Refugees in Norway have through the introductory program the right and duty to follow qualification schemes to participate in working life, education and society. In cooperation with the municipality of Oslo, BIP now provides business training for Somalians as a part of the introductory program.
The first course was held in June at Helsfyr for a group of twenty men and women. The intention is to encourage refugees to start their own businesses, but for most of the participants this is a long-term goal. To establish a business takes a lot of energy and resources, something that can be difficult for newly arrived refugees. However, experience shows that an increasing number of immigrants are starting their own businesses and the basic idea is that it is important to provide information at an early stage. It seems that it is easier for immigrants to create their own jobs than to access the established work market.
The course provides information about budgeting, company culture, taxation and legal aspects that are also useful as general knowledge about Norwegian society. Bjørn Reite and Wiggo Slåttsveen from BIP are responsible for the course. They say that the decision to start a business is very much a mental process. They encourage participants to reflect on the questions: What will you do in three years? If you want to return to your country, what can you do to prepare yourself?
One of the participants, Liban Yusuf, says he wants to establish a bridge between Norway and Somalia. One of his plans is to import fruit, halal meat (meat that is allowed for Muslims) and camel milk to Norway. In the future he wants to have close contact with Somalia, both to participate in rebuilding the country and to strengthen his children’s cultural identity. Habiba Mahamud wants to start her own textile manufacturing in Oslo and import clothes from Dubai and Djibouti. She says that the course have taught her many things she did not know.
For more information about the Introductory program, see www.udi.no Norwegian Directorate for Immigration.
More business training for Iraqis
Despite the political situation in Iraq, many Iraqis in exile have started the planning of their return. BIP held an entrepreneur training in Oslo in November. Raja Abed wants to start a chicken farm and egg production in cooperation with her family in Iraq. She says that she will return when the political situation is stable. Most of the participants in the training want to start businesses that involve their family now living in Iraq. Tahir Hussein is working with BIP as interpreter and is also involved in the plans of establishing a business development centre in Baghdad. He says that BIP offers training that qualifies Iraqis to establish realistic and sustainable business plans. He continues by saying that the entrepreneur training BIP offers does not exists in Iraq and that it fulfills a need.
Hassan al-Tamimi wants to start production of ice cream in the city of Karbala. Other ideas vary from the production of sweets, the establishment of a medical center, fish farming, recirculation of steel and the establishment of a dairy. Two of the projects are not business like projects, but humanitarian: A center for handicapped children and an orphanage.
A similar course for Iraqis was also held in Trondheim, Norway, in December 2004.
Course in how to start a business for Iraqis
In addition to courses previously established by BIP in how to start a business for Bosnians, Croatians and Afghanis wanting to return to their home country, courses for Iraqis are now available. As return is now also possible for Iraqis, many living in Norway have plans to do so. Iraq is a country rich with natural resources and skilled people. For those sincerely wanting do something for their country, the courses also make it more attractive for them to return.
In February 2004 BIP organized their second course for Iraqis in Norway. 15 people attended. Under the guidance of Mr. Wiggo Slåttsveen and Mr. Bjørn Reite, all the participants put together a business plan and presented them for each other. Mr. Slåttsveen told everyone that they should - as a general rule: “multiply all the expected costs by two and then divide all the expected revenues also by two...”
One of the participants, Mohsin Al-Mosafiri wants to establish a sheep and cattle breeding facility as well as a fish farm. He said that even though he has run a grocery store in Norway, the course has taught him a lot about accounting. Al-Mosafiri also thinks it useful that the course stresses the importance of having a network of business contacts. In this connection he sees the possibility of improving the Iraqi breeds of cows by cooperating with the Norwegian breeding association GENO. But most importantly, he says, is that the BIP course taught him many things are possible when you have a good business idea and work at it seriously and realistically.
Another participant, Mohammedali Emad Sabih, previously studied tourism and hotel management in Baghdad. He wants to establish tourist accommodation and a hotel near the rivers of Eufrat and Tigris. He says this has always been his dream and he wants to create work and employ people. Emad Sabih put together a business plan and is now working on financing for his project.
Some of the other ideas are to start a company for renovating buildings, a taxi company and a company for production of medical equipment. Some ideas are not based only on a wish to create jobs, but are also idealistic. After working as a teacher in Norway one of the participants wants to establish a school in Iraq based on Scandinavian teaching methods. His aim is twofold; first he wants to give children that are used to the Scandinavian education system an easier transition to the Iraqi system. Secondly he wants to give pupils an education that will enable them able to participate in, and influence the building of society in Iraq.
Everyone on the course wants to establish their company relatively quickly. Some have already visited Iraq several times and regard the conditions as favourable for starting up new businesses. They are afraid that if they wait too long there will be no place for them in the market. A centre in Baghdad to offer support and act as a link to Norway would be very useful to accelerate developments and ensure good, sustainable results.