This past month, I was invited to speak at the Investment and Entrepreneurship Conference hosted by Partners for a New Beginning North Africa Partnership for Economic Opportunity (PNB-NAPEO) in Tunis. As the representative of the youth perspective at this prominent conference, I spoke to my experience as a Moroccan young entrepreneur, starting and managing a business, and the entrepreneurial landscape in Morocco.  

I am honored to have been invited to actively participate in this dialogue by The Coca-Cola Company as a representative of the Global Shapers Community, an initiative of the World Economic Forum that gathers young people who are exceptional in their potential, their achievement and their drive to make a contribution to their communities. Being one of our Global Community Partners, Coca-Cola is a champion of supporting the youth in their work across business, government and civil society around the globe. 

My panel session during the PNB entrepreneurship conference focused on the theme of “Driving Entrepreneurship in the Maghreb,” with participation from key actors and renowned entrepreneurs of the Maghreb region such as Zied Ladhari, Minister of Vocational Training and Employment in Tunisia, and Mehdi Bendimerad, president of SPS in Algeria. Together, we discussed how governments can reduce unemployment rates in the Maghreb region and the key role of the private sector in this strategy.

I shared my experience working at Enactus Morocco as program director of the organization. Enactus is a NGO present in 36 countries around the world, working with university students to develop and implement innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing needs, enabling progress through entrepreneurial action. In Morocco, Enactus is present in 65 university campuses, working with more than 3,000 students and implementing more than 150 projects. In each project, student work with local communities to create new businesses or develop and scale existing businesses, and each year, our teams affect the lives of 20,000 direct beneficiaries. Our model relies on reinforcing local economic ecosystems, and empowering people to improve their livelihoods in the most sustainable way.

Global Shaper Touria Benlafqih Speaking on PNB Panel on Youth Employment
Global Shaper Touria Benlafqih Speaking on PNB Panel on Youth Employment

As the youngest speaker at the entire conference, I wanted to bring the audience’s attention to the fact that youth are the fundamental stakeholder of the unemployment discussion. With the primary objective of the conference to highlight solutions for stimulating employment opportunities for youth in the Maghreb region, supporting them in starting and developing businesses, it is clear that youth should be more actively participating in conferences and dialogues such as this, with meaningful representation as speakers on panels.

We Millennials are passionate, innovative and diverse, and we don’t want to be framed into one simple old model. We don’t like the same jobs as Generation X. We work not only to earn money, but also to contribute to the world. We don’t share same definition of a “successful career” as our parents. So when major stakeholders and decision makers gather to discuss and resolve a youth focused problem, it should be known that youth must be part of the solution, and are no more willing to be recipients of predesigned resolutions.  

At the end of my panel, it became clear that my opinion struck a chord with attendees. I was approached by participants with enthusiasm, support and encouragement. It was a joy to speak to one of my core beliefs and true passions – youth economic empowerment.