This week’s ’Investing in Iraq’s Industry’ Summit concluded in Dubai with a prestigious signing ceremony featuring Minister of Industry & Minerals Fawzi Hariri, who presided over the formal completion of joint venture contracts within the Iraqi cement sector.
The summit, which took place in Dubai on 19-20 April, was organised by the Iraq Development Program under the Iraqi Ministry of Industry & Minerals with the express purpose of generating private sector investment to develop Iraq’s various state owned enterprises (SOEs), with the signing of two production sharing agreements seen as an example of the summit’s mandate at work.
Over 45 SOE Director Generals formed part of a delegation of 85 Iraqi officials at the summit, the largest seen at any commercial event.
These DGs were here to hold discussions with international operators over potential joint ventures within the construction, engineering, petrochemical, food and pharmaceutical, industrial service and textile sectors.
The ceremony saw Minister Hariri act as signatory for two new private-public partnerships for Al Qaim Cement and Al Kirkuk Cement Company, both plants within the Iraqi Cement Company, which operates under the Construction Sector Directorate.
The bid to restart the Al-Qaim cement plant in the far western region near the Syrian border has been secured by a consortium featuring the Iraqi company Al-Jawhara al-Khalijiyah and its Romanian partner Uzen, while another Iraqi company, Al-Sharq al-Awsat leads a German-backed consortium to take over the plant in the northern oil hub of Kirkuk.
"We are making all of Iraq’s state-owned enterprises available for partnerships with the private sector," Hariri said. ’For the last three to four years, there has already been a stable market in the North, and recently we have had a positive indication that these Northern business ventures are moving into Baghdad.
’We have signed two very important contracts today for the cement industry, whereas in fact following the meetings of the past two days, I could have signed ten other similar deals,’ he added. ’But as a government body the rule is that the minister cannot just come and sign a contract. It has to follow due process in Iraq. But we have signed these cement contracts within ten months, which is fast for Iraq’.
The signing of joint ventures within these sectors is of particular importance to Iraq as the country undergoes a construction boom as a result of funds pledged for reconstruction, with cement in extremely short supply.
The objective is for the signing of such partnerships to improve productivity within Iraq’s 13 state owned cement plants, which have been estimated to be only functioning at around 25% of design capacity, a common problem within Iraq’s aging infrastructure and one that Minister Hariri is looking to address through the Ministry’s ongoing process of commercialisation.