Tag Archives: entrepreneurship

The Future of a Nation: A One Minute Look at Lebanon

"Corniche beirut" by Varun Shiv Kapur from Berkeley, United States - Corniche. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Corniche beirut” by Varun Shiv Kapur from Berkeley, United States – Corniche. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

By Elie Obeid

Lebanon, it’s that country in the Middle East that you sometimes miss while going through a map. Despite its small size, Lebanon enjoyed quite a reputation in the 1960s and early 1970s as being the Switzerland of the Middle East, and Beirut, its capital, was known as the Paris of the Middle East due to the number of tourists it attracted and its role as a financial and trade hub for the region.

In recent years, however, Lebanon has been suffering from various social, political, economic problems. To discuss all these issues and possible solutions for them would require volumes so we’ll stick to economics this time with a little twist of politics. But before getting into that, how about we take a look at the numbers first.

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Building a Network of EntrepreneuHERS

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Forbes estimates that 90 percent of startup businesses will fail. However, the entrepreneurship ecosystem – that is the enabling environment that is more or less conducive for startups – varies drastically throughout the world.

This year the World Bank Group’s Ease of Doing Business report rated Serbia and Nicaragua as the 91st and 119th easiest countries for doing business out of 189 countries, respectively. The Global Entrepreneurship Index ranked Serbia as the 78th and Nicaragua as the 87th most entrepreneurial countries out of 130 according to their index. These rankings highlight the progress albeit continued uphill battle entrepreneurs face in operating a business in these countries.

More accurately, the 2015 Female Entrepreneurship Index (FEI) elucidates the unique institutions impacting women in starting and operating a business: a provision for childcare services, work-family conflicts, limitations to freedom to work and travel due to traditional family and religious norms, and equal legal rights, in addition to meeting expectations and gaining access to education, capital, and networks.

In a unique mentorship structure aimed at maximizing the number of beneficiaries of the project, CIPE partners the Association of Business Women in Serbia (ABW) and Red de Empresarias de Nicaragua (REN) linked successful women entrepreneurs with emerging micro-entrepreneurs for one-year mentorship programs. Though FEI reports a nine percent increase in the number of female entrepreneurs who have participated in some form of post-secondary education, factors such as lack of confidence or practical know-how still prevent young women from actually acting on their business ideas and subsequently making it through the first few years of operation. To account for this in Nicaragua, REN linked each mentor-mentee pair with a female university student studying business at the top universities in Managua. Seeing first-hand how a real business operates and a microenterprise can scale allowed interns to apply the skills learned in their coursework.

This month’s Economic Reform Feature Service articles on the case studies of Serbia and Nicaragua outline the mentorship structure of each respective program and bring to light the power of women-to-women mentorship in building leadership and confidence, considering long term career goals, and creating a nurturing and supportive network to rely on when navigating difficult professional and even personal decisions. Women’s business associations like ABW and REN aren’t waiting for an enabling environment for women entrepreneurs but rather are creating their own.

Stephanie Bandyk is the Program Assistant for Global Programs at CIPE. 

Mentorship Helps Women Entrepreneurs in Nicaragua Grow their Businesses

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“When women come together in Nicaragua, we usually talk about families and communities. We never discuss about our businesses. That’s why a community like Red de Empresarias de Nicaragua (REN) is important, where women are encouraged to talk about their businesses without offending someone or thinking it’s a taboo.”

Marla Reyes Rojas, the owner of Techno Commerce Group, told me this over a cup of coffee during my recent trip to Managua. I was glad to hear first-hand how a CIPE partner is fostering a community where businesswomen, like Marla, can openly talk and build networks with other women in business.

Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprise (MSME) growth has been touted as a key for Nicaragua’s economic growth, but the country remains one of the most difficult places to start a business in Central America (for example, the licensing process takes more than 200 days to complete).  This is even more pronounced for women entrepreneurs who confront myriad of challenges, and as a result only represent around 25 percent of the MSME sector in the country. Additionally, women face the rooted machismo culture that prevents them from achieving gender equality in the economy.

In such an environment, it’s crucial for women in business to come together and motivate one another. That’s why for the past year, REN led a mentorship program to develop leadership and entrepreneurship skills among women in Nicaragua. The program linked successful women entrepreneurs to female university students with business degrees (who served as interns) and emerging women micro-entrepreneurs (who were the mentees). REN matched ten teams — a team consisted of a mentee, mentor, and an intern — and each group worked to improve the mentee’s business.

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World Chambers Congress focuses on SMEs and Job Creation

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Under the banner of “Identity, Community, Vision,” over 1,300 delegates from around the world gathered in Turin, Italy on June 10 to attend the World Chambers Congress. The main focus of the three day event was how to strengthen small and medium enterprises (SMEs) worldwide to create jobs. Organizers focused on the need to create enabling environments for these businesses to grow and prosper – especially when it comes to youth and entrepreneurs.

“Chambers of Commerce play an increasingly important role in the global economy and are central to the International Chamber’s vision to promote trade as a driver of growth, jobs and sustainable development,” International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) Chairman Terry McGraw told the delegates. “The World Chambers Congress is an essential forum to promote knowledge sharing between chambers from around the world – driving real development of public-private partnerships.”

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CIPE Launches First Annual Photo Competition

Photo: © 2011 Swapping aid for trade in northern Uganda, Pete Lewis/UK Department for International Development

Photo: © 2011 Swapping aid for trade in northern Uganda, Pete Lewis/UK Department for International Development

“There is one thing the photograph must contain, the humanity of the moment.” – Robert Frank

Show us your best story-telling photo

Do you like to tell stories through photography? Then show us your best work! The first annual Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) Photo Competition is now open for submissions.

Open to participants of all ages, including student, amateur, and professional photographers, the inaugural photo competition will focus on the theme of Entrepreneurship.

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Riinvest Institute Celebrates 20 year Anniversary

Riinvest 20th Anniversary 2

CIPE’s long term partner Riinvest Institute for Development Research is celebrating their 20th anniversary this year. To mark the occasion, Riinvest held a conference on May 15 and 16 titled, “Activating the Sources of Economic Growth in Kosovo”. The conference brought together an impressive audience— the President and the Prime Minister of Kosovo*, the Deputy Minister of Finance, the World Bank Country Manager, other high level public officials, academics, business people, NGO leaders, the donor community, and members of the media.

*Kosovo’s newly-elected Prime Minister, Isa Mustafa, is the former President of Riinvest.

Riinvest leaders presented awards to a number of partners, individuals, and organizations who have supported the organization since its inception. CIPE had the honor of being presented the first two awards, one for Executive Director John Sullivan and one for the organization as a whole. CIPE Senior Consultant Carmen Stanila kindly received both awards on behalf of John and the organization.

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A Way Forward for a Viable Syria

From left to right: Abdulwahab Alkebsi, Ayman Tabba, Ellen Laipson, and Geneive Abdo discussing the role  of private sector and civil society democrats in reshaping Syria and countering extremism.

From left to right: Abdulwahab Alkebsi, Ayman Tabba, Ellen Laipson, and Geneive Abdo discussing the role of private sector and civil society democrats in reshaping Syria and countering extremism.

“We hear a lot about Syria— we hear the narrative of the Syrian government, we hear the narrative of ISIS, we hear the narrative of some of the opposition groups, but we don’t usually hear from the private sector, about what’s going on.”  

With this introduction, CIPE Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa Abdulwahab Alkebsi opened a panel discussion on May 21 co-hosted by CIPE and the Stimson Center entitled “A Way Forward for a Viable Syria: An Insider Perspective from the Private Sector and Civil Society.” The panel featured Chairman on CIPE partner, the Syrian Economic Forum (SEF) Ayman Tabbaa, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Stimon Center Ellen Laipson, and Middle East Fellow at the Stimson Center Geneive Abdo. The panelists discussed the role of democrats from the private sector and civil society in reshaping Syria and countering extremism.

Tabbaa spoke of SEF’s role as the first independent economic think tank in Syria working to change the trajectory of the conflict and rebuild a better Syria for the future. “We have to go back to the roots of this conflict,” he told the audience. Under the regime of Bashar Al Assad, citizens are oppressed and disenfranchised— they lack opportunity for meaningful political and economic participation. But after four years of war, people are wondering what it means to be a Syrian anymore. It is crucial, in this context, to redefine the social contract and the relationship between the citizen and state. As a think tank, SEF is playing a leading role in doing so.

“…after four years of war, people are wondering what it means to be a Syrian anymore.”

Syrians are looking for democratic alternatives to the forces tearing the country apart. Every day we see news about atrocities and violence in Syria. Much of the media focuses on sectarian violence and ISIS-created mayhem. But, even with the chaos and human suffering, Tabbaa offered signs of hope through examples of SEF’s work during the conflict.

He spoke about the recent memorandum of understanding (MOU) that SEF signed with the Ministry in Local Administration of the Syrian Interim Government (SIG). SEF has a network of liaisons inside Syria who provide the SIG and Local Councils with economic data, analysis, and recommendations. Providing this on-the-ground information to decision-makers supports improvement of local governance and enhances the democratic legitimacy of the Councils

Another SEF project helps Syrian youth develop solutions to the challenges in their communities through civic education. SEF has provided 600 young Syrian high school graduates with training in entrepreneurship, leadership, and civic skills. The course offers an alternative to the regime’s propaganda and the empty promises of extremist ideology.

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