Mr. Barack Obama is hosting (while this journal is in press) the Presidential Summit on Entrepreneurship on April 26-27 at the Ronald Reagan Building & International Trade Center in Washington, DC. The Summit has brought together about 250 participants from over 50 countries, mainly from Muslim world, to highlight the role entrepreneurship can play in addressing common challenges while building partnerships that will lead to greater opportunity abroad and at home.
The summit is in pursuance of his June 4, 2009 speech in Cairo wherein President Obama called for a new relationship between the United States and Muslim communities around the world based on mutual respect, mutual interest, and mutual responsibility; a commitment to universal values; and broader engagement on issues including education, economic development, health, and science and technology. The Presidential Summit on Entrepreneurship is an example of this broader engagement.
The Department of State and the Department of Commerce are co-hosts. The Entrepreneurship Summit is seen as a new diplomatic effort by President Obama to engage the Muslim nations and to impart a slight shift away from the heavy dependence on the Israeli and Zionist lobby which has led to partisanship in the US foreign policy leading to invasion of two Muslim nations i.e., Afghanistan and Iraq and souring of ties with others.
Among the participants will be Muhammad Yunus, the father of microfinance — a strategy of making small loans to impoverished people to help them start businesses. Yunus is founder of the Grameen Bank and Grameen Foundation, based in Dhaka, Bangladesh. He was awarded Nobel Peace Prize for his work.
Leading the Pakistani contingent of entrepreneurs to the summit is a woman from Lahore, Pakistan, Roshaneh Zafar, whom Yunus mentored. With $10,000 that his bank lent her, she launched the Kashf Foundation in 1996, which focuses on lending to poor women. Her micro-lending operations have grown from an initial 15 clients to more than 300,000 today.
The Kashf Foundation has disbursed $225 million to more than one million poor families, according to Zafar. It also has become the first non-government micro-finance institution to offer insurance. To expand the financial base, Zafar has established the Kashf Micro-finance Bank, which can accumulate more capital than a foundation. She has received numerous international awards for her work in helping impoverished women raise living standards for themselves and their families.
The participants from Pakistan also include Mr. Ibrahim Qureshi, president of Pakistan Computer Association, Lahore Chapter who would represent Pakistan; Salim Ghouri, chief executive of NetSol Tech Ltd. Pakistan, President of Asia Pacific for U.S. based NetSol Technologies Inc., and Honorary Consul of Australia for Punjab, Pakistan.
Saudi Arabian contingent comprises four women, Maria Al-Mahdli, Lamis Al-Mufti, Noura Al-Maghrabi and Mona Al-Amir, all students from Jeddah's Dar Al-Hekma College. They are part of 26 other students from around the world who have launched successful business ventures.
Al-Mahdli set up and runs a website to help improve social youth culture, while Al-Mufti is the founder and chief executive of a home-run business named “You Be the Change”, a project to help improve and support youth skills.
Al-Maghrabi, a nursing student, said she hopes to make the Kingdom “the best and most healthy place in the world”. Al-Amir, a final year data systems student, does voluntary work caring for children orphaned by the fatal floods that hit Jeddah last year and also has an environment preservation project.
Shahnaz Hussain, the manufacturer of beauty herbal care products in India will represent India at the summit. The 63-year old beauty care specialist will speak on how to build a brand on low publicity budget, paths to success, the obstacles she encountered, the efforts made, and the lessons learned. She will also address a session at the Harvard Business School.
Mr. Irfan Alam, youth from Begusarai in Bihar who organised cycle rickshaws in Bihar under his NGO Sammaan Foundation too has been invited by Mr. Obama.
Salim Amin, chairman of A24 Media, Africa's first online delivery site for African content, has been invited from Kenya. Amin, who is at the forefront of the development of the African media environment, is one of only a handful of African figures invited to the event. Two Filipino businessmen who would represent the Philippines are Joey Concepcion, co-founder of the “Go Negosyo” movement that instills optimism and business spirit among Filipino entrepreneurs and businesspeople and Bai Sandra Basar, a member of the board of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Business Council.
Daler Jumaev, Director of Pamir Energy, Tajikistan's only private power company operating in the remote Gorno-Badakshan Autonomous Oblast region will represent Tajikistan.