About the Author: Rashad Hussain serves as U.S. Envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference.
I recently returned from a week-long trip to Jeddah. In addition to meeting with government and OIC officials, I also had a chance to spend time with a number of civil society groups, including 12 young Saudi members of the Jeddah branch of the Global Entrepreneurship Organization. We had a very in-depth and candid conversation about the fiscal, social, and operational challenges to entrepreneurship in the Kingdom and in turn we explored ways for the Saudi Entrepreneurs to cooperate with the U.S. Mission, including the possibility of bringing U.S. trainers and businesspeople to Saudi Arabia to help the development of an entrepreneurial mentality. These young entrepreneurs have, without doubt, faced many obstacles, but I admire and encourage their commitment and energy.
Promoting entrepreneurship in Muslim communities around the world is one of the areas of partnership I will pursue as Special Envoy. As the President stated in his historic Cairo Speech, “all of us must recognize that education and innovation will be the currency of the 21st century, and in too many Muslim communities there remains underinvestment in these areas. I am emphasizing such investments within my country. And while America in the past has focused on oil and gas in this part of the world, we now seek a broader engagement.”
As many of you may recall, earlier this year, the President, along with the Chamber of Commerce, hosted a Summit on Entrepreneurship that brought together more than 250 entrepreneurs from around the world to discuss best practices for advancing entrepreneurship. It was during this summit that Secretary Clinton announced a new program called E-Mentor Corps, which allows business leaders in the United States and overseas to serve as mentors to emerging entrepreneurs around the world. The American private sector has also answered the call by launching a new initiative called Partners for a New Beginning that will harness private sector resources and capabilities to advance entrepreneurship and economic opportunity, particularly for youth. And we are all looking forward to the next global Entrepreneurship Summit, which will take place in Istanbul during the summer of 2011.
Promoting entrepreneurship with Muslim communities around the world will allow us to build new partnerships to address common challenges. I welcome your thoughts on ways to achieve these goals.