Recently, the U.S. State Department held an online press conference to discuss the upcoming Global Entrepreneurship Summit. The guests were Ziad Haider, the State Departments Special Representative for Commercial and Business Affairs; and with Nina Vaca, Chairman and CEO of Pinnacle Group, as well as Presidential Ambassador for the Global Entrepreneurship Summit. The Summit, June 22-24, will be hosted by President Barack Obama at Stanford University. Haider and Vaca discussed this years Summit agenda and how the U.S. Government and major U.S. private sector partners are supporting GES and entrepreneurs around the world. They also spoke about how fostering entrepreneurship around the globe is important to U.S. foreign policy.
One of the most exciting parts of my job is to promote entrepreneurship globally, said Haider. And in doing so, I am really responding to a call that President Obama made in Cairo seven years back, where he talked about the importance of capturing the imagination and sparking the creativity of entrepreneurs globally, as well as connecting them with investors and leaders–business leaders around the world.
He continues, The seed that President Obama planted in that speech is what has evolved into whats now known as the Global Entrepreneurship Summit.
That was in 2009, and there have been seven GESs since in Morocco, Kenya, Turkey, the UAE, and in the United States. For the seventh at Stanford University with an expected attendance of about 1,200, of which 700 will be entrepreneurs from 170 countries, and 300 will be investors because one of the most important features of this summit is not just for it to be a talking show but for entrepreneurs to have the chance to connect with investors and get the resources they need to take their ideas to the next level, noted Haider.
“This years event with have a few extras. Let me also just emphasize two other features of the GES summit this year. The second feature will be the emphasis on women entrepreneurs in particular. Half of those 700 entrepreneurs will be women, explains Haider. And in addition to the programming that we have throughout the course of GES,
there will be a focused day called GES Plus which will focus exclusively on women and youth entrepreneurs in particular. In fact, as a side note, the youngest entrepreneur that we will have at GES will be 11 years old. Thats quite remarkable in my view, he continues.
According to Vaca, it is important to encourage entrepreneurship worldwide. Entrepreneurship is an incredible vehicle to create wealth all over the world. And so Im proud to serve as a Presidential Ambassador, to share my personal story, to help entrepreneurs. Im delighted that were focused on women. As a female entrepreneur, Im
proud last year to have had grown my company to be the fastest-growing woman-owned business in America. And I think its important to share those stories and share those connections with the entrepreneurs at GES , she said.
And says Haider, fostering entrepreneurship around the globe is important to U.S. foreign policy. I have to say its a question that Ive gotten everywhere in the world that I go, from Egypt and Tunisia to India and China. That is why there this emphasis on entrepreneurship in our foreign policy. And I think the best way to really explain it is three words: stability, prosperity, and, perhaps most importantly, dignity, he says. I think the stability argument is well known. Entrepreneurship is a source of job creation which actually diverts people from paths of hopelessness, of despair, and gives them a chance to have a paycheck, pull an income, support their families, and actually feel as if they are being part of something that they can build. And I think all-in-all weve seen that as an important antidote not the only one, of course to what we see out there in terms of extremism and other sources of instability.
He continues, But at the same time, we arent just out there doing this for the sake of stability and just a purely national security point of view. We also think its important from a prosperity point of view, because entrepreneurship is a vehicle to bring in people who would otherwise be marginalized, who would be on the fringes of society, into the fold, and again, give them a chance, the resources, the training, to be able to build something of their own.
But foresting entrepreneurship is one thing; for a country to have the resources to support entrepreneurship is another. This is something that we try in my travels all over the world talking about GES and entrepreneurship. We try to bring a great deal of humility; a perspective on what the ingredients are that have allowed, for example, a Silicon Valley to thrive in the United States. And there are some sort of standard elements that we think are important to share. One, of course, is access to capital, Haider pointed out.
Entrepreneurs need to be able to get the resources to build their businesses. And so when I was in Cairo two weeks ago, one of the issues I was focused on with the Egyptian Government is a new requirement that their banks have to allocate 20 percent of their lending for SMEs, in particular. And so how does that get put into motion so entrepreneurs get resources? The second ingredient, obviously, is strong intellectual property protections. We talk about that theme a lot. And the third ingredient, I think, is that nexus between entrepreneurs, business, and academic institutions, which is why its so important that GES this year is happening at Stanford University, one of our preeminent universities. And so making it a point to not just take this conversation to entrepreneurs and businesses, but to academic settings. So when I was in Tunisia earlier in the year as well, I made it a point to stop at the Tunisia Business School to meet with young entrepreneurs, he adds.
For the 2016 GES, a number of entrepreneurs from Africa will attend. Said Haider, Well, I think the importance is very significant in the sense that if you look at the number of entrepreneurs you have coming from all over the world, the region which will have the largest single number of entrepreneurs is Africa at 126. Thats a substantial
amount, it seems.