The Platform

Levi Meir Clancy; Photo illustration by John Lyman

There’s an argument to be made that Kurdistan could benefit greatly by having a sovereign wealth fund.

In an era shaped by the global shift towards renewable energy, the creation of a sovereign wealth fund (SWF) in Kurdistan offers the possibility to steer toward long-term, sustainable prosperity. As we enter this previously unexplored domain, a prudent examination of neighboring nations’ experiences can provide vital insights into the costs, benefits, risks, and returns associated with initiating a Kurdish SWF in the energy transition context.

The development of a Kurdish sovereign fund can be linked to foreign policy through several channels involving economic, diplomatic, and geopolitical factors. A sovereign wealth fund, a state-owned entity managing reserves and investments often derived from commodities like oil or natural gas, intersects with foreign policy in the following ways:

Economic diplomacy

The creation of an SWF can be an element of a region’s economic diplomatic strategy. Foreign policy frequently aims to fortify economic ties with other nations, and an SWF may entail foreign investment attraction, joint ventures, and foreign company partnerships—all diplomatic instruments to enhance cooperation and strengthen international relationships.

Resource management and revenue diversification

If funded by natural resources such as oil or natural gas, an SWF can create a more stable and varied revenue stream. This stability influences foreign policy by shaping regional interactions with other nations, particularly major resource consumers. Diversification also renders the region less vulnerable to individual trading partner pressures.

Strategic alliances and partnerships

The SWF’s formation might require alliances or collaborations with foreign governments, corporations, or financial entities. Such cooperation can align with foreign policy goals, such as enhancing economic connections, transferring technology, sharing knowledge, and promoting shared interests.

Enhanced diplomatic standing

Effective SWF management can uplift the region’s diplomatic profile, demonstrating fiscal responsibility and reinforcing the region’s image as a dependable and responsible economic partner. Countries are more likely to engage with economically sound and accountable partners.

Investment opportunities

The SWF’s investments can go beyond regional borders, resulting in direct foreign country investments. These could support the region’s foreign policy objectives like fortifying diplomatic connections, economic growth support, and trade relationship improvement.

Geopolitical considerations

Establishing an SWF could affect the geopolitical landscape, especially if the region’s resources have global significance. Foreign policy decisions about the fund’s investments and asset allocation could be guided by geopolitical goals and considerations.

Negotiation and bargaining power

A well-managed SWF can bestow added negotiating strength in diplomatic and trade discussions, using its financial might as leverage to obtain favorable terms in international agreements.

Transparency and international relations

The SWF’s transparency and governance can sway global perceptions of the region, with transparent and ethical practices positively impacting the region’s reputation and foreign relationships.

In sum, a Kurdish SWF can intersect with foreign policy through various channels, from economic diplomacy and resource management to geopolitical considerations. The fund’s management, investments, and global interactions can be seamlessly integrated into a comprehensive foreign policy strategy that targets economic, diplomatic, and geopolitical accomplishments.

Learning from Norway

Norway’s sovereign wealth fund offers an exemplary model for responsible wealth stewardship. As Kurdistan considers its SWF, Norway’s example highlights the merits of disciplined fiscal measures. Diversification allows Norway to counter commodity price volatility risks, ensuring consistent revenue streams for current needs and future generations. By adopting Norway’s commitment to transparency, governance, and ethical investing, Kurdistan can create a resilient fund aligned with worldwide sustainability objectives.

Norway’s focus on ethics and sustainability provides a relevant lesson. Amid rising environmental worries, Kurdistan’s SWF can select investments adhering to stringent environmental, social, and governance (ESG) standards. By actively supporting industries and technologies that champion environmental accountability, Kurdistan can join global efforts to alleviate climate change while safeguarding long-term financial stability.

Inspired by the UAE

The UAE’s experience showcases SWFs’ potential to stimulate economic diversification during the energy transition. With fossil fuels giving way to cleaner energy, the UAE has wisely channeled oil revenues into sustainable investments. Kurdistan can similarly harness its resource wealth to foster growth in renewable energy, technology, and sectors aligned with the global energy landscape shift.

The UAE’s strategy teaches that an SWF’s establishment isn’t merely for resource management but also a legacy-building instrument for upcoming generations. By directing funds to pioneering areas like renewable energy and sustainable technology, Kurdistan can ensure a sustainable future while enjoying economic advantages that transcend conventional resource extraction.

Navigating risks, maximizing returns

As Kurdistan contemplates the future, the region must balance the risks of excessive reliance on oil revenue against the potential rewards of wise SWF management. The decrease in oil demand is an unignorable reality, and a well-designed fund can shield against these uncertainties. By allocating part of the fund’s assets to renewable energy projects, Kurdistan can guard against future risks but also invest in a greener, more sustainable economy—while simultaneously nurturing other burgeoning economic sectors.

Kurdistan’s economy comprises various dynamic sectors that drive its growth and development. While their importance may fluctuate, here’s a snapshot of key sectors significant to the Kurdish economy as of September 2021:


The energy sector, particularly oil and natural gas, has been a vital driver of Kurdistan’s economy. The region’s significant hydrocarbon reserves have attracted investment and revenue, allowing for infrastructural development and economic growth.


Agriculture is a fundamental sector in Kurdistan, contributing to food security and providing livelihoods for a large portion of the population. Crops like wheat, barley, fruits, and vegetables are cultivated, and livestock farming is also prominent.


Kurdistan’s cultural heritage, historical sites, and natural beauty have positioned it as a growing tourist destination. The region’s rich history, diverse landscapes, and vibrant cities have attracted both local and international visitors.


The strategic location of Kurdistan makes it a hub for trade between neighboring countries. Cross-border trade, particularly with Turkey and Iran, has been a significant contributor to the economy.


Economic growth and urbanization have driven demand for infrastructure development, housing, and commercial properties. Construction and real estate activities have experienced steady growth as the region modernizes.


The services sector, including finance, education, healthcare, and retail, contributes to economic diversification and employment opportunities.


As digital connectivity becomes increasingly important, the technology and telecommunications sector is gaining momentum. Investment in infrastructure, IT services, and e-commerce has the potential to drive innovation and economic growth.


While this sector might not be as prominent as others, there are efforts to promote manufacturing and industrial activities. These efforts can create value-added products, generate employment, and reduce dependence on imports.


Kurdistan’s geological landscape presents opportunities in mining for minerals like gypsum, limestone, and salt. Developing this sector sustainably could contribute to both economic growth and infrastructure development.


The region’s emphasis on education and research is critical for developing a skilled workforce and fostering innovation. Educational institutions and research centers contribute to human capital development and knowledge creation.


Access to quality healthcare services is essential for social development and overall well-being. The healthcare sector plays a pivotal role in ensuring the health and prosperity of the population.


It’s vital to recognize that the economic scene may evolve due to global trends, technological advancements, policy shifts, and regional dynamics. The Kurdistan government’s diversification and sustainable development efforts are likely to impact these sectors’ relevance in the coming years, potentially supported by a Kurdish SWF.

Directing SWF investments toward renewable energy projects could also yield substantial financial returns. With global clean energy demand rising, Kurdistan can position itself as a major green energy player. By diversifying its portfolio to include renewable energy infrastructure, we access a sector with tremendous growth potential, generating new revenue streams while contributing to global sustainability objectives.

Countries like Qatar and Norway have successfully incorporated SWFs into broader national strategies emphasizing social welfare and economic growth. Qatar’s commitments to infrastructure, healthcare, and education demonstrate a comprehensive approach to fund utilization.

If Kurdistan embarks on the journey toward establishing a sovereign wealth fund within the context of the energy transition, the region stands at a pivotal juncture. By drawing inspiration from the experiences of its neighbors, Kurdistan can forge a path that mitigates risks, maximizes returns, supports sustainable development, and positions the region to become a beacon of progress. With prudence, foresight, and a commitment to both economic prosperity and environmental responsibility, Kurdistan’s sovereign wealth fund can pave the way for a transformative era of sustainable growth, and diversification. In addition, its establishment may contribute greatly to Kurdistan’s highly regarded foreign policy standing in the world.

Dr. Vince Hooper, originally from Devonport, Plymouth, UK, boasts an impressive teaching and research career in several esteemed business schools. His commitment to student success is evident through his mentorship in investment banking, multinational enterprise finance, and various accounting, finance, and strategy topics. Vince's impact even reverberates in legal realms. He spearheaded the introduction of video-link evidence in international court proceedings in South Africa, marking a pivotal step forward in legal history. Additionally, he has consulted for significant initiatives, including the Group of 15 summit on capital market integration, plus organized numerous international symposiums.

Dr. Naji Maseeho Odel is a respected authority in applied finance, specializing in investment and finance matters within Kurdistan and across the global landscape. With a PhD in Finance and Accounting, Naji has cultivated a reputation as a distinguished expert with a practical focus. Drawing from his extensive expertise, Naji serves as a sought-after consultant, offering valuable insights into investment and finance challenges faced by businesses and individuals alike. His pragmatic approach is underscored by a deep understanding of the issues facing Kurdistan, as well as broader global financial trends.