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Middle East North Africa (MENA)

Tapping into the Talent

President Obama has said that “the greatest untapped resource in the Middle East and North Africa is the talent of its people.” In collaboration with the OECD, the United States is ensuring the most is made of this economic talent and potential.

The United States has been a major driver behind and contributor to the OECD Middle East and North Africa (MENA) program since its inception in 2006. The MENA Initiative on Governance and Investment for Development promotes broad reforms to improve the investment climate, modernize government structures and operations, strengthen regional and international partnerships, and promote sustainable economic growth in this important region.

As part of the MENA program, the United States is empowering women in the Middle East through the OECD-MENA Women’s Business Forum, which is co-chaired by U.S. Ambassador Karen Kornbluh.  The Forum engages MENA governments, commercial lenders, and business leaders to develop solutions to the challenges Arab businesswomen face, such as access to finance, business services and markets. 

Through public-private partnerships, the United States is raising awareness and bringing key constituents around the table to collaborate on efforts that achieve OECD MENA goals.  For example, the Seminar on Women in Private Equity in the MENA Region held in May 2011 addressed the persistent problem of entrepreneurial financing for women. Future conferences will focus on promoting university curriculum reform and mentoring relationships for women in private equity.

The United States is an active participant in the “Friends of MENA” movement, which is shifting OECD program priorities toward anti-corruption, investment and banking reform, and small- and medium-size enterprise development.