Can countries on the Mediterranean work to reinvent commerce? This was the question for Cécile Jolly, an economist at the Center for Strategic Analysis and Daniel Rouach, an administrator at the Chamber of Commerce France-Israel.
Jolly says Turkey is one of the Mediterranean countries that has become extremely present in the region, with an influential business strategy. Turkey is highly invested in Europe, at a time when Europe is losing its own stability.
“We don’t have many areas that are secure right now, except for the European Union,” says Jolly. “And even that has become unsure lately.”
Jolly says that in France, political issues have dominated the attention of the media recently, such as the Cahuzac affair. This has taken the focus off France’s major role in the Mediterranean and what it could achieve in terms of partnerships and commerce.
However, France must improve its follow-through, says Daniel Rouach: “The French know very well how to talk about a project, but when it comes to applying themselves, something gets lost.”
Rouach says there are several components to promoting commerce: Universities, leading companies, venture capital, entrepreneurial spirit, active government support and competitive intelligence and networking.
With these tools, struggling economies can put their countries back on the map, instead of adopting a “grass is greener on the other side” mentality.
“Many people say, maybe it would be easier elsewhere,” says Rouach. However, he says this is the type of dangerous thinking that contributes to “Brain Drain” – the phenomenon of people being educated abroad and not returning to their home country to work.
Countries involved in the Arab Spring have been heavily affected by “Brain Drain,” with scores of young people going abroad to study and find work, leaving their home country in a state of crisis.
“There are so many people who are educated in Europe but we don’t see them come back to their home country,” says Rouach. “In Morocco, for example, a large amount of people leave.”
As a result, there has been a reduction in investment in the North African region.
Part of the problem is a lack of business opportunities available in the Maghreb to be able to integrate educated members of the community.
"There are very few people who are contributing to entrepreneurship," says Jolly.
Jolly also attests that few people return to their home country after receiving an education abroad, with the sole purpose of creating new businesses.
“We’ve seen in Portugal, Turkey and elsewhere, that educated people only come back when their home country has already been developed,” she says. “Otherwise, they don’t.”
Rouach says Israel has avoided brain drain by creating partnerships with businesses abroad.
“Many scientists from Israel leave to go work in the United States,” says Rouach. “But it’s not a complete loss because they create links with businesses there that can be reciprocated in the future. But in North Africa, they must create those partnerships.”
A true exception to the brain drain phenomenon is India, say the experts, where high numbers of educated people return to set up their businesses after studying in the United States or elsewhere.
But what about the money? The experts say having an enterprising spirit is the most important aspect of creating commerce.
“The money will come when you have a bankable project,” says Jolly. “We never have to worry about competency. There will always be a niche for new businesses.”