this podcast, Leanne is talking with me about the situation specific to Iraq, now one of the post-conflict economies attracting the most interest and investment.
Leanne is an entrepreneur herself. Having worked in countries including Afghanistan and Iraq, where she earned valuable experience in advisory roles for both the Iraqi and British governments, she has become an expert on business strategy in challenging markets. Indeed, in recognition for her services, Leanne was awarded the Iraq Reconstruction Medal. Leanne co-founded the Iraq Club and the Future Energy Forum. She has particular interest and experience in infrastructure, energy and engineering projects, and has had extensive involvement with tech start-ups.
Leanne has also written an article, “Why I’m backing Iraq”, which you can find at Vzir Website which provides a valuable and additional insight into business opportunities and challenges in post-conflict economies.
For more information and to get in touch with Leanne Case:
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