Writing from New York, one week after returning from Tunisia, we have had some time to reflect on our whirlwind experience of meeting some of the country’s top business and political leadership.
Tunisia is a country in transition. It is a country whose constituents were never allowed to have an opinion until January 2011 and who are now asking questions of national and individual identity: What does it mean to be Tunisian? What does it mean to be the spark that ignited the Arab Spring? How do we fit into the broader context of North Africa? Of the Arab world? Of the area south of Southern Europe? What has democracy changed? What changes must we still demand?
The world watches Tunisia, awaiting these answers with proverbial baited breath. These answers will determine how the world “does business in North Africa,” how North Africa interacts with the West, and how this next potential market will emerge.
We had an unparalleled opportunity to visit Tunisia at this moment in time and to bear witness to a country and a region as it forges its future.
Here are a few final thoughts from the CBSers:
“Going to Tunisia was one of the most interesting academic and cultural experiences I’ve ever had. We had opportunities to meet with leaders in business and politics, but also interact with locals. My favorite company visit was to COFAT, maker of electric wires for the automobile industry. The conversation with the CEO was really enlightening, but the real highlight was taking a tour of their facilities and viewing the all-female assembly lines. I loved walking around and making small connections with the women. This trip far surpassed my expectations and I definitely plan on visiting again!” –Shardee Cesar ‘13
“In listening to the CEO of Tunisiana, a telecommunications company, I was very surprised to learn that the media company was leading mobile banking – in the US it has been the banks. Customers are using devices to send money or transfer calling credit between accounts. I can definitely see the opportunities for mobile banking in the future in Tunisia.” –Tara Kurian ‘13
“Our group project focused on creating a solution for mobile banking in Tunisia that will drive adoption of mobile solution for a largely unbanked population. While in Tunis, we had the opportunity to meet with Mobiflouss, a start-up inside Tunisiana dedicated to creating a mobile payment solution. Prior to the meeting, we knew that a black market of mobile payment existed but were surprised to learn how pervasive the use of airtime (P2P tranfers of airtime as payment) were for the Tunisian mobile consumer. Following our experience on the ground, we are developing a business plan which will try to improve on current mobile solutions and create an ecosystem to drive higher adoption of both Mobiflouss and mobile payments on other carriers.” –Randall Rainosek ’13
We want to express our tremendous gratitude to: Professor Jedidi for organizing the class and for showing us his home country, Jennifer Tromba and the entire Chazen staff for making the logistics possible, and to all of the companies and individuals with whom we had the opportunity to meet. It was truly a trip to remember.
Yael Silverstein ’13 (follow my travels at http://abroadabroadtravel.com)