Global Engagement: An Approach for Mutual Respect and Mutual Interest

Shamim, a proud woman in Pakistan vividly recalls when she received her very first order: A buyer requested several hundred pieces of the handicraft sample she had shown him. She quietly began to cry- tears of joy when tears of fear had dominated the previous six months. Her husband, a factory worker had gotten sick and was out of work. While Shamim ran a small grocery store from their two-room home they couldn't afford to send their children to school. Just the daily struggle to survive was stealing the pleasure out of every day.

Cary Dillman in Bloomington, Indiana tells a similar story. For 40 years, his company Dillman Farm made craft butters, jellies, and preserves. They were yummy. He was proud of the jobs he had created and the families that were supported by his business. After spending $100,000 of savings to repackage his products in 2008, the credit crunch cut Cary's cash flow. It left the lights dimming and the pink slips stacking up . Five banks turned him down when he went looking for help.

In Shamim's case it was a USAID program that helped her with the design and business skills needed to launch her business. Cary turned to the Small Business Administration. Today Shamim has over fifty people working for her. Sales are up at Dillman Farm and its products are in more stores, including large chains. Cary reports that the SBA loan saved his business.

I think about Shamim's and Cary Dillman's stories as we approach the first anniversary of President Obama's seminal speech in Cairo about U.S. engagement with countries with significant Muslim populations. This creative and courageous mother of three living in an industrial city in Punjab and the determined Indiana small businessman share the same aspiration- a better life for themselves and their families. We may dress differently. We may speak a different language but this aspiration is one that bind us together all over the world.

Today and tomorrow we are delivering one of the key actions the President outlined in Cairo: a global Summit on Entrepreneurship. The President is bringing together approximately 200 successful entrepreneurs from more than 50 countries to talk about ways to get more people involved in business and social entrepreneurship; build networks; and create partnerships that advance entrepreneurship. That is, to provide the same opportunities to improve people's lives abroad that we enjoy at home, like the examples of Shamim and Cary Dillman. And we know along the way it will create more trading opportunities for U.S. companies and more hope for a less war torn future.

For USAID, President Obama's call for global engagement is an exciting opportunity to share our hopes, dreams and knowledge about creating new businesses. We will move away from what Secretary Clinton called "patronage," to true partnerships. A primary focus of our foreign assistance should be the development of local institutions, communities, and partnerships to create more independence. We must insist that programs put people on a path to self-sufficiency, not long-term dependence. We are more secure in America when people around the world can feed themselves and are investing in their communities.

Such economic growth can transform developing societies, letting them emerge from dependence on foreign aid and generate the resources necessary to finance their own development. It helps bring about a more stable world with self-sufficient countries that can, in turn, buy more goods from America's businesses and be better partners with the United States. And proof of how this can work abounds.

Jordan provides one such example. In the late 90's Jordan's financial sector was outdated and didn't have much infrastructure. Basic financial data was unavailable and investments were lagging. In 1999, USAID and the U.S. Treasury initiated policy reform and institution-building programs aimed at improving opportunities for the Jordanian people. Wide area networks were constructed to connect hundreds of brokers, investors and companies. By 2007 the Amman Stock Exchange (ASE) had been transformed.

Today more than half of the ownership of ASE securities is Jordanian, there are now one million Jordanian investors, and approximately $6.2 billion has been added to the wealth of one million Jordanian people through this project. This is real money in real people's pockets. Two way trade between the US and Jordan has grown to $2 billion and it is an important diplomatic partner. President Obama has challenged all federal agencies to expand our global engagement and development. He has challenged us to seek new ways of building people to people and business to business connections. At USAID, we're reaching out to all sorts of people from think tanks, non profits, our implementing partners, and to activists to craft innovative ideas to solve critical global challenges. We're expanding our conversation with other international donors, philanthropists and religious leaders to gain greater understanding of the communities we serve. And for them to understand us.

For USAID, entrepreneurship is a key component of this effort. Whether you live in the Middle East, Southeast Asia, the US Midwest or Southeast we all want to be able to take an idea we have and grow a business. As part of the Summit, we're announcing a number of programs that highlight USAID's commitment and excitement about global entrepreneurship. The promise it has for creating more jobs and more security here and abroad. It is vital that we continue to engage and deliver significant results for which the American people can be proud.

We look forward to President Obama's Summit on Entrepreneurship on April 26th and 27th . Tune in to the live streaming. You never know what new ideas will be hatched when a bunch of entrepreneurs get together. We welcome the opportunity to work with the world's leading entrepreneurs, other federal agencies, and envoys from the U.S. private sector in order to take the next major step in deepening our global engagement.