The Entrepreneurial Spirit of the Arab Spring

January 18, 2012
Participants at Presidential Summit on Entrepreneurship in 2010

In the midst of the political and economic revolutions and evolutions of the Arab Spring, there is a theme emerging. It isn't as popular to talk about as the power of social media for mobilization, and it hasn't received the same media coverage as the crowds in city squares across the Middle East and North Africa, but it's a vital part of what is happening in our world.

As venture capitalist Craig Hanson so aptly stated in the San Jose Mercury News, "Entrepreneurship is the next phase of the Arab Spring."

We talked about Craig's message a great deal yesterday when we hosted the 25 entrepreneurs from Jordan who accompanied His Majesty King Abdullah II on his visit to meet with President Obama this week. At a luncheon here at the State Department, we connected these entrepreneurs to angel investors and venture capitalists from the U.S. private sector, in an effort to catalyze potential collaboration between these groups. Senior government officials from Jordan and the U.S. government were on hand to support the prospective partnerships, and from the feedback we've received via e-mail, there are already several deals being discussed.

U.S. investment in Jordan isn't only good for American companies and investors, who will develop new markets that will lead to jobs at home, but it can also empower individuals and create new opportunities.

The gathering began with remarks by Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment Bob Hormats, who spoke about the need to support the next generation of great ideas. Under Secretary Hormats was followed by Jordanian Minister for Planning and International Cooperation Jafar Hassan, who emphasized that "The U.S. government has walked the talk when it comes to entrepreneurship. When it comes to delivering on the possibilities for the youth in the region, what is more important than government is the private sector, and so our public-private partnerships must succeed."

We've seen this firsthand across the region, from the Jordan-U.S. Business Forum last May, to the Tunisia Partnerships Forum we hosted just three weeks after their democratic elections, to the U.S.-Maghreb Entrepreneurship Conference going on right now in Marrakech. For examples of how entrepreneurship is flourishing, look no further than the many efforts by the Partners for a New Beginning local chapters or many other stories that have been covered by The New York Times and Reuters just today. Giving priority to entrepreneurship has been a theme that the Obama Administration has been touting at home and abroad, and our work to bolster the entrepreneurial spirit of the Arab Spring is a recurring theme.

Last spring, President Obama pointed this out when he said, "Throughout the region, many young people have a solid education, but closed economies leave them unable to find a job. Entrepreneurs are brimming with ideas, but corruption leaves them unable to profit from those ideas. The greatest untapped resource in the Middle East and North Africa is the talent of its people."

Similarly, Vice President Joe Biden said this at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Istanbul last month: "democratic revolutions like the ones in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya -- and the ones still unfolding in Syria and Yemen -- are imbued, literally imbued with entrepreneurial spirit, a spirit that requires risk and initiative, steadfast determination, and a unifying idea."

And private sector leaders have added to the chorus. Earlier today, Hernando De Soto, President of the Institute for Liberty and Democracy, addressed the same theme when speaking at the U.S.-Maghreb Entrepreneurship Conference. Moroccan blogger Hind Touissate tweeted this quote: "Bouazizi had the DNA of an entrepreneur but his dreams were shuttered on the 17th of December 2010."

Through our Global Entrepreneurship Program and our flagship partnership with Partners for a New Beginning, the United States will continue to support the entrepreneurs who are coming up with the ideas that could change our world, wherever they may be. In doing so, we have the opportunity to advance economic development for nations across the Middle East, North Africa, and around the world.

As Secretary Clinton explained long before the Arab Spring began, "Entrepreneurship is a way of looking at the world and seeing not just obstacles, but opportunities; not just the world as it is, but the world as it could be, and then having the confidence, the determination, and the resources to move those worlds closer together."



New Mexico, USA
January 19, 2012

Eric in New Mexico writes:

If I was a multi-billionare looking at North Africa; beyond an educated populace I'd see two basic things that would fuel economic rennasance, miles of beaches just waiting to be discovered by tourists, and a lot of oil and gas that some of these nations could use to fuel the essential infrastructure projects that would sustain their economic and social needs into the 22nd century.

The one basic limitation on all of this is the question of having enough fresh clean drinking water for the next 100 years and beyond.

So what I'd suggest to folks @ State is (since you'all are into hosting conferences), is to gather government leaders and de-salinization pro's together, along with investment capitalists and figure out a working plan to turn desert into oasis without draining aquifers to do it.

Given the world's need for food security, long-term, this could be the best investment any government of the region and developed countries could undertake for their own national security interests.


January 23, 2012

W.W. writes:

Throughout the region, many young people have a solid education, but closed economies leave them unable to find a job. Entrepreneurs are brimming with ideas, but corruption leaves them unable to profit from those ideas. The greatest untapped resource in the Middle East and North Africa is the talent of its people."

that s my point but is a common issue and the mob which is doin that is the is the is the....

European FBI and ICE so we can finally have a german cop arresting french politician or a spanish agent gettin Monti

United States
January 23, 2012

Derek in the U.S.A. writes:

Thanks this post really opened my eyes. Very beneficial for the people those who want to do something good in his life.

Rob L.
District Of Columbia, USA
February 13, 2012

DipNote Blogger Rob Lalka writes:

@ Derek Thanks very much for saying that. Wanted to be sure you also saw this post, which went up today: ''

Look forward to others' reactions; if I don't get back to you on here, just send me a note on Twitter at @RobAtState. I'd love to hear your ideas and comments.

Seymour P.
United States
February 16, 2012

Portia S. in the U.S.A. writes:

I'm hoping that someone will eventually point out to President Obama that throughout the United States, many young people have a solid education, but a Wall Street casino economy leaves them unable to find a job. Entrepreneurs are brimming with ideas, but corruption leaves them unable to profit from those ideas.


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