As the world celebrates World Press Freedom Day, it is important to remember that access to information and free and unbiased reporting are vital elements for developing a democracy. According to the 2013 Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders, Syria is ranked 176th out of 179 countries. Since the beginning of the uprising in March 2011, Syrian authorities have restricted coverage of the unrest and continue to misreport the civil war on state-run TV stations.
My colleague Stephen Rosenlund wrote in his blog post A Bright Light on Syria’s Horizon about CIPE’s work with the Syrian Economic Forum (SEF), a think tank dedicated to building a free, pluralistic, and independent Syrian homeland that rests on a strong economy and ensures a life of freedom and dignity for all citizens. Despite the ongoing civil war and inability to establish a home office inside Syria, SEF has established a robust online presence through its website and social media pages allowing for the exchange of ideas and knowledge.
In a previous blog post, I presented some of the harsh economic realities of today’s Syria and highlighted the work that the Syrian Economic Forum (SEF) is doing to create a better future. On April 18, CIPE hosted a panel discussion on the “Role of the Private Sector in Syria’s Future” at its Washington headquarters to explore the challenges of reconstructing and rehabilitating the country and the solutions the business community is uniquely placed to provide.
The event featured Ayman Tabbaa, Chairman of the Syrian Economic Forum (SEF); Dr. Samer Abboud, Assistant Professor of History and International Studies at Arcadia University; and Faysal Itani, Fellow at the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East at the Atlantic Council. CIPE Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa Abdulwahab Alkebsi moderated the discussion.
Ayman Tabbaa, a businessman himself, emphasized that Syria’s economic woes are a product not only of the ongoing war which has ravaged the country over the last two years, but of failed social market policies over the last decade. Future economic policies must be grounded in the rule of law and encourage the growth of small and medium sized enterprises in order to bring prosperity to the country.
This March, participants from 135 nations gathered in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for the 2013 Global Entrepreneurship Congress. First held in 2009, the annual event brings together entrepreneurs, leading thinkers, researchers, and policymakers to celebrate entrepreneurship, in particular the successes of Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW).
Every November, delegations from around the world, from Ghana to Turkey to the United States, organize GEW events that give future entrepreneurs the chance to expand their professional networks, better understand their countries’ business environments, and practice important skills, such as giving a pitch for a new business. Through partnerships with universities, community organizations, and businesses, Global Entrepreneurship Week teaches individuals how to create successful businesses that will support not only themselves and their families, but their nations’ economies.
In recognition of national committees’ outstanding achievement in organizing GEW events, the Global Entrepreneurship Congress bestows awards for most partner organizations, most activities, and best overall campaign. And the winner of this year’s Buzz Builder Award for best use of social media?
That would be Tunisia. Led by CIPE partner IACE (l’Institut arabe des chefs d’entreprises), the Tunisian committee generated more social media support for its achievements during the 2012 Global Entrepreneurship Week than any other delegation, no small feat for a country of about 10.6 million people.
IACE’s Center for Young Entrepreneurs, whose year-round programming supports the next generation of Tunisian entrepreneurs, took the lead in organizing Tunisia’s Global Entrepreneurship Week. GEW Tunisia events demonstrated the diversity of the business community and gave future entrepreneurs the information and tools they will need to start their own businesses.
The Center for Young Entrepreneurs produced a video to celebrate a successful GEW: in six days, 5,000 people participated in 80 activities across the country in support of entrepreneurship. Promoting the video through their website and Facebook page, IACE and the Center for Young Entrepreneurs went up against delegations from fifteen other countries—including Mexico, the United Kingdom, Pakistan, and the United States—to eventually win the 2012 Buzz Builder Award.
Tunisian society is no stranger to social media. In 2011, videos and images of protests in Tunisia quickly spread throughout North Africa and the world via YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. The ensuing revolution and ouster of the longtime regime set an example for similar regime changes in Egypt, Yemen, Libya, and elsewhere.
Almost two years later, IACE’s Center for Young Entrepreneurs invited the youth that sparked the Arab Spring to explore empowerment through entrepreneurship. Inspired by changes in the region, Tunisians are clamoring for not only political but economic agency. With engaging, informative activities like Global Entrepreneurship Week, IACE is giving Tunisian youth the tools to transform their passion and ability into real economic opportunity.
Language is essential. Words in one’s native language convey depths of meaning that translations obscure. Experience is priceless. Knowledge gained through practical experience provides lessons needed to overcome the next challenge.
Guided by these principles, CIPE’s “MENA Info” program has become the foremost Arabic-language internet resource on topics of democratic and market-oriented reform. Throughout the Middle East, when practitioners and scholars search Google for materials on جمعيات الأعمال (Business Associations), ريادية الأعمال (Entrepreneurship), حوكمة الشركات (Corporate Governance), and حشد التأييد(Policy Advocacy), CIPE’s dedicated Arabic-language website, CIPE-Arabia.org, is the first result returned.
In Egypt, my home country, the rulers and the political elite are immersed in a struggle for power and have forgotten the simplest principles of good governance: to deliver economic opportunities to their citizens.
Given the current economic crisis in Egypt, a new approach that prioritizes economic development should be adopted. By supporting small enterprises, the government can build a stronger economy and empower people in need to be productive. This way, those in need of assistance are more than just aid recipients; they are contributors to the overall economic growth.
New and well-planned initiatives must be created to improve Egypt’s economic and social conditions. These initiatives should involve all three sectors – the government, private sector, and civil society.
What is the “rule of law” and why does it matter for entrepreneurs? In this video, Democracy that Delivers for Entrepreneurs keynote speaker Hernando de Soto explains how the legal and institutional structures that entrepreneurs and business people in the developed world take for granted are sorely lacking in many developing countries. As a result, those who want to start a business are often forced to operate in the shadows — lacking formal registrations, licenses, and any protection for their property.
De Soto’s organization, the Institute for Liberty and Democracy (ILD), estimated that up to five billion people may be completely shut out of the legal system. The results can be catastrophic and even world-changing.
When Tunisian fruit peddler Mohamed Bouazazi had his cart, scale, and inventory confiscated by a police inspector in 2011, he was so despondent that he set himself on fire — igniting the Arab Spring that brought down several governments around the region.
Anna Nadgrodkiewicz and Marko Tomicic present the Implementation Gap handbook.
This past week, CIPE’s Cairo field office worked with partners Federation of Economic Development Associations (FEDA) and United Group to facilitate a conference on “Combating Corruption between the State and the Society.” The event was intended to summarize the lessons learned and experience gained by CIPE and its partners since 2008 under CIPE Egypt’s U.S. Agency for International Development- funded Combating Corruption and Promoting Transparency program, and to lay the groundwork for the newly-funded, two-year next phase of the initiative.
Of particular interest to the approximately 120 Egyptians present were two panelists who telecasted in from our Washington, DC office to share their perceptions of the “implementation gap” in Egyptian governance.
Marko Tomicic, a manager at the innovative transparency, governance, and corruption research organization Global Integrity, encouraged the audience to shy away from the conventional reliance on ranking indexes to understand the relative successes and failures of a country, and in particular, their own country.
The CIPE Development Blog provides coverage of the Center for International Private Enterprise and its partner network at work -- highlighting successes, drawing out lessons from failure, and exploring the broader issues of political and economic development. For more information visit CIPE.org.