Last week in Tunis was just a normal workweek for many but for a few entrepreneurial, young people a unique and hotly anticipated event was taking place – the BELT bootcamp. BELT stands for Bootcamp on Entrepreneurship for Libyans and Tunisians and is the first joint-nationality entrepreneurship bootcamp of its kind. 14 Libyan and 13 Tunisian (of whom 50% were female) young people gathered to begin the intensive 5-day business workshops provided for by SPARK as part of the Local Employment in Africa for Development (LEAD) programme supported by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in partnership with Expertise France under their SLEIDSE programme.
SLEIDSE promotes the development of dynamic and diversified micro, small and medium enterprises that create employment and livelihoods for youth and women in Libya. While SPARK’s LEAD programme focuses on job creation by providing support and assistance to young Tunisian, Libyan, and Somali entrepreneurs and SMEs through access to markets, coaching and finance.
The BELT bootcamp participants, all aged between 18 – 25 years and aspiring to become their own bosses, were selected based on their innovative business plan ideas. Souhaila Sayabi described her business idea and the reason she applied for the bootcamp: “I have a dream that one day the culinary art becomes more that just a job. I want it to be taught in universities, especially for creating healthy meals”.
On the first day, four small groups were formed comprising of two Libyans and two Tunisians, with an equal gender divide, in order to foster interesting dialogue and exchange ideas and experiences throughout the trainings. Fundamental skills required to start a business, such as SWOT analysis, cost planning, lean management, and market analysis, were presented, and workshops delivered a wide range of tools, methods and technical skills to the participants to grow their business ideas. 
In addition to daily entrepreneurship trainings, the bootcamp-ers also had the opportunity to meet with successful Tunisian and Libyan social entrepreneurs. Mr Hadi Nasser, CEO of Libyan Spider, and Mrs Wafa Kesmi, CEO of WeCodeLand, discussed their experiences of failure and success with the young people.
The growing entrepreneurial ecosystem in Tunis, particularly within the tech scene, is currently bustling with co-working spaces and incubators. Participants were invited to one of these spaces called Level1 and met with the Tunisian entrepreneurs and startups working there. Ashref Zeed, CEO of EvenPlans, and Malik Nouira, CEO of Prefabulous, offered the young business people practical advice about the entrepreneur-lifestyle, what challenges they’ll face and how rewarding the experience can be. “If you don’t follow your dream, someone else will hire you to achieve his!” said participant Hatem Abid after leaving the co-working space. “This bootcamp has given me the necessary skills to launch my business”.
As the final trainings drew to a close, despite being exhausted from the week’s activities, participants geared up to deliver their business idea pitches at the graduation ceremony and cocktail evening organised at Foundouk El Atterine.
Salim Slama’s pitch began with: “I noticed in Libya that most of people cannot find a job after graduating, this is why I wanted to launch my own business”, Oumayma Barguaoui’s pitch started with: “I have an idea and I want to concretise it in my region which lacks opportunities in cultural activities”, Sofiene Ben Jemaa said that: “Entrepreneurship was a passion since early age. It is also an opportunity to make good money” and Sarab Sabkha began with: “I would like to become an entrepreneur to help the economy in Libya and feel the satisfaction to bring some change in the world”. 
Despite their many different reasons for wanting to become entrepreneurs in their respective countries, all the participants agreed that the bootcamp had provided them with the tools and solid groundwork to take their business ideas to the next step. By bringing together these young, ambitious people the BELT also hopes to nurture good business relations between the neighbouring countries for the future.
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