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Peace through Entrepreneurship at the Brooking’s Institute

Steven Koltai’s moving presentation on Peace through Entrepreneurship at the Brookings Institution raised several compelling points on how the U.S. can utilize investment in entrepreneurship as an avenue toward stability. He proposed a shift, a reorientation of U.S. foreign policy and funding from unregulated aid to developing countries, to entrepreneurship as a tool of empowerment and peace.

Steven Koltai, an expert on international entrepreneurship ecosystem development, opened the presentation with a summary of his own career, and how the many and diverse professional areas he has worked in led to the publication of this book. Most recently, he has served as the senior advisor for Entrepreneurship at the U.S. Department of State, and also has experience in management consulting and the media industry. Mr. Koltai emphasized the importance of an entrepreneurial attitude in his career, and how he then was able to see it as a means for peace in developing countries.

Mr. Koltai walked the audience through the major points of his book, namely, what entrepreneurship is, who the entrepreneur is, and why it is important in a U.S. Foreign policy context. Firstly, an entrepreneur is a person with a new vision to see a new product or process, and the ability to make it happen. Although in the United States, entrepreneurs are perceived is association with the high tech glamour of entities like Facebook and Google, Mr. Koltai pointed out that entrepreneurs in developing countries are not absent from low or no tech industries, or news and media industries.

He likewise made a strong case for entrepreneurship and asserted it as the number one creator of jobs in a stabilizing economy. Mr. Koltai claimed that entrepreneurship commercializes innovation, that entrepreneurs are agitates for successful state institutions, that it keeps local investors local, returns wealth for everyone, and perhaps most pertinent to U.S. foreign policy, it is a way up for the disenfranchised. Mr. Koltai stated that it is a bridge among people, that which unites peoples in the realm of business and garners distraction from differences in religion, political affiliation, or race.

He then went on to explain how entrepreneurship is important in a American foreign policy context. Koltai noted  joblessness as the root cause of the unrest and extremism that threatens American security. He challenged the way U.S. funding in developing countries is currently being spent, and stated that the United States choosing to invest in entrepreneurial programs is the most efficient way to peace and security. The connection between jobs, stability, and peace proves to be a valuable and underutilized asset, according to Koltai. He likewise encouraged the creation of  mechanisms for entrepreneurial small and medium sized companies which participate in U.S. government contracts. He also suggested further recruitment of people with private sector experience into development agencies, especially those involved in entrepreneurship programming. USAid, according to Koltai, should diversify the programs and organizations it invests, and reorganize its programs to facilitate coordination.

During his presentation, Mr. Koltai shared a moving quote which excellently summarizes his points. Ahmed Al Alfi, an Egyptian-American businessman said: “We have to give people something to live for, instead of the guys that pitch them something to die for.”

The floor was then given to two panelists, Tara D. Soneshine and Cameron Hume, who gave thoughtful commentary within the lens of their own careers. As an Emmy award winning journalist, Soneshine brought questions of how extremist groups were using entrepreneurship as a tool comparatively, and how the U.S. ought make it a priority. Cameron Hume gave remarks on the process of aiding developing countries, and how unstable governments and failed states significantly deter the process.

For more information in this subject, Steven Koltai’s book: Peace Through Entrepreneurship: Investing in a Startup Culture for Security and Development is out now on Amazon.

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