PNB Hosts Pakistan Entrepreneurship and Investment Roundtable

December 7, 2012

Contact: Gabe Ross
Associate Director, Middle East Programs
The Aspen Institute
+1-202-736-2535 |

Partners for a New Beginning partners with Morgan Stanley and Abraaj Capital to host the event

New York, December 7, 2012 –– The Partners for a New Beginning (PNB) Secretariat at the Aspen Institute organized a roundtable discussion on Entrepreneurship and Investment in Pakistan with Morgan Stanley and Abraaj Capital. Over 75 representatives from the US Government, the Government of Pakistan, the private sector and the NGO community convened on 3 December 2012 at Morgan Stanley’s New York City offices to discuss opportunities for entrepreneurship and investment in Pakistan. 

While news reports from Pakistan often focus on violence and corruption, Pakistan has quietly become a potential investment location due to its strong middle class – the fourth largest in Asia – and its energetic entrepreneurial climate. Throughout the evening, the conversation highlighted leaders from the private sector, the US and Pakistani governments, and the impact investment community to share success stories and lessons learned for investing in this growing market. 

PNB Steering Committee member, Morgan Stanley, who hosted the event, spoke of the company’s commitment to PNB and its model of engagement. They gave special emphasis to their Global Sustainable Finance unit, which includes Investing with Impact, an initiative that was launched earlier this year at a US State Department event. 

“This event exemplifies how PNB is bringing together the public and private sector to implement the vision of supporting economic development in countries with Muslim-majorities, and creating new connections between these countries and the United States,” said Mahmoud Mamdani, Vice Chairman for the Middle East and North Africa and Managing Director at Morgan Stanley.

“Capital markets can and should play a critical role in helping strengthen communities and providing sustainable economic opportunity,” said Morgan Stanley’s Head of Global Sustainable Finance Audrey Choi.

Focusing on opportunities in the small and medium enterprise sector, Abraaj Capital’s Tom Speechley spoke of why his firm is so bullish on the market in Pakistan. Mr. Speechley, who is the CEO of Abraaj’s small and midcap investment arm – Aureos Capital, highlighted Pakistan’s competitive ICT labor market, its encouraging investor protection track record, and its favorable comparability with other BRIC countries. He also discussed successful projects undertaken so far by Abraaj in Pakistan such as KESC, MSF, and Biogas.

Representing the views of the private sector, CEO of NTELX the Hon. Rob Quartel, MIT Sloan professor and founder of the MIT Enterprise Forum Imran Sayeed, and CEO of ConstellationCK/Sofizar Carlos Cashman shared their experiences in Pakistan. 

“A business like mine would have been very difficult in the US, but we can do it in Pakistan because the cost is so much lower,” said Mr. Cashman. The people of Pakistan are “natural capitalists,” added Mr. Quartel.

Deputy Chief of Mission Asad Majeed Khan from the Embassy of Pakistan remarked at the outset of the event that “the government of Pakistan realizes that the way to our economic growth lies in capitalizing [on] the entrepreneurial ability and the unflinching resolve of our strong middle class.”

From the US government, the State Department’s Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan/Pakistan Dan Feldman discussed trade-focused collaboration between the US and Pakistan. Alex Thier, Assistant to the Administrator for the Office of Afghanistan and Pakistan Affairs at USAID, spoke about the Pakistan Private Investment Initiative, a public-private partnership aimed at generating investments in Pakistani companies in partnership with the private sector. 

“The Department sees business leaders as change agents,” Mr. Feldman remarked. 

Other speakers included Harris Mehos, a Director in the Structured Finance group at the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), discussed some of their operations in Pakistan, and former International Finance Corporation Javed Khan shared his observations on some of the steps the Government of Pakistan can take to better encourage investment. 

Shuaib Siddiqui from Acumen Fund discussed his organization’s approach to poverty alleviation, while Invest2Innovate’s Kalsoom Lakhani spoke enthusiastically about why her group is piloting its business accelerator site in Pakistan. 

“A lot of entrepreneurs in Pakistan face similar problems in launching their businesses, and I2I realized the need to establish a curriculum to help them face those common challenges,” said Ms. Lakhani. “[We want to] foster a community of entrepreneurs – where we help them grow their businesses but also learn from each other.”

About The Aspen Institute

Partners for a New Beginning (PNB) is a network working in ten countries where local projects and priorities are identified by local chapters.  PNB strategically matches them with US and international partners. The Aspen Institute serves as the PNB Secretariat and is responsible for driving, expanding and sustaining the PNB network.  The Secretariat maintains communication between stakeholders, identifies strategic partners and brokers partnerships that support project development and expansion. For more information, visit

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, DC. Its mission is to foster leadership based on enduring values and to provide a nonpartisan venue for dealing with critical issues. The Institute is based in Washington, DC; Aspen, Colorado; and on the Wye River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. It also has offices in New York City and an international network of partners. For more information, visit


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