“Vision is not only creativity or a dream; it is how you make that dream come true,” Lebanese entrepreneur Nadim Saikali advises aspiring entrepreneurs in a training program recently launched in Lebanon.
The chairman and general manager of SODAMCO Holding S.A.L. is one of several business leaders across the region who are sharing their insights and experience through video interviews as part of a new initiative to create a dynamic, interactive community to foster entrepreneurship using Web 2.0 technologies and social networking platforms.
AMIDEAST is partnering with the Cisco Entrepreneur Institute to bring these and other tools to aspiring entrepreneurs and small and medium-size business owners in Lebanon, Morocco, and Oman. They have established the Institute’s training centers at AMIDEAST offices in these countries and are working together to generate local content that highlights the unique environment that participants will face as they set out to start or grow a business.
The entrepreneurship training centers provide traditional, trainer-led instruction with an important twist. In addition to using instructional materials developed by leading American business schools at Stanford and Cornell universities, participants take advantage of the Cisco Business Online curriculum as well as specially developed e-learning applications. “Cisco eTube” provides an easy-to-access repository of business videos, case studies, and best practices, while “EntreOasis” serves as a website resource where participants can access information and opportunities for networking with other entrepreneurs. In addition, web-based “simulations” allow participants to act out entrepreneurial scenarios without the risks entailed in real-life implementation.
In Beirut, where the partnership was recently launched, a steady stream of guest speakers from Lebanon’s business community enriches classroom discussions, offering insights gained from their own experiences of starting business ventures. In addition, a local AMIDEAST Advisory Board made up of prominent Lebanese businessmen and women will serve as mentors for the trainees and assist the project by providing internships, scholarships, and other support.
"[T]his is what I needed... The workshop made me realize the careful planning needed to start a successful business,” observed Elie Hasrouty, a recent college graduate who hopes to embark on a business career. Layal Roumani, like other participants, valued the networking opportunities that the program offers. The fluent Chinese speaker, who plans to start her own business as an intermediary between local buyers and Chinese suppliers, also valued the “combination of facilitated sessions, online materials, and the participant guide.”
AMIDEAST’s partnership with the Cisco Entrepreneur Institute represents the latest development in its ongoing effort to bring new skills training opportunities to the region. The focus on entrepreneurship was reinforced this spring at a special White House Summit held to mark the anniversary of President Obama’s landmark 2009 speech in Cairo, where he first pledged to support the growth of entrepreneurship as one element of a new partnership with Muslim-majority countries. As a participant at the White House summit, AMIDEAST will continue to work with the U.S. Department of State’s Global Entrepreneurship Program (GEP) and other private sector and civic groups to develop ways to connect, train, and identify new entrepreneurs in the Middle East and North Africa region.
― Appeared in AMIDEAST Impact Newsletter, June/July 2010