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Last Friday, as I was meeting in my office in Washington, DC with Nazeh Ben Ammar, President of the Tunisian American Chamber of Commerce, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, now the former president of Tunisia, was fleeing his country. As my guest awaited word on when the airport would re-open and Lufthansa would be permitted to return him home to his family in Tunis, we talked about his country, entrepreneurship and a new generation of youth in the Arab region.
Given the momentum gained in 2010 to get policymakers thinking about entrepreneurship, it is reasonable to expect that America’s commitment to entrepreneurship will grow, especially once we see that commitment translated into concrete policy action. Of course, the hope is that those policy actions will be the right ones—inspiring confidence, building up decision-making around risk-taking and investing, spurring new enterprises built on innovative products and services, and along with it, job creation. With that sense of optimism, comes the vision of a global economy finally starting to shake free from a global crisis.
Since the economic crisis broke out, entrepreneurship has attracted increased attention as a key path to economic recovery. I was happy to see that entrepreneurs have been set apart from some of the negative perceptions of big business and the blame being placed on large financial institutions for the economic meltdown. The question is whether such recognition of entrepreneurs as an engine for growth and innovation translated into concrete pro-entrepreneurship policies.
As the Defense Department’s public review last Thursday of its war strategy in Afghanistan points to a slow troop withdrawal in 2011, efforts to better understand how to spur growth after such conflicts are speeding into top gear. A new cadre of economists, military leaders and other specialists are writing a long-needed canon to guide how to re-build economies during their transition from war to peace using indigenous entrepreneurship. Expeditionary Economics (ExpECON), as the field is now known, is informing large questions of national security strategy, positioning economic growth as a more important component of the formula for strategic success. While I defer to these experts in assessing the entrepreneurial health of current war-torn economies, I thought it timely to take a look at some of the neighbors engaged in their conflicts.
Today and tomorrow the Senate will vote on President Obama’s announced deal to extend for two years all of the tax cuts, both those from the Bush years and those for low-income workers from last year’s stimulus package. Under this proposal, recently expired benefits for the long-term unemployed would also be extended for another 13 months. In addition, the agreement would cut payroll taxes for one-year. What does all this mean for entrepreneurs?
I have just returned from a brief last minute visit to Algiers where I spoke at a conference focused on the Maghreb countries: Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, and Mauritania. The objectives of the Maghreb Entrepreneurship Conference, a follow-on to President Obama’s Presidential Summit on Entrepreneurship held in April 2010 in Washington, DC was to discuss strategies to promote job creation through entrepreneurship.
On my recent trip to South America during Global Entrepreneurship Week, I cast a mournful eye over Uruguay where, were it not for problems with flight schedules I had hoped to visit. Uruguay, the South American nation nestled between Brazil and Argentina, is trying to take the fast track toward becoming a startup economy.
I am happy to report that in its third year, Global Entrepreneurship Week grew by leaps and bounds. As more countries take advantage of this global movement, more minds are pursuing their entrepreneurial dreams. GEW has not just inspired students looking for a way to reach their goals, but the leaders of nations who were inspired in their efforts to boost growth by the sheer energy of the millions of participants in GEW activities during the past two weeks. In case you haven’t been following, here are a couple of anecdotes from this year’s Week, and the reaction it produced among some of the world’s leaders.
Throughout this week, when another 80 countries launch Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW), there will be a significant number of events organized by GEW partners at universities, schools, companies, professional associations, technological centers and municipalities. Like last week’s events in Muslim countries, the activities will be diversified, ranging from thematic conferences to networking with investors and entrepreneurs, presentation of business plans, recreational events, sport events, cultural events, etc. There will be something for everyone and I encourage all to take advantage of these opportunities.
“In business, the only certain thing is failure. Especially when you operate in a place like Indonesia,” Sandiaga Uno said earlier this year during his visit to the U.S. for President Obama’s Summit on Entrepreneurship. After being laid off during the financial crisis in Asia in the late 90s, Uno decided to try entrepreneurship to pay off credit card debt and put food on his family’s table. He is now the renowned co-founder of Saratoga Capital, the first private equity firm in Indonesia focusing on natural resources that grew from four workers to about 15,000 employees.
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