Iraqi launches nation's first e-shopping site

Fri Jun 19, 2009 8:21am EDT
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By Khalid al-Ansary

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - An Iraqi IT expert has set up the country's first e-shopping website for trading anything from cars to game consoles, hoping to build a business that may one day cater for locals and foreign investors alike.

Named after an ancient and teeming Baghdad market, Harej, which means "commotion" in Arabic, the site connects buyers and sellers for free -- although few goods are on offer so far.

Its creator, Mehdi al-Ajwadi, said the idea would take time to catch on in the almost entirely cash-based economy of a country ravaged by years of conflict, and where only a tiny proportion of the population has access to the Internet.

"There is still a long way to go before it's accepted by the people," Ajwadi told Reuters.

"In future, when credit cards become more common and widely used here, we will take a percentage on each trade."

Hosted on a British server, runs in Arabic and Kurdish and offers new and used goods in categories including real estate, electronics, books, furniture and vehicles.

By far the most popular section is cars, with 16 offered including a BMW X5, Mercedes C300 and GMC Yukon XL. Elsewhere, sellers are flogging a Nokia mobile phone handset, a Sony Playstation 3, and a modest four-bedroom home costing $65,000.

Eventually, Ajwadi hopes to develop a delivery service to get goods to buyers, as well as one day to tap the global market.

"In the future we aim to be able to direct foreign investors to investment areas in different provinces of Iraq," he said.

(Editing by Daniel Wallis and Mark Trevelyan)