Self-made success story Sophien Bennaceur sets objectives for Tunisia’s economic recovery

Tunisian people, namely youth need a clear vision and need to see a very dedicated leadership with specific objectives, said Sophien Bennaceur, Chief Executive Officer and Founder at Phoenicia Capital Investment in the U.S.A.

He placed emphasis that Tunisian political leaders must set clear objectives as far as the Tunisian economy is concerned. “ So Why can’t we talk of  Tunisia to be the top 5 in Tourism,  the top 5 in organic agri-business, why can’t we be the number one in the Mediterranean in the fashion industry. Why can’t we set this type of objectives and attain them, instead of speaking of generalities and run the country without objectives, “Bennaceur said.

He said if the Tunisian political leaders are serious about leading the country’s economy they need to be objective, focused and put competencies in terms of enterprise transformation, and building a bridge between the public sector and the private sector. He called for the urgent need to stop the politics of fear and unleash the power of the Tunisian youth and focus on the small-and-medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) because he believes that SMEs are the heart of the economy stressing the need to put an end to this welfare state because it doesn’t work anymore referring to the example of China, Russia, South Korea, Malaysia and Indonesia to name a few; when they focused on the infusion of capital and innovation they became economic powers.

Indeed, this political, economic and even social theory of Sophien Bennaceur has been the result and the outcome of a long and hard journey from his early days in the United States of America when he was a young student and seized a great and precious opportunity of the American dream by travelling to the U.S as part of a student exchange programme.  His performance has been truly exceptional and he is still with the same approach and enthusiasm. The dreams of Bennaceur come true through his perseverance and self-confidence, setting for himself the target of success but not a simple success, it is rather a triumph in its full meaning with the motto of self-reliance and hard work.

After having been trained and mentored in the Leadership Development Programme, Mr. Sophien Bennaceur reached the positions of responsibility and decision-making, and a managing leader in large companies such as American Express, Ceridian, SAP, First American bank, Alliance and Pegasus in the areas of organisational development, information technology, corporate governance and enterprise transformation.

In 2000, he decided to set up, along with his brothers US-trained and educated software engineers who were also in the United States, a Financial Systems Advisory firm located on Wall Street, specialising in the financial services industry. He collaborated with JP Morgan Chase, Merrill Lynch/Bank of America, Barclays Capital, Royal Bank Scotland, New York Stock Exchange, AIG, Philip Morris and Moody’s and Credit Suisse among others.

In 2001, during the financial crisis after 9/11, his company has become known as a boutique firm to help companies run major programmes to transform the enterprise. From 2000 until today he has this boutique firm that he and his brothers created and operated in New York City, Zurich, and London. Therefore he became a senior advisor while running this company to senior executive mostly on Wall Street, London city and Zurich and become known for corporate performance, change management, financial control and compliance.

After spending thirty years in Advisory Services and industry expertise, he acquired a strong background in organisational development, enterprise transformation, and business development and information technology.

In 2012, a year after the Revolution in Tunisia, Mr. Sophien Bennaceur decided to join the democratic and economic transition of the country by creating a Tunisian-American lobby in order to make Tunisia’s voice heard among American decision-makers by presenting its legislative texts and other mechanisms to boost investment.

Besides, he developed a concept to get involved in the capital risk market by setting up a private equity firm that will come to Tunisia and serve as a platform for the Maghreb region and introduce private equity,  hedge funds, and venture capital into the Maghreb Financial markets.

In this connection, Mr. Sophien Bennaceur presented the concept to all the heads of governments after the Revolution, however, Tunisia was not prepared for this model since there is no code that governs Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) which today is needed. But now as FDI law was passed by parliament, there is an urgent need to create the vehicles for Foreign Direct Investment which, according to him is a negative signal for investors in order to open this economy that has been closed for 60 years. He emphasised the need to get engaged with the global capital markets if there is a serious interest in attracting foreign companies.  “So today we need to have strategic relationships with Wall Street and London City,  we need to look west, to head to Japan, to target China,  Indonesia, Malaysia, Russia and South Korea, “ he underlined.

Bennaceur said he has always been a critic saying it is irresponsible for any government in Tunisia to continue in this economic path with ties purely relying on the European market specifically France which is what he called a systematic risk for failure. ”If this economy fails, we fail. So it is our responsibility to diversify our market and our economic relationships. We need to get beyond demagogy and beyond ideologies that make investors flee from Tunisia and we need to become a nation much more pragmatic in our solution and practical in our views and also build what I believe is in the national interest of Tunisia whose economic hub and educational interest lies in all these nations. “

He focused primarily on the Anglo-Saxon countries and also on the GCC countries underlining the need to strengthen Tunisia’s relationship with the United Arab Emirates, Canada, the United States and London.

Mr. Sophien Bennaceur believes that there are practical solutions to enhance the cooperation relations with these countries by creating the generational fund, under the context of the private-public partnership (PPP) and Tunisian Investment House,the government and the private sector contribute to a joint fund to focus on the SMEs and Tunisia’s youth to encourage them with retirees so as to bridge between the retirees and youth and provide capital for Tunisia’s youth so that they become more innovative and open markets to them.

Besides, he stressed the need at the macro-economic level to operate with multinationals so that they come to Tunisia and brings technology, investment,  knowledge and open international markets and cooperate with the North African country at least in agri-business industry as well as manufacturing believing that Tunisia can become a major educational, economic hub and financial hub for the African market.

So in order to move into these major reforms, he laid emphasis on the need to open up this country.

He believes that capitalism is the way out of this crisis, expressing hope to see all Tunisians become richer, create more millionaires and more billionaires and stop talking about these politics of fear. The path of these solutions lies in the need to open our minds to Tunisians, he said.

Since Tunisia’s main asset lies in its human resources and its openness to business framework, Sophien Bennaceur is aware of the absolute need for a real upgrade of the human capital and build the skills needed such as financial engineering, science and technology. Tunisians have been known to be outstanding in trade and commerce and today Tunisians hold abilities in several; languages leading in the English language that is today being taught in elementary schools.

“Tunisia is rich with its 12 million people, and God blessed us with a beautiful country, with a strategic position on the Mediterranean, we need to open up this nation, this is my perspective” he concluded.

TunisianMonitorOnline (NejiMed)


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