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Turning on the talent tap in Tunisia: Filling the African entrepreneurship pipeline

BRAIN+IDEA Lab: Operation Tunisia

Philip Rigueur, EMBA ’23, is one of several MIT Sloan EMBAs and business leaders creating a support system for entrepreneurs in African countries. It began as a thought exercise that emerged from MIT senior lecturer Phil Budden’s IDEA Lab. It later found support among other institutional stakeholders and led to an invitation. 

“I was already interested in giving back and I wanted to bring my experience as a leader in health care to folks I thought could use it,” Rigueur recalled. “When Dr. [Phil] Budden from IDEA Lab asked if I wanted to help build the BRAIN program, the answer was an immediate yes.”

The BRAIN initiative (Bridging Research And INnovation), launched in 2023. Each spring, selected entrepreneurs will complete a one-week bootcamp and a three-month follow-up commitment.

Business leaders are invited to apply for admission through the innovation ecosystems in their home countries. These ecosystems, in turn, are connected with MIT Sloan and IDEA Lab through a combination of alumni, business leaders, and local and regional innovation ecosystems.

MIT Sloan’s Executive MBA program, MIT’s Legatum Center, and the Tunisian innovation ecosystem developed the initiative with support from AfricaGrow, AfricInvest, Digital Africa, IDEA Lab, InstaDeep, MIT Africa, and Open Startup.

The 2023 event was held during March in Tunisia at the Movenpick Tunis hotel and Southern Mediterranean University

“We believe targeted interventions including tailored mentorship and support can increase opportunities and improve outcomes for entrepreneurs in Tunisia and other African countries,” Rigueur said. 

Three teams from among the participating groups are selected to visit Boston, where they can tap into Cambridge’s innovation ecosystem.

Rigueur credits his experience as a student in MIT Sloan’s Executive MBA program with providing a solid foundation for improving his leadership skills and managing the kinds of complex relationships that can arise when overseeing large projects like the BRAIN initiative.

“MIT Sloan’s Executive MBA program helped sharpen my focus,” he said. “I gained valuable skills and knowledge I think will continue to aid my ongoing development.”   

What’s next 

Building connections among people and organizations has value for Rigueur as a business leader and MIT Sloan alumnus. Helping build the BRAIN initiative while earning his Executive MBA was the kind of real-world training Rigueur believes can lead to sustained success.

“I want to help other leaders where and how I can,” he said.