As our farewell dinner came to an end, each student on the Tunisia Global Immersion Program shared their main lesson learned from a week spent learning about the business environment in North Africa. A few common themes surfaced throughout our discussion of Tunisian history, culture, and business, including:
- Entrepreneurship: many of our students were impressed by the dedication that Tunisians show towards fostering a welcoming environment to aspiring entrepreneurs. Established businesses like BIAT go beyond paying lip service to the importance of entrepreneurship, which they’ve proved through the creation of both an incubator and accelerator program in Tunis.
- Tunisian Pride: Tunisians are true patriots! From meeting with aspiring political leaders to dining in our teammates homes, each of our experiences underlined how proud Tunisians are of their country’s diversity and rich history.
- Optimism: While economic conditions have been challenging following the revolution, Tunisians remain optimistic about the future. Upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections in 2019 represent an important inflection point in Tunisia’s history. Over 200 political parties have formed since 2011 and underline the enthusiasm with which Tunisians approach political participation. No political system is perfect, but the growth of civic participation and support for small and medium-sized enterprises shows that the country is moving towards a strong foundation for the future.
- Growth Potential across Africa: While Tunisia’s economy has historically focused on Europe, almost all of our speakers emphasized the enormous potential for growth across Africa. Technology solutions that transcend physical borders have the opportunity to reach huge populations of individuals who had been previously separated from the latest innovations. Many Tunisian businesses are aware of Africa’s previously untapped potential as a consumer market and intend to take advantage of their geographic location to serve this market in the future.
Katie Tsantes (’19) is an MBA Candidate at Columbia Business School