Good evening, everyone. It is my pleasure to join you for the closing ceremony for the fourth edition of Open Start Up Tunisia.
First, I would like to acknowledge many contributions that have made OST4 a success.
To the organizing committee led by Houda Ghozzi, you have a built a model of entrepreneurship education that we hope will give hundreds of Tunisian students a jump start on their future careers by teaching them the value of teamwork and thinking outside the box.
To our student mentors and organizers from Columbia University led by Ivy Schultz and Dr. Kamel Jedidi, I warmly welcome you to Tunisia. I sincerely applaud your commitment to international education through hands-on study of one of the most dynamic countries in Africa – Tunisia. Please share what you have learned this week with your peers and colleagues back in New York City. Convince them to come visit us too.
I would like to thank all of the judges and coaches, who are all highly esteemed professionals, for devoting their precious time and energy to mentoring a new generation of Tunisian business and civic leaders. I would like to extend a special thanks to Ms. Jotaka (Joe-tae-ka) Eaddy who flew all the way from Washington, DC to join you again.
Thank you Mrs. Amira Guermazi and her colleagues at the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research for championing entrepreneurship education within Tunisian universities and for their support for more links between American and Tunisian universities.
However, I am really here this evening to celebrate the hard work of the Openers. You have come a long way since September! Four months ago, some of you were learning about UN sustainability goals for the very first time. Now, you are on the verge of launching businesses that will address some of these very issues; all before your university graduations!
In many ways, Open Start Up Tunisia embodies much of the United States’ aspirations for Tunisia and its people. Since Tunisia’s democratization, the United States government has invested over $1.3 billion in development assistance in Tunisia. That’s a lot of money! Our money has funded programs and projects that benefit young people like the Openers before us this evening.
We have been working with our counterparts in the Tunisian government to improve educational outcomes for young Tunisians through support for English language education. The teams that have advanced to the finals have very strong English language skills. We want more young Tunisians to have this same advantage. We have also been working with our colleagues at the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research to strengthen the network of career advising centers or 4Cs in Tunisia. Today’s teams made it to the OST finals in large part because of their mastery of the soft skills needed to survive in a competitive business environment.
And of course, we have been working very hard to help improve the business environment in Tunisia. We would like every team that graduates from OST to have a solid chance of launching a successful business venture Right. Here. In. Tunisia. Next month, we are hosting a conference on a U.S. government \initiative called Prosper Africa that aims to encourage partnerships between U.S. and African businesses. The Prosper Africa will conference will bring business leaders and investors from across the United States and Africa to Tunis on February 6. You will be hearing a lot more about it in coming days. In the meantime, I want all of the Openers to know that ultimately these efforts and others are designed with your future in mind. Tunisia will prosper – Africa will prosper – only if we can provide you, our youth, with a foundation which will allow you to thrive.
Regardless of the outcome of tonight’s competition, you are all winners and I congratulate you on your achievements since the start of the program. Thank you everyone for your continued support of OST! Thank you for your commitment to Tunisia’s youth!