Thirty-nine young entrepreneurs from Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt, Algeria, Jordan, Gaza and the West Bank attribute their professional success to a single source: completing an intensive, four-week U.S.-backed summer business program at Indiana University.
“I tried to take the American way of doing business and apply and adapt it to the local system in Morocco,” says Mohammed Bendaanane, of Rabat, Morocco. He co-founded a startup called Amendy Foods after completing the Global Business Institute program, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, Coca-Cola and Indiana University. Nearly 600 students completed the program between 2012 and 2017.
Thirty-nine of them returned to the U.S. in July 2018, first to Indiana University, then to Washington to get additional training and to share insights about the program.
Bendaanane and his business partner, an agricultural scientist, promote quinoa crop production among smallholders in rural Morocco. Their company, Amendy Foods, markets and sells their products.
“Among the questions that GBI helped me answer is ‘Why do American businesses succeed when so many don’t in North Africa?’ and ‘How can I benefit from the American way of doing business and bring it back to my country?’”
Bendaanane says the program taught him pragmatic lessons about entrepreneurship, including the importance of “really understanding the need you are trying to fulfill with your product or service.”
Iyad Altahrawi, Gaza
“My time at GBI set me apart from my peers,” says Iyad Altahrawi, a program officer with Gaza Sky Geeks, a tech hub in Gaza. He says the program made him a competitive applicant in a region where unemployment is among the highest in the world. “Now,” says Altahrawi, “people look up to me as a leader.”
He says his mentors continue to help him, six years after he completed the program: “Whenever I have a big decision to make, they’ve been ready to jump on the phone or Skype to guide me and coach me.” Every professional accomplishment, he says, “has been a result, directly or indirectly, from the people I met at GBI.”
The Global Business Institute survey results are impressive:
~ 94 percent of participants were employed within six months of graduation
~ 103 new businesses are currently operating
~ Nearly 1,000 new jobs have been created
~ More than 400 alumni remain engaged in entrepreneurial activities
Wahiba Kaddouri, Algeria
Wahiba Kaddouri from Algiers, Algeria, credits her GBI experience for the fact that a software company hired her while she was still finishing her undergraduate degree in computer science.
“They wanted someone with business skills as well as the technical skills, and GBI gave me that,” says Kaddouri, who is now a project manager and software developer for an Algerian company.
After completing GBI, she also became active with Arab Women in Computing to help young Algerian girls get involved in computer science. “I did it because of GBI. It’s where I got the idea to be part of community service.”
Sinan Assaid, Jordan
Sinan Assaid, a senior engineering student who ranks first in his class, said the program made him think of himself — and others — differently.
“GBI connected me for the first time with other Arabs and brought us closer together and closer to the United States. This triangle of other Arabs, me and the United States has shaped the way I think and how I understand public diplomacy and international relations and long-term investments.”
Assaid says he now participates in more university activities, including a United Nations youth leadership project he presented at U.N. headquarters in New York in January 2018.
“The experience pushed me way beyond my limits,” says Assaid. “It’s not just opening doors, it’s breaking walls.”