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U.S. Aims to Grow Web-Based Muslim-World Business Mentoring

BY Nancy Scola | Tuesday, August 31 2010

Back in June of last year, you might remember, President Obama delivered a major speech in Cairo directed at the Muslim world. One of the components of that speech is being built-out, online, and the State Department announced yesterday that it intends to grow the project to reach greater numbers of emerging entrepreneurs in both Muslim-majority countries and amongst Muslim populations the world over. Think of a program for connecting digital pen pals, but instead of pen pals we've gotten American businessfolk from companies like Accenture, Intel, and IBM giving hard-won guidance to hopeful entrepreneurs the world over on things like the craft of writing a business plan and the art of raising capital. They call the project the "E-Mentor Corps." (HT Mayhill Fowler)

In his Cairo speech, Obama talked about his desire to "deepen ties between business leaders, foundations and social entrepreneurs in the United States and Muslim communities around the world" -- in part, of course, to attempt to counter radicalization, especially amongst Muslim youth, with better economic opportunities. All the better if it encourages people to develop a culture of sustainable economic independence outside the immediate grasp of some countries' governments. Obama's call in Cairo led to what the White House called the Presidential Summit on Entrepreneurship that ended up taking place, in Washington, this spring. But the hope in the Obama administration was that the Internet could evolve the one-time event into some sort of on-going social interaction.

Enter E-Mentor. What the State Department announced yesterday is that they'll be working to "expand the number of [E-Mentor] users -- both mentors and entrepreneurs -- from hundreds to thousands."

To get a deeper sense of what E-mentors is all about, you might check out the above promotional video put out by the State Department. In it, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and others describe the program's merits. And Sheika Hanandi Nasser Bint Khaled al Thani, founder of the Qatari investment bank Amwal, says, "Mentoring is something that we see in the West but that we lack somehow in the East. This is what we're trying to encourage now."