Dec 01,2010

At the U.S.-Maghreb Entrepreneurship Conference, North African and American business leaders discussed the potential, and the challenge, of launching businesses in countries from Libya to Mauritania.

Naeem Zafar, a frequent TechWadi speaker and lecturer at Berkeley’s Hass School of Business, moderated the innovation and technology panel at the conference. Entrepreneurship, he said, goes deeper than just running a business.

“The most innate need every human has is of survival, and entrepreneurship is the armor which can prepare you for survival,” Zafar said.

TechWadi was represented by Professor Sid Ahmed Benraouane from the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management, who is among the key TechWadi members spear-heading our efforts in the Maghreb.

Benraouane spoke of inspiring entrepreneurs and business leaders, all passionate to work with TechWadi and connect to the technology community in Silicon Valley. Whether a young woman heading a social entrepreneurship startup focusing on waste management, or an experienced investor looking to help fellow entrepreneurs, the Maghreb’s entrepreneurship community is strong and vibrant.

Arezki Daoud, founder of the news and analysis website North Africa Journal, moderated a panel on “Opportunities and Challenges: Stories from Maghreb Entrepreneurs.” Daoud said that although North African entrepreneurs have talent and vision, regional business climates present obstacles to their success.

“The processes of creating, managing and closing a business are not only outdated and antiquated, but also structured to slow the pace of entrepreneurship,” Daoud said. Other challenges include access to startup capital and a shortage of mid-level management, the kind of employees entrepreneurs need to run day-to-day operations.

Entrepreneurs have to rely on their own resources to start a business. “While the entrepreneur can establish the strategy, there is very limited talent to create and manage the tactical aspects.”

A likely solution for these challenges, Daoud said, is for leaders to be proactive in making the business climate suitable for aspiring entrepreneurs.

“It really defaults back to government, policymakers, legislators and to the leaders of those countries,” Daoud said. “There is an enormous amount of interest from the local business community, a lot of people with money, a lot of young people with good ideas.”

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