Photo by Hisham Yahya Unsplash
Diaspora experts contribute to their country of origin in different ways. So far, over 300 CD4D assignments have taken place in eight different countries, including Iraq. A recent assignment addressed private sector development in the Kurdistan Region of the country (KRI). The CD4D team spoke to diaspora expert Alex about his passion to motivate young people to become entrepreneurs.
“I have a lot of knowledge about entrepreneurship. It gives me energy. I have had several businesses in the Netherlands, I know my culture very well, I wanted a challenge with complexity, so that is why this is close to my heart, and why I like to contribute where needed”, he explains during the conversation.
An earlier experience triggered Alex’s interest in contributing to private sector development in his country of origin. “I remember studying in London in 2013. I went to a lecture by a professor who mentioned that approximately 50.000 highly educated young people in the Middle East would be unemployed by 2025 or 2030”. Alex explains that this is due to several factors, “but the most important factor is, and you cannot deny this: there are not enough jobs”.
To contribute to private sector growth, Alex wrote a report with recommendations during the CD4D assignment. He, however, remains reluctant about his achievements. “For me, it will only be a success when it is implemented. Paper remains paper – it is not alive; it does not speak nor communicate – unless you pick it up and do something with it. So, I am glad I went there because it allowed me to have a conversation with people. This was the highlight”.
I noticed their wish for personal development. And that, to me, is a very important step forward.
The diaspora expert acknowledges that a different mindset regarding entrepreneurship is necessary for the Kurdistan Region of Iraq to structurally change the private sector. “Entrepreneurship is about creating something new, but also about creating employment”. Moreover, he mentions that personal development is currently not a top priority in the KRI. “Your hard skills and soft skills? Those are your connections. Your dad, uncle, brother, or sister in high places. They can get you wherever you like. If you do not have these connections, you can develop yourself endlessly, but you will not get there”.
When the expert spoke to young people in the KRI earlier in 2015, he noticed that they felt that their prospects were limited without the right connections. Nevertheless, this trend seems to be at a turning point: “I noticed their wish for personal development. And that, to me, is a very important step forward”.
With regards to the future, Alex is motivated and sees opportunities to further improve knowledge transfer and development. “Expertise is everywhere, that won’t be an issue. Rather, sitting together, observing, setting goals, and really making an impact; that will be the biggest challenge”.
*The name in this interview has been changed for privacy reasons