North Africa: The Tunisian Example

On February 24 in Tunis, Secretary Clinton made a powerful statement supporting the revolutions that continue to impact North Africa and the Middle East, with a particular emphasis on backing the Syrian people in their ongoing struggle for freedom.

One particular moment in her remarks stood out to me, which was her praise for the people of Tunisia, where the revolutions were first sparked. She said, “I think it was quite remarkable, especially on such short notice — and thanks to Tunisian leadership and Arab League leadership — that all of us gathered here today reached consensus.”

I saw this same leadership firsthand when the Global Partnership Initiative hosted the Tunisia Partnerships Forum at the State Department on November 15, less than a month after the free and fair elections in Tunisia. In many ways, just as the Tunisians set the example by overthrowing a dictator and transitioning to more open and inclusive political systems, they are now also the trailblazers for creating more open and inclusive economic systems as well.

We are working with the leadership of the Tunisian advisory board for our U.S. North Africa Partnership for Economic Opportunity (NAPEO), the regional network that is advancing the goals of one of our flagship partnership programs, Partners for a New Beginning. These local leaders are working with American CEOs and other global leaders to focus on fostering entrepreneurship, developing market-relevant skills training, and creating opportunities for job matching and cross-border exchanges — and it has been an honor to support this partnership network in the Maghreb through the launch of the Department’s Global Entrepreneurship Program in Tunisia and our other efforts.

Secretary Clinton and I believe that by encouraging private business, empowering Arab Spring entrepreneurs and developing public-private partnerships, we can create jobs in both of our countries, which will enhance both of our mutual interests and foster long term ties between our two nations.

The Tunisians’ leadership has not ended with their elections on October 23 or their first ever investment forum hosted at the State Department on November 15. Instead, they have consistently shown their willingness to work with the U.S. Government and American companies, in a true sense of trust and partnership, to forge a better future for us all. Whether it meant revising their franchising laws, which immediately sparked investments by U.S. companies with the support of the International Franchise Association, to organizing the first investment roadshow to meet with business leaders in three U.S. cities, the Tunisians are setting the example.

And America has responded. Since last year’s revolution, the United States has committed approximately $190 million in total assistance to support Tunisia’s transition, focusing heavily on support for Tunisia’s economy and private sector, including a new franchising facility that will create thousands of local jobs for Tunisians. Secretary Clinton has stated, “As Tunisia’s brave citizens chart a new democratic future, they continue to set an example for the region and the world.” While they continue to lead the way, the United States of America is proud to support their efforts and invest in our shared future together.

(Kris M. Balderston serves as the special representative for global partnerships.)

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