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Boosting Entrepreneurship In the Maghreb

A Libyan woman sells traditional products at a stall along a street in downtown Tripoli, Libya.

“The true wealth of a nation is found in the creative minds of its people and their freedom and ability to bring those ideas to life."

Entrepreneurs and their business endeavors are the engines of economic growth and job creation, which, in turn, are the underpinnings of stability and opportunity. Thus, empowering entrepreneurs has become a new pillar of the Obama Administration’s foreign policy.

During his 2009 speech in Cairo, Egypt, President Barack Obama announced the U.S. Summit on Entrepreneurship, which then took place in April 2010. Its purpose was to find avenues to deepen ties between business leaders, foundations, and entrepreneurs in the United States and Muslim communities around the world. Out of this conference came a number of cooperative initiatives, including the U.S.–Maghreb Entrepreneurship Conference, held first in December 2010 and again in mid-January.

North African business leaders and entrepreneurs; aspiring youth entrepreneurs; business leaders of the North African diaspora; and a delegation of U.S. business leaders and young entrepreneurs, led by Assistant Secretary for Economic and Business Affairs Jose Fernandez; participated in workshops and discussed ideas for advancing entrepreneurship in the Maghreb.

They considered various ways to improve access to capital for entrepreneurs and new businesses, and the impact of cooperation with the Maghreb diaspora in the United States; how to encourage and support youth entrepreneurs, and how to promote cross-border business partnership. They learned how to network with other entrepreneurs, even shared their own experiences. Much of the activity was aimed at creating and maintaining cross-regional and U.S.-Maghreb cooperation.

The goal of the U.S.-Maghreb Entrepreneurship Conference is to positively impact 100,000 people in the United States and the Maghreb over the next five years. It is part of the global alliance Partners for a New Beginning, a locally driven initiative supported by a global coalition of business and civil society leaders.

“The true wealth of a nation is found in the creative minds of its people and their freedom and ability to bring those ideas to life — to develop not only new products, but the technologies that will create entirely new industries, entire new markets, entire new opportunities,” said Vice President Joseph Biden at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Turkey last December.

By empowering local entrepreneurs, the United States hopes to help the private sector develop and thrive, further encouraging foreign investment and improving economic stability in the countries of the Maghreb.