Harry Stevens is a freelance reporter covering climate change, corporate social responsibility, social enterprise, and sustainable finance. Harry has contributed to several media outlets, including Justmeans, GreenBiz, SocialEarth, and Sustainablog. You can follow Harry on Twitter: @Harry_Stevens...
Public-Private Partnership to Foster Economic Opportunity for Tunisia's Youth
A new collaboration will invest $3.3 million to create economic opportunities for young people in Tunisia. The project will leverage small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to foster economic development and promote entrepreneurship within economically vulnerable regions of Tunisia.
The public-private partnership is between the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), Hewlett-Packard Company (HP), the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and the Government of Italy, which is separated from Tunisia by a 90-mile strip of water across the Strait of Sicily.
Pietro Benassi, the Ambassador of Italy in Tunisia, estimated that the new partnership will reach 10,000 aspiring and existing entrepreneurs and create an additional 2,000 new jobs.
The project was announced this week in Tunis at the International Conference on Productive Work for Youth. The two-day event convened hundreds of specialists to discuss the development and expansion of the productive capacities of youths in the Middle East and North Africa region.
Tunisia was catapulted onto front pages and television screens around the world when on Dec. 17, 2010, a 26-year-old Tunisian street vendor set himself on fire to protest mistreatment by a municipal employee. That act sparked a massive civil uprising, the first in a series of protests collectively known as the Arab Spring.
The unrest in Tunisia ultimately resulted in the abdication of President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali after 23 years in power. Tunisia is now led by a democratically elected regime, but the lack of economic opportunity for youth that provided so much fuel to the uprisings remains a critical problem.
"Unemployment among educated youths emerges as a major challenge in Tunisia and collaborations like ours that put a strong emphasis on creating employment opportunities for young people entering the workforce will help empower and equip them well into the future," said Kandeh K. Yumkella, Director General of UNIDO.
The project, to be implemented by UNIDO, will include HP's Learning Initiative for Entrepreneurs (HP LIFE), an entrepreneurship and IT training program that was recently made available online. Since 2008, UNIDO and HP have joined forces to establish 122 LIFE training centers, certify over 270 trainers, train over 50,000 students and create over 20,000 jobs in the developing world.
"We are pooling our collective expertise and available resources to equip young people in Tunisia with relevant entrepreneurship skills to help create much needed new jobs," said Gabi Zedlmayer, Vice President of sustainability and social innovation at HP. "Our collaboration will promote innovative uses of IT that foster entrepreneurship and help create new business opportunities."
USAID was a natural collaborator in the project, as the agency's work in Tunisia prioritizes job and business creation, private investment, and export promotion to support Tunisia's political transition to democracy in the wake of the Arab Spring uprisings.
"This initiative will help enhance the knowledge and capacity of regional and local business while at the same time provide support and training for organizations that are already on the ground," said Mara Rudman, Assistant Administrator of USAID. "Our collaboration will also provide much needed technical assistance to targeted companies, particularly those in the agribusiness, environmental and other critical sectors of Tunisia's varied economy."
USAID's contribution to the project is part of the agency's $150 million portfolio of assistance for Tunisia.
Image credit: Dennis Jarvis, Flickr