June 10, 2016 Print

Market activity fosters peace and cooperation, because making a profit hinges on the desire and ability to make other people happy — a fact that an increasing number of people have discovered throughout the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) since the beginning of the “Arab Spring” protest and reform movements that began six years ago. Atlas Network partner the Arab Center for Scientific Research and Humane Studies hosted a “Peace Through Entrepreneurship” conference in Marrakesh, Morocco, in late May, which brought together more than 200 people from throughout the MENA region to explore how free-market trade serves as a foundation for social harmony — with a special focus on countries in the Arab world.

“Entrepreneurs can play an important role in terms of social cohesion by creating job opportunities and offering products and services tailored to the needs of local communities,” said Kathya Berrada, research associate with the Arab Center. “Unfortunately, entrepreneurs are often stigmatized in countries of the Arab world and are sometimes perceived as lacking ethical sense. Far from any stigmatization, this conference was an occasion to open doors for another narrative and to reconcile people from this region of the world with a long tradition where the trustworthiness, the fairness, and the good reputation of merchants were echoing even in foreign lands.”

The conference speakers included prominent free-market economists like David Friedman and entrepreneurs like Jeff Berwick, as well as several representatives of worldwide Atlas Network partners such as Dr. Mazen Derawan of the Arab Center; Nouh El-Harmouzi of MinbarAlHurriyya.org in Morocco; Pavel Koktyshev of Institute for Development and Economic Affairs in Kazakhstan; Eamonn Butler of the Adam Smith Institute in London; Linda Whetstone of Network for a Free Society in London; Dr. Pierre Garello of Institute for Economic Studies Europe in France; Dr. Christopher Lingle of Centre for Independent Studies in Australia and Universidad Francisco Marroquín in Guatemala; James Tooley and Dan Mitchell of the Cato Institute in Washington, D.C.; Ken Schoolland and Li Schoolland of Liberty International in San Francisco, Calif.; Andy Eyschen of the Language of Liberty Institute in Glendale, Ariz.; Baishali Bomjan of the Centre for Civil Society in India; and many more. The conference also featured several entrepreneurs and economists from countries throughout MENA and the broader world, who provided personal and practical examples of innovative trade in action.

“Opening another narrative means promoting success stories of entrepreneurs,” Berrada said. “This is what shapes the imagination of the youth, inspires them, and provides them with role models that they can identify with. As such, during the conference entrepreneurs shared their insights and experiences. In addition to the main conference, we also organised trainings and workshops for young leaders from across the Arab world.”