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Clinton Unveils Initiatives to Help Muslim Entrepreneurs

Series of initiatives designed to boost America's relations with entrepreneurs in countries with large Muslim populations

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has announced a series of initiatives designed to boost America's relations with entrepreneurs in countries with large Muslim populations. Clinton's remarks came at the end of a two-day summit on entrepreneurship.

Secretary Clinton announced the new programs she says are designed to help entrepreneurs in mostly-Muslim countries and eventually expand worldwide.

"I am pleased to announce the launch of the Global Entrepreneurship Programs' first pilot program, in Egypt, coordinated by a team of entrepreneurs in residence from USAID. We will soon launch our second program in Indonesia and we plan to expand to a dozen countries within the next two years," she said.

The new initiatives are intended to expand the availability of capital so entrepreneurs will have access to credit to enable them to put their ideas to work.

Clinton also announced new partnerships between business schools in the United States and educational institutions worldwide to share knowledge and expand business education.

Another program will link U.S. mentors with aspiring entrepreneurs to provide expertise on issues such as securing financing or writing a business plan.

"Now these initiatives comprise a first wave of programs to promote global entrepreneurship, but they reflect the Obama administration's commitment to a new approach to development, one based on investment, not aid, on supporting local leadership and ideas rather than imposing our own," said Clinton.

Clinton's announcements came on the final day of a conference that brought to Washington more than 250 entrepreneurs from 50 countries with large Muslim populations.

Rashad Hussain, the Obama administration's special envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference, says nearly a year after the president's speech to the Muslim world last June in Cairo, the U.S. is making significant efforts to address issues of mutual concern.

"We see a world in which the United States continues to be committed to leaving Iraq and Afghanistan, is continued (dedicated) to finding a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and that we would have the seeds planted for various programs in the areas of entrepreneurship, such as we see here," said Hussein.

One of the entrepreneurs at the conference is Tri Mumpuni, who has put together small financing programs and economic incentives to bring electricity to 60 rural villages scattered throughout Indonesia.

"We know that electricity is the backbone of economic development. We would like to start with giving electricity because from the electricity people can be directed to many different [aspects] of the welfare and improvement of their life," said Tri Mumpuni.

The U.S. also announced a new program at the summit to assist women in technology fields who will have the opportunity to come to the United States for internships and professional development.

One of the best known entrepreneurs at the summit was Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus, who founded the Grameen Bank and transformed the lives of millions of poor women in Bangladesh through micro-credit (small loans).

"Today we have over eight million borrowers, 97 percent of them are women. And they own the bank. We made the rule right from the beginning that the bank will be owned by the borrowers. So it is a bank that not only serves the poor women, it is also a bank which is owned by the poor women. They sit on the board, they make the decisions," said Yunus.

While the entrepreneurship summit is officially over, dozens of private groups will hold sessions for the delegates over the next few days to bring together venture capitalists, development bankers and other business experts to promote the partnership between the U.S. and the Muslim world. A follow-up summit is scheduled to take place next year in Turkey.