Panel discussion for a more competitive entrepreneurship ecosystem in Tunisia

This Tuesday, July 19th, Cogite was proud to host over 100 people for its event on the Tunisian entrepreneurship ecosystem. Initially intended to be a small panel discussion, high turnout quickly transform the discussion into a lively event, with engaged exchanges that continued for hours. The event also drew a highly diverse crowd, including entrepreneurs, students, public sector representatives, and two female members of parliament!

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The panel featured four entrepreneurs who participated in the Cogite delegation to Startup Fest Europe in the Netherlands and was moderated by Ali Mnif, Silatech Country Manager and Co-director of Founder Institute Tunisia. Startup Fest, which took place in May 2016, is Europe’s biggest startup event of the year and helps “startups grow faster by bringing together founders, investors, business leaders and developers.”

During the panel discussion, Jazem Halioui (INNOVA/WebRadar), Amel Saidane (Slickstone), Tarek Ben Abdallah (Afrikwity), and Karim Jouini (Expensya) shared their experiences from Startup Fest and also discussed the question, “How can the Tunisian entrepreneurship ecosystem innovate on a globally competitive level?”

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Ali kicked off the discussion by asking for panelist’s takeaways from the trip. Jazem noted that it is essential to benchmark and to learn from different entrepreneurship ecosystems and other entrepreneurs. He also added that these events provide unique opportunities to interact with some of the best, such as Cogite CEO Houssem Aoudi’s ability to ask Eric Schmidt from Alphabet a question from the audience at the Startup Fest Opening.

With respect to the Tunisian ecosystem, the panelists all agreed on the need for an overarching, global vision. While there are many great initiatives in Tunisia to support entrepreneurship and innovation, they lack coordination. Moreover, neither the government nor the private sector has yet delivered a comprehensive “exit strategy” as to where all these efforts should be headed. For example, Amel noted that the Startup Delta initiative, spearheaded by the Dutch government, was instrumental to transforming the Netherlands into a world class startup hub.

The panelists also spoke at length about the Tunisian education system and how students as young as elementary school must be taught key soft skills and entrepreneurship concepts from a young age.

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During the Q&A session, attendees asked a wide range of questions, including why Tunisian entrepreneurs are not working more with African countries, as they represent a huge potential market. Panels took turns in responding, highlighting barriers such as a lack of institutional support to enter these markets and a low density of Tunisian professional networks compared to Europe, where there is a large Tunisian diaspora.

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Following the official end of the panel, rich discussions continued over refreshments in the garden and for far longer than any of us had anticipated!

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As Cogite continues to lead delegations to international conferences and to help bring global innovations in entrepreneurship back to our community, we are elated to see Cogite as a safe space for these types of conversations and exchanges to happen; that we are a place where people feel comfortable and excited to learn new things and start building their new ideas.