Good morning. Minister Larbi, Madame Elghoul, distinguished guests.
I am pleased to be with you today at the launch of the Center for Entrepreneurship and Executive Development. CEED, as it is known, will provide Tunisian entrepreneurs with the funds, training, and networking opportunities they need to get their businesses up and running. I am very proud that we are able to partner with the Government of Tunisia in making this program possible.
The United States has been and continues to be a strong supporter of Tunisia’s transition to democracy. Tunisia’s political progress over the past several months has been remarkable. In January, the National Constituent Assembly ratified a new, democratic constitution, and it approved the installation of an independent government to lead the country to elections by the end of this year. Following these successful steps, President Obama was very pleased to welcome Prime Minister Jomaa to the United States in April, and the visit demonstrated the strong partnership between our two countries. Tunisia’s success on the path to democracy is a model for the region and the world, and the United States is committed to supporting Tunisia as it continues along this democratic path.
During Prime Minister Jomaa’s visit to Washington, we also held the inaugural session of the U.S.-Tunisia Strategic Dialogue. This meeting, held at the State Department on April 3rd, established an ongoing mechanism for expanding the cooperation between the two countries. The discussion in the Strategic Dialogue focused on three areas: economic development, security, and educational and scientific cooperation. Each of these areas is critical for Tunisia’s democratic future, and the United States is working actively to support Tunisia in each one. These efforts demonstrate the depth and breadth of the partnership and friendship between the United States and Tunisia and our shared commitment to supporting Tunisia’s historic democratic transition.
The CEED program that we are launching today is the latest example of our effort to support Tunisia’s economic development. Entrepreneurship is a key vehicle to promote economic growth, and the CEED program is designed to help entrepreneurs expand their businesses and create jobs in the private sector. Small and medium enterprises are the best vehicle to create jobs and drive economic growth, but they face challenges in obtaining funds to start and grow their businesses. CEED was designed to help overcome the difficulties faced by start-ups. By leveraging a global network, CEED will be able to provide support to hundreds of Tunisian entrepreneurs. CEED Tunisia has already recruited its first group of entrepreneurs and mentors and will launch its second program, for new entrepreneurs, later this year.
I am thrilled to see the launch of this program as a symbol of the U.S.–Tunisia partnership, and I look forward to its success. Thank you.