Contact: Vanessa Zuabi
Associate Director of the Middle East Programs
The Aspen Institute
Washington, DC, April 18, 2011 – On Friday April 15 the Aspen Institute hosted a meeting for high level members of the US private sector and North Africa Economic and Finance Ministers to highlight the importance of investment in North Africa and discuss a public-private partnership announced by the US Department of State in 2010, the North Africa Partnership for Economic Opportunity (PNB-NAPEO). Participants included Economic and Finance Ministers from the countries of North Africa, executives from major American companies and senior leadership from educational organizations. This meeting is one of many that are planned to advance US business and people-to-people engagement in the region while fostering inter-regional cooperation, developing economic opportunities, and cultivating networking platforms for entrepreneurial leaders throughout the Maghreb.
PNB-NAPEO is a public – private partnership that exists to better link young entrepreneurs and business leaders in the United States and the Maghreb. PNB-NAPEO is the North Africa regional component of Partners for a New Beginning (PNB), an alliance that fosters public-private partnerships committed to broadening and deepening engagement between the United States and local communities abroad. These initiatives were founded in support of President Obama’s vision for a New Beginning based on mutual interest and respect through efforts to advance economic opportunity, science & technology, education, and exchange.
“The PNB-North Africa Partnership for Economic Opportunity will serve as an important platform to translate goals into action in the Maghreb. Our objective is to build a network where people-to-people ties and business-to-business relationships are established. This network will foster support for projects on the ground that will create jobs and encourage education, exchange and the development of science and technology.” – said former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright
“The Aspen Institute is proud to be asked once again to shepherd an important public-private partnership that convenes leaders to translate ideas into action,” said Walter Isaacson, president and CEO of the Aspen Institute. “North Africa is a key region where we plan to have a sustainable impact through pioneering the PNB-North Africa Partnership for Economic Opportunity.”
The essence of PNB-NAPEO is to serve as a network for entrepreneurs and business leaders from the United States and North Africa. This network will be the supporting backbone for both communities to identify, initiate and sustain projects at the Maghreb regional and local levels that will foster entrepreneurship and job creation, especially for the youth.
On April 12th at the US Islamic Forum, Secretary Clinton highlighted PNB-NAPEO saying, “These people-to-people contacts have already helped lay the groundwork for cross-border initiatives to create jobs, train youth and support start-ups….Forging deeper trade and economic relationships between neighbors could create many, many new jobs.”
The Aspen Institute will serve as Secretariat for PNB-NAPEO and will work with US and regional partners in order to develop stronger engagement between the US and North Africa to create new economic opportunities on a regional level and in each country.
The Aspen Institute announced that it is building a governance structure for PNB-NAPEO. This governance structure will have an Advisory Board comprised of US and Maghreb entrepreneurs, Diaspora leaders, business and civil society leaders as well as five local advisory boards in each of the Maghreb countries. These Boards will drive the vision, substance, and implementation of PNB-NAPEO.
Several projects will be implemented in the coming months. In particular, the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) has granted 1.4 million US dollars to the Education for Employment Foundation to start-up operation in Tunisia that will impact 800 youth in two years.
To develop and build a stronger network between the US and the Maghreb, PNB-NAPEO will organize several delegations to the region including an American University Partnerships delegation in July 2011 led by the Aspen Institute and the US Department of State to support higher education and partnership development between American and Maghreb universities; a Cultural Entrepreneurs Delegation led by the US Department of State and the Aspen Institute in September 2011 that will link creative business leaders in the US to artists in the Maghreb; and an Entrepreneurship Delegation led by the US Department of State through its Global Entrepreneurship Program (GEP) that will bring American investors and entrepreneurs to meet with and mentor entrepreneurs and start-up companies in the Maghreb.