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Ambassador’s Remarks at the Microsoft Annual “StartUp” Program Launch
Monday, November 26, 2012
Microsoft Annual Startup Program

Ambassador Walles delivers remarks at the Microsoft Annual Startup Program Launch Event.

(As prepared)

Thank you Mohamed Bridaa for welcoming us here today.  It is a pleasure to be here at Microsoft’s annual “Startup Program.”  I would also like to welcome the representatives from our ten startup companies and our other distinguished guests. 

As Tunisia transitions towards democracy, economic development remains a priority to order to respond to the Tunisian people’s demand for more jobs and better employment opportunities.  The United States is proud to support efforts to spur business investment, expand employment, and further integrate Tunisia into the world marketplace.  With this in mind, the U.S. Embassy has made partnering on entrepreneurship and Small and Medium Enterprise development a key priority for our economic assistance programs.

The United States Government is especially pleased to partner with the Microsoft Innovation Center for the 2012-2013 edition of its annual “Startup Program.”  We believe this program will deliver essential skills to a new generation of startup companies, skills that will create meaningful and well-paying jobs for Tunisians across the country.  The private sector and civil society have an important role to play as well, and we applaud the program’s other partners for stepping up and contributing to this effort.

We are confident that the Microsoft Innovation Center will deliver, yet again, another impressive program of training on management, business development, entrepreneurship, software, and internet applications.  We are certain the startup companies that will be selected to participate in this year’s program will benefit greatly from the knowledge and skills they will acquire. 

In a similar vein, training and mentorship must be partnered with foreign direct investment and access to capital if promising enterprises are to be fully successful.  To that end, the United States has been pursuing a number of programs intended to stimulate these areas so we can achieve our shared objectives of economic growth and job creation.

Earlier this year, the United States provided a $100 million cash transfer to the government Tunisia for short-term fiscal relief.  These funds were to pay-off debts to the World Bank and African Development Bank and thereby free up money for other priority programs.  We also provided a sovereign loan guarantee to Tunisia to borrow $485 million on international capital markets.

Our Overseas Private Investment Corporation has a particular interest in fostering franchises and small and medium sized enterprises.  We recently finalized a $50 million credit guarantee facility to support investors looking to stake their money on the future of the Tunisian economy. 

Our partnership with the Microsoft Innovation Center, in addition to our other assistance programs, represents our commitment to the people of Tunisia.  It is a measure of our belief in what Tunisia has achieved since January 2011, and of our belief that Tunisia will continue to progress in the months and years ahead to create a democratic and prosperous country.

In closing, I would like to congratulate the representatives of the ten startup companies from the 2011-2012 program who are with us today and to wish you continued success.  To the Microsoft Innovation Center, we thank you for providing this important service to the Tunisian private sector.  And to all of you, we offer our admiration for your ongoing efforts to deliver on the promises of the Tunisian revolution.