Two Libyans whose work focuses on economic diversification in Libya were among 20 young leaders from the MENA region to join a European Young Leaders conference in Tallinn last week, during which they learned from Estonia’s experience of building a knowledge economy.
The two Libyans selected to join their European peers were Tripoli lawyer Hala Bugaighis, who co-founded Jusoor, an organisation aimed at encouraging women’s economic empowerment, and Benghazi-based Ahmed Ben Mussa, chief commercial officer at Tatweer Research, which recently partnered with the UN Development Programme (UNDP) to develop an entrepreneurship ecosystem for Libyans.
Participants in the conference included government ministers, parliamentarians, social entrepreneurs, innovators and artists from across Europe, the Middle East, north Africa, the US and Canada. Among those attending were Othman El Ferdaous, Morocco’s secretary of state for investment, Ines Amri, deputy secretary general of the Maghreb Economic Forum and Aaron Farrugia, Malta’s parliamentary secretary for EU funds and social dialogue.
The European Young Leaders (EYL40) programme, which is organised by Brussels-based Friends of Europe, aims to build a network of young leaders to foster cooperation on a European and regional basis. Libya researcher Mary Fitzgerald is an alumnus of the programme and also attended the Tallinn conference.
As part of the conference, Ms Bugaighis and Mr Ben Mussa met the Estonian prime minister Jüri Ratas and visited the e-Estonia showroom to find out more about how the country of just 1.3 million emerged from the shadow of the Soviet Union to become one of the world’s leading knowledge economies.
Estonia was the first country to introduce an e-residency programme and also the first to successfully introduce a legally-binding e-voting system into its election process. Most government services – apart from marriage and buying property – can be done online in Estonia. Estonia’s experience of e-governance may offer a model for Libya when it comes to the question of centralised government.
They also met one of Estonia’s best known entrepreneurs – Skype co-founder Jaan Tallinn – for a discussion on the possibilities and risks of artificial intelligence. Other sessions centred on education, the future of work, climate change and how to build entrepreneurial societies.Ms Bugaighis and Mr Ben Mussa told participants of Libya’s potential but also the challenges experienced during its transition.
Ms Bugaighis said Estonia was a “lesson in patriotism” and “a lesson learned for our Libya today.” She added: “I was impressed with the story of a country which survived a political collapse with limited resources, and yet its people managed to unify their vision and help their country to stand on its feet and be the frontier in the world of digital.’’
The EYL40 conference, she said, had been hugely inspiring due to the diversity of the participants. “It’s the first time I attend an event with politicians, entrepreneurs, artists and activists who have one thing in common: the will to change their world. We need more of these events to shape a better world.”
Mr Ben Mussa said the conference had been energising and he was happy to see Libya represented. “Libya is at the heart of the European conversation in so many respects and having Libyan voices present in these conversations for sure bridges the gaps.’’
The Libya Herald first appeared on 17 February 2012 – the first anniversary of the Libyan Revolution. Since then, it has become a favourite go-to source on news about Libya, for many in Libya and around the world, regularly attracting millions of hits.