(Photo Credit: Khawaja’s Photostream)
Following the 47-nation nuclear security summit in Washington the week before last, the Obama administration is playing host to a much different series of meetings this week as part of its Presidential Summit on Entrepreneurship – an effort to deepen ties among business leaders, foundations, and social entrepreneurs in the United States and Muslim-majority countries.
I think this is an excellent initiative – and one that has the potential to broaden the United States’ relationships with Muslim-majority countries with which we have traditionally enjoyed narrowly-focused bilateral relations focused primarily on security and energy.
Supporting entrepreneurship is particularly important in the Middle East as a way to help facilitate trade and closer ties among the countries of that region.
Here is a snippet from President Obama’s remarks at the summit yesterday, explaining the rationale behind the conference:
Entrepreneurship — because you told us that this was an area where we can learn from each other; where America can share our experience as a society that empowers the inventor and the innovator; where men and women can take a chance on a dream — taking an idea that starts around a kitchen table or in a garage, and turning it into a new business and even new industries that can change the world.
Entrepreneurship — because throughout history, the market has been the most powerful force the world has ever known for creating opportunity and lifting people out of poverty.
Entrepreneurship — because it’s in our mutual economic interest. Trade between the United States and Muslim-majority countries has grown. But all this trade, combined, is still only about the same as our trade with one country — Mexico. So there’s so much more we can do together, in partnership, to foster opportunity and prosperity in all our countries.
And social entrepreneurship — because, as I learned as a community organizer in Chicago, real change comes from the bottom up, from the grassroots, starting with the dreams and passions of single individuals serving their communities.
Obama’s full remarks can be read here.
It is also noteworthy that Turkey Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan sent a letter with Deulcom International’s CEO Baybars Altuntas offering to host a similar summit in Istanbul next year – an invitation that President Obama has accepted.
These kinds of initiatives are important and represent an opportunity to engage with Muslim-majority societies in a non-confrontational, non-zero-sum way that can lead to quantifiable results.
— Ben Katcher