A group of 100 aspiring young entrepreneurs from across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region embarked recently on a trip of a lifetime as part of the Coca-Cola MENA Scholarship Program, a monthlong educational initiative developed with the U.S. Department of State and the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University.

Now in its fifth year, the program brings together future leaders from seven territories who were selected from more than 6,000 applicants to learn business and social entrepreneurship skills and pursue their professional dreams. Each of the seven territories participating in the program – Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Palestine, Pakistan and Tunisia – are sending 14 students to participate in the MENA Scholarship Program at Kelley School of Business’ Global Business Institute. 

The budding entrepreneurs will enjoy an intensive curriculum led by faculty members at the Kelley School of Business before participating in a business plan competition to demonstrate the skills learned throughout the program. Following the month at IU, the students will visit the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington D.C., before travelling to Atlanta to meet with senior leaders at Coca-Cola headquarters and tour the World of Coca-Cola.

A total of almost 400 university students have participated since 2012, with program alumni securing more than 70 higher education scholarships. Almost 80 scholars have started their own businesses in diverse fields such as technology, travel and tourism, marketing, hospitality and environmental services. 

The 2016 scholars were chosen following a rigorous selection process after submitting a business idea to “Make Tomorrow Better” in their home countries. Applicants submitted more than 6,000 ideas on an online platform which was visited by more than 1.6 million registered users across the world who voted for their favorites. Partners at the U.S. Embassies and Consulates in each of the participating countries then chose the winners from a shortlist of 800 ideas.

"The MENA region has an incredibly young and fast-growing population, and empowering the region’s youth will be essential to ensuring long-term economic and social prosperity," said Curt Ferguson, president of the MENA Business Unit at The Coca-Cola Company. "The Coca-Cola Company has a deep commitment to each of the local communities in which we operate and we are delighted to be welcoming the latest group of young entrepreneurs and their ambitions to 'Make Tomorrow Better'.”

Reflecting on Indiana University’s experiences to date, Idie Kesner, Dean of the Kelley School of Business, said “Over the past five years, we have welcomed almost 400 incredibly talented young people with great vision at Kelley Global Business Institute who we have had the pleasure of both teaching and learning from during our time together. The curriculum has been deliberately designed to expose the students to U.S. business practice and culture, and to build connections across their respective countries, equipping them to compete in a hyper-connected world. We are excited to meet the next generation of future leaders from this vibrant region and to host them here at the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University, home to one of the most respected entrepreneurship programs in the United States.”

In this video, the 2015 Coca-Cola MENA Scholars speak about the program in their own words:


Over the next month, we will continue to share stories and experiences from 2016 scholars to give everyone an inside look into the MENA Scholarship Program, a life-changing initiative aiming to provide opportunities for those coming from territories where opportunities are limited.