Iraq needs a monorail

A Canadian firm won the right to build a $300-million monorail in Najaf.

Jude Igwemezie could be the most optimistic man in Canadian business. His Ontario-based company, TransGlobim International, secured the contract to build a monorail in the Iraqi city of Najaf. TransGlobim was selected by the government in January, and received an investment licence in June, which allows it to do business in Iraq. Middle Eastern news outlets have since touted the monorail project, but the enthusiasm is premature.

Igwemezie is still working to arrange an astounding $300 million in financing. The Iraqi government will not have to spend a dime. Instead, TransGlobim will finance, construct and operate the monorail (if completed) for a profit. Igwemezie, a rail industry veteran, insists funding is nearly complete, and that the project will break ground this year. “There’s quite a lot of financing available for this stuff, especially from the Muslim community,” he says.

The plan is to construct 37 kilometres of track to whisk visitors between three of the city’s historic mosques. Najaf is one of the few areas in Iraq that receives tourists. More than three million people visit each year, according to USAID’s Iraq division, mostly from Iran, but they tend to be poor pilgrims who walk to the city. Nevertheless, Igwemezie is excited. “Where there is destruction, there is a chance to rebuild,” he says.