Let's create a favourable ecosystem for genuinely green projects
Tell us about the organization that you work for
CONECT is a young employers’ association that groups enterprises from all areas of Tunisia operating in all fields of business. These enterprises are spurred by the infusion of new blood from both within and from outside, bringing values of citizenship, sharing and responsibility.
Our association puts the enterprise at the core of its activities to: (1) represent it and defend its interests before decision-making bodies, social partners and governmental organizations, (2) promote it at local, regional and international level and help it improve its competitiveness, and (3) foster entrepreneurship and business creation, particularly in the regions, with the goal of contributing to job creation and regional and economic development in Tunisia.
Tell us a bit about yourself
I am a founding member of CONECT and have been its first vice-president since 2011. I have also been running my own business for the last 20 years. I started in industry and commerce but, in 2008, I shifted my focus towards services and crafts. I am also an expert in entrepreneurship and development and, for the last few years, I have been working with international organisations in Tunisia and in the MENA region on various issues related to entrepreneurship and employment.
Within CONECT, I am responsible for entrepreneurship, employment and sustainable development. With my fellow founding members, I have developed an ambitious project on corporate social responsibility (CSR). CSR is a basic value for CONECT and it is one which we advocate untiringly to Tunisian citizen enterprises.
We have also launched the ‘CONECT Innovation and Entrepreneurship Platform’ and I am its coordinator. Today, this platform groups a number of far-reaching CONECT projects focused on the development of entrepreneurship and employment. These projects are supported and co-funded by internationally renowned national and international partners.
How would you describe the green entrepreneurship community in Tunisia?
Green entrepreneurship is a relatively new concept in Tunisia and I can’t say yet that we have a structured, organised community. A number of scattered, uncoordinated initiatives have been created in recent years and we have a number of interesting structures that are working in this area. One example that is particularly worth mentioning is CITET, which has in-depth expertise on the subject, experienced experts and a number of private initiatives.
I think that now the time is ripe to coordinate all this and bring together all these players to create a favourable ecosystem for the emergence of genuinely green projects that have a visible impact, particularly on a social and environmental level.
A small-scale initiative is currently being developed between CITET, CONECT, experts and a state-owned bank, the BTS, to foster green entrepreneurship and, above all, to support and mentor eco-entrepreneurs through the entire process, from the original idea to development of their own enterprise. Not forgetting financing, which is a vital component of the value chain. Thus, the BTS is reserving a credit line devoted to the green projects which will be supported within the framework of this partnership.
Obviously, this initiative needs to be strengthened with other stakeholders who can contribute an added value to the promotion and development of green entrepreneurship.
What are the biggest challenges facing Tunisian entrepreneurs who want to include sustainability in their business? Can you suggest ways of overcoming these difficulties?
As I have already said, green entrepreneurship is a relatively new field in Tunisia and entrepreneurs are faced with a number of challenges, including: an insufficient legal and institutional framework, lack of access to information, particularly with respect to incentives and specific financial products, significant difficulties in access to financing, especially for innovation and, also, limited access to top-level expertise in this field, even though it exists in Tunisia.
To overcome these difficulties, it would be interesting to work within the framework of a public-private partnership with a global view of this sector, pursue SMART goals and put in place a common action plan aimed at coordinating all the initiatives. It would also be interesting to group all the competencies in the field where the State would play the role of simplifier and put forward a legal and institutional framework that would be favourable to ‘green business’.
What essential knowledge do green entrepreneurs need to develop to bring ideas into business?
Like any other entrepreneur, green entrepreneurs first need to acquire entrepreneurial skills and qualities, such as enterprising spirit, perseverance, and a willingness to continually adjust and improve their managerial skills. In addition, the green entrepreneur needs to have other qualities, such as creativity and an awareness of sustainable development and social business, as these are all pillars of green business. It goes without saying that these entrepreneurs have a real need for guidance and support (which can be upstream or downstream) in the implementation of their initiatives and it is also common for them to need technical expertise, especially in technology and environmental issues
Can you tell us more about the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Platform (CIEP CONECT) that CONECT has launched?
As an innovative, socially responsible association, CONECT has consistently worked since its creation to promote entrepreneurship both as a vector for economic development and as the only solution for the unemployment problem.
As a result, with the support of national and international partners, CONECT has been able to implement far-reaching projects to promote entrepreneurship and employment.
Today, the CIEP accounts for more than six projects in which CONECT and its partners offer non-financial support services but it also spares no effort in supporting entrepreneurs’ access to financing. All of these projects seek to help entrepreneurs (women, young people and handicapped people) make their entrepreneurial dream come true, both upstream and downstream, since it considers that post-creation guidance is just as —or even more— important than pre-creation guidance.
Hundreds of entrepreneurs are identified every year, especially in the more deprived regions of Tunisia, so that they can benefit from training, coaching, support in obtaining access to financing and mentoring by resource people, experts and business owners who are members of CONECT.
We also train young job-seeking graduates in management techniques for very small enterprises/small and medium enterprises (VSE/SME), providing ongoing support in their career project and helping them find their first job in the CONECT network. By this means, we are able to provide a solution for our members’ talent recruitment needs that can support their businesses’ growth.