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Conference Report FINAL _Tunis_

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Conference Report FINAL _Tunis_ Powered By Docstoc
					AmCham MENA Conference
Summary Accounts of the Day
Tunis, May 10, 2012




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                          English for Training and Consulting
Table of Contents
Summary Report........................................................................................................ 3
Brief Speakers’ Report............................................................................................... 3
Mrs. Amel Bouchamaoui Hammami, President, TACC; Chair, AmCham MENA Council ...... 3
Mr. M. Gamal Moharam, President, AmCham Egypt; MENA Council Regional Secretariat ... 3
H.E. Mustapha Kamel Nabli, Governor, Central bank of Tunisia ................................................. 4
Mr. Lionel Johnson, Vice President MENA, US Chamber of Commerce ..................................... 4
Ambassador William Taylor, Special Coordinator for Middle East Transitions ......................... 4
Mr. Geert Broos, General Manager, North Africa Franchise, Coca-Cola Company ................... 5
Mr. Sofiane Ben Tounes, President & CEO, North East Africa, General Electric ........................ 5
Current Trends, Issues and Strategies...................................................................... 5
Prospects for Increasing Inter-Regional Trade and Investment ..................................................... 5
Information Technology....................................................................................................................... 5
Energy and Infrastructure.................................................................................................................... 6
Private Equity and its Contribution to SME Growth and Sustainability ...................................... 6
Agri-business Industry in the MENA Region ................................................................................... 7
Participants’ Responses ............................................................................................ 7
Action Steps ............................................................................................................... 8




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Summary Report

       AmCham MENA Regional Council met in Tunisia on May 10, 2012, for their
annual conference to discuss new opportunities in a changing MENA region. It was
well attended with over 150 participants representing Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt,
Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia and UAE, being the first time that all eight
regional American Chambers of Commerce were present together as well as Qatar
and the US. Speakers were overall optimistic for the MENA region’s potential due to
the Arab Spring and called for all to become immediate players for investment and
action, not just spectators, waiting for optimum time or someone else to simply do it;
yet, many on-going challenges such as political and social insecurities, poor
infrastructure, lack in long-term and sustainability planning and management, and
investment were reiterated as the commonly known realities. The desire to meet the
high expectations thrust upon these countries’ leaders by their people in comparison
to the realities of meeting solutions such as unemployment and standard of living
being the focal issues weighed heavy in everyone’s hearts and minds. Subjects
discussed included interregional trade, investment, communication, and a general
cooperation instead of competitiveness within the MENA region, specifically in the
fields of Information Technology, Energy and Infrastructure, Agri-business, and
Private Equity.




Brief Speakers’ Report

Mrs. Amel Bouchamaoui Hammami, President, TACC; Chair, AmCham
MENA Council
gave the welcome and introductory remarks, stating a desire to explore a more
efficient and consumer-friendly MENA region trading block as well as charging
towards improving global short-comings, majorly poor infrastructure and the
absence of encouraging regulations set by each countries’ government that would
benefit. She also urged investors from the MENA countries and the USA to explore
the region investment opportunities yielding a good rate of return.


Mr. M. Gamal Moharam, President, AmCham Egypt; MENA Council
Regional Secretariat
continued in the opening remarks by showing gratitude to Tunisia for “exporting”
the Arab Spring and by expressing sincere appreciation to Mrs. Amel Bouchamaoui
Hammami for being the first Chairperson of the AmCham MENA Council to gather
all eight regional American Chambers of Commerce in one location. He reiterated
the need to strengthen and promote the MENA region as a trading block, the need to



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make even stronger efforts to merge into markets, both in the US and among each
other.


H.E. Mustapha Kamel Nabli, Governor, Central Bank of Tunisia
stressed the fact that this is a unique time for the MENA region with tremendous
opportunities in the medium and long-term due to more transparency, less
corruption, and better government. He also addressed the regional need to bridge
the gap between high expectations and the worsened economic reality. He went on
to answer the questions of where and how to invest. To this question, he gave three
answers. The first answer related to the need to create jobs, especially high-skilled
jobs that could complement a well-educated youth. The second answer involved
geography, giving lacking regions priority. The third answer presented the need for
SMEs in addition to the traditional large ones. For him, this conference was an
indicator of the progress and transformation that is occurring now, and there is a
need for ideas and actions now.


Mr. Lionel Johnson, Vice President MENA, US Chamber of Commerce
acknowledged that US trade and investment with MENA at this post-revolution
time is highly critical. He had three points which he wanted to convey. First, he
emphasized the common thread throughout the region of a desire for transparency,
rule of law, freedom of expression, economic growth, and sustainable development.
More must be done to support these desires. Second, he noted that the image of the
US has been in decline in the region, and American business as well as the MENA
must do more to retain its relevance. Third, the role of AmCham is more pivotal in
the current situation, and must be a priority for encouraging trade.


Ambassador William Taylor, Special Coordinator for Middle East
Transitions
began by expressing that the Arab Spring produced the most significant changes
since 1989 and represents opportunities for great progress along with big risks. He
gave a summary of current political events in North Africa. He also said that
removing dictators was the easy part, but reforming the financial and political
system will prove more difficult. In reforming the system, they need to learn to keep
the good while removing the bad. Within transparency and accountability, political
leaders need to feel confident in recognizing problems. He emphasized that stimulus
and job creation must be done by the private sector.




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Mr. Geert Broos, General Manager, North Africa Franchise, Coca-Cola
Company
spoke on behalf of the platinum sponsor, Coca-Cola, explaining how they have
answered the call to act now in the MENA region. He explained how they invested
immediately, engaged many levels of the society, and fostered entrepreneurship.


Mr. Sofiane Ben Tounes, President & CEO, North East Africa, General
Electric
represented GE, the other platinum sponsor. He indicated that this was the right
market for growth partly due to the diverse language ability within the region. The
region just needs to connect the dots, so-to-speak.




Current Trends, Issues and Strategies


Prospects for Increasing Inter-Regional Trade and Investment

        A panel discussion was lead by Mr. Greg Golden, President of the AmCham
Abu Dhabi. Mr. Mohamed Bataineh, President of the AmCham Jordan narrowed in
on the key barriers to effective trade, including that trade in the MENA region has
few products and partners, and is poorly integrated with the local economy. H.E.
Alaya Bettaieb, Secretary of State to the Minister of Investment and International
Coopertaion in Tunisia, exposed that from a foreign standpoint, MENA is viewed as
a divided provider of natural resources; whereas the region people would like to
change that perspective to provide access to the region’s talent, especially women
and youth. Mr. Hamid Al Zayani, Chairman of the Al Zayani Investments and the
President of the AmCham Bahrain expressed the concern to reexamine the lessons
learned from the region’s rich history in trade, without repeating the downfalls of
the region’s past. Ms. Nadereh Chamlou, Senior Advisor in the Office of the Chief
Economists for the MENA region within the World Bank shared statistically
speaking that companies find women to be more trustworthy, yet some national
laws restrict their ability to enter the workforce. She added, in general, there is a lack
of soft-skills and English skills in the MENA region.

Information Technology

      Mr. Naceur Hidoussi, CEO of Hexabyte in Tunisia, moderated this panel
discussion along with Engineer Amr Abou Alam, CEO of Smart Village Co. in
Egypt, Mr. Mohamed Bridaa, General Director of Microsoft in Tunisia, Mr. Jeffrey



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Freund, Executive Director of iTech in the UAE, and Ms. Jennifer Sarraf, Founder
and Managing Partner of MaliaTech in Lebanon. It was noted from the start that
cloud computing is seen to have the highest significant potential for job creation.
However, several problems were addressed. For one, without innovation, there will
not be development, so there needs to be more research and development. A
potential niche was identified as Egypt noticed the large amount of Facebook
activity being done in Arabic is inconsistent with the number of Arabic language
phone applications, meaning there might be a demand for Arabization of technology
and applications. Poor regional infrastructure remains a serious impediment. There
was a general consensus that there should be freedom from internet censorship.



Energy and Infrastructure

       Dr. Salah Hannachi, Founder and Co-Chairman of Sahara Solar Breeder
Foundation International in Tunisia moderated this panel discussion with Engineer
Khaled Abou Bakr, CEO of TAQA Arabia in Egypt, Mr. Ronald Jazzar, Director of
Business Development of FTR International in the UAE, Mr. Adel Omrani, General
Manager of the NA region for GE Energy Power Generation Services located in
Tunisia, and Mr. Kevin Sara, Managing Director of Nour Energie LTD in Tunisia.
Opening the debate and after giving a brief overview of the current energy situation
in the region, Dr. Hannachi suggested MENA countries establish an opportunity
group to coordinate a policy on the passage from energy efficiency and renewable
energy to sustainable energy. A long discussion followed on how solar energy was
identified as a potential major export and how Europe is willing to pay more for
green energy and will do what it takes to accomplish this goal. The MENA region is
in a good position to gain from this opportunity in regards to the Medgrid which
gives a horizontal process through the entire MENA region in generating energy
and a vertical prospect to Europe, Asia, and Africa in supplying energy. In the
discussion of solving energy shortage, the issue of energy regulation will continue to
be faced and needs to be addressed and reformed to make any headway.


Private Equity and its Contribution to SME Growth and Sustainability

       This panel discussion was lead by Mr. Walter Siouffi, CEO of Citibank
Maghreb and the President of AmCham Morocco, along with Mr. Richard Dallas,
Managing Director of Investments for Gulf Capital in the UAE, Mr. Sherif El Khouly,
Director of ACTIS in Egypt, Mr. Hassan Laaziri, General Director of CDG Capital
Private Equity in Morocco, and Mr. Ziad Oueslati, Founding Partner of Tunivest in
Tunisia. After being pointed to as the go-to men for the region’s much searched-after
funding, the panel meticulously laid out that due to the EU crisis, banks cannot



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currently be depended upon as a source of funds; therefore, private equity holds the
key to stimulating SME growth, and even some banks have chosen to work through
private equities for funding. Communication and education for the mass public on
how to provide financing were identified as a significant need. There is an untapped
resource of American SMEs who can be guided into offshoring within the region.


Agri-business Industry in the MENA Region

       This panel was moderated by Mr. Arlsan Sinno, President of Dora Flour Mills
in Lebanon with Mr. Tarek Tawfik, Managing Director of Farm Frites and Cairo
Poultry Company in Egypt, Mr. Cary Sifferath, Regional Director for the U.S. Grains
Council in Tunisia, and Mr. Hassan Khalil, Director General of Dari Couspate in
Morocco. Discussion centered on food security in the MENA region and the
connection of food security to political and social stability; while at the same time
pointing out that food security does not equal food self-sufficiency, as open trade of
food and agricultural products around the region and from outside sources can
bring food security throughout the region. Discussions also focused on the many
subsidies across the MENA Region, especially for wheat/bread and how these
subsidies are inefficient and wasteful of individual government’s budgets. New
well-targeted subsidy systems need to be first defined and could still offer assistance
to consumers, while allowing MENA region governments to save money that could
be spent on agricultural development or other social programs. This field was
recognized as having tremendous opportunities; however, at the moment, these
opportunities are not being explored. There is a need for research and innovation as
well as an increase in regional communication and cooperation. Although there are
opportunities in agri-business, there is little investment and a need for mentorship
and partnership.




Participants’ Responses

       Overall, participants seemed optimistic and hopeful. Yet, they expected to be
presented more than the reality of issues common throughout the countries of the
region. Some people expressed a desire for more concrete action steps and
considered the intimate, interactive workshops were focused. People did express
their amazement in the fact that this conference could not have occurred even a year
ago. It proved that change is definitely evident and more could be done. The
majority gained from networking the most.




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Action Steps

       Some action steps for the participants boiled down to lobbying/aiding their
own governments to reform their policies that will properly encourage/release
businessmen and women to work their expertise in order to bring health and success
(back) to their country and the MENA region. Other action steps were to continue
have open forums, roundtable discussions, and general communication amongst
each other to expedite, leverage, spread, and share successes through cooperation,
not competitiveness. Still a few other action steps were to network, resource, seek
funding, expand training, and prepare for what lies ahead in the hopeful near future.

    The participants welcomed the proposal to make the AmCham MENA Council
Annual Conference a tradition. AmCham Egypt offered to host the second
conference in January/February 2013.




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