November 19, 2019
Good morning ladies and gentlemen. Minister Krutoi, thank you for your inspiring remarks. It is my great honor to be part of this opening panel on the second day of Global Entrepreneurship Week. Before I get started, I would first like to thank the event’s organizers, Belbiz, for their efforts to organize such an impressive Forum and the other exciting events that are part of Global Entrepreneurship Week here in Belarus. I am very proud that USAID’s sustained support to GEW over the past nine years, from its launch in Belarus in 2011, has helped Belarus join the global community of entrepreneurs.
The world is taking note of Belarus’s many IT industry and startup success stories, as Belarus develops its reputation as an emerging center of technology excellence. A big part of that shift was the streamlined and smart regulations for Belarus’s IT sector under the Digital Economy decree. The decree stimulated private sector growth in the IT sector, boosted exports of IT services, and contributed to improving the independence and resiliency of the Belarusian economy. Smart reforms in the IT sector have had a noticeable spillover effect – creating demand for innovative goods and services and increasing employment opportunities and living standards for Belarusians across the country – not just in Minsk. More importantly, the leaders of Belarus’s high-tech sector are now playing a more active role in determining the country’s future development, in the IT sector and beyond. More established companies are re-investing their resources into their communities and the start-up ecosystem, creating a virtuous cycle that helps individual startups survive and thrive in today’s competitive global marketplace.
USAID together with the U.S. Embassy, have been at the forefront of efforts to grow Belarus’s innovation economy. Through the TechMinsk school, USAID has funded training and mentoring for more than 250 youth entrepreneurs since 2013. Just last month in October, TechMinsk became an accelerator – offering entrepreneurs the support and skills to implement their business ideas and grow their startups into future unicorns right here in Belarus. I am so thrilled to announce today that a new partnership with the Google Launchpad program will “launch” local startups to the next level and link them to global expertise and funding. This is just one example of how the American government and American companies are helping support the next generation of Belarusian entrepreneurs, leaders, and innovators!
Additionally, USAID has helped Belarus develop its venture financing market to support businesses of the future through the creation of the Belarus Business Angels Network “AngelsBand.” This project has trained more than 80 potential investors and sent them on study tours to the United States and Europe. In the past year I’ve also had the opportunity to visit several of the 17 Startup Schools that USAID’s partner – the Society for Innovative Business Support – has launched in every region of Belarus. To date, close to 8,500 participants have received training and mentorship at Startup Schools. More than 550 startup teams presented their projects to investors and business experts during “Expert” and “Investor” Days.
The Embassy’s Public Affairs Section also supports the development of entrepreneurship Belarus in several ways. First, we provide small grants to entrepreneurs. Over the last two years, the Embassy has funded ten grants, totaling over $170,000, to support projects focused on rural entrepreneurship, women’s entrepreneurship, and job creation for people with disabilities. Secondly, we support professional exchange programs that send Belarusians to the United States so they can develop entrepreneurial skills. Over the last year, the Public Affairs Section has sent 10 professionals – including government officials, private businesses people, and professors from state universities – on programs promoting entrepreneurship and SME development. Thirdly, the Public Affairs Section supports the entrepreneurs of tomorrow by teaching financial literacy to young people. Working with our partner library in Mogilev, we conducted courses for middle school students on how to earn, invest and spend money, develop a business plan, and use different media to promote their projects.
I always so inspired and optimistic about the future of Belarus when I attend Global Entrepreneurship Week. As our bilateral relationship grows – not just at the political level, but at the level of expert exchanges, students studying in the United States, and American investments in Belarus’s economic sector – there will be growing opportunities for these Belarusian innovators to share their ideas and help transform their local, regional, as well as the global economy. When I travel around Belarus, I am in awe of the exceptional entrepreneurship and resourcefulness of Belarusians, especially the youth. The U.S. Embassy in Minsk and USAID look forward to partnering with Belarusians in the private sector as well as government leaders like Minister Krutoi to guarantee that the next generation – the future of Belarus – reaches their full potential. I wish you all productive and inspiring discussions today and throughout the rest of Global Entrepreneurship Week. Thank you.