Amel Karboul
Interviews

Exclusive: Tunisia’s First Woman Minister, Amel Karboul, Refuses to be put in a Box and She’s Winning

Amel Karboul is a social entrepreneur, politician, philanthropist and a Speaker, well known in the inter national community as a change agent. She is the first woman in history to be named Tunisia’s Minister of Tourism, becoming the youngest member of the Mehdi Jomaa government from 2014 – 2015.

As someone passionate about education, Dr. Karboul has developed a renewed and compelling investment case and financing the pathway for achieving equal educational opportunities for children and young people. She is currently the CEO of the Education Outcomes Fund.

In this interview with Business Elites Africa, Dr Karboul talks about the importance of investing in the education of African children, describing it as the only way to prepare them for the future.

You are many things rolled into one – a politician, entrepreneur, speaker and author – take us through the journey that led to this point in your life.

I think perhaps that I am many things because I refuse to be put into one particular box. I reject stereotypical thinking and have taken on many roles where I didn’t fit the mold.

I think it all begins with my intercultural background. I was born in Tunisia, studied in Germany and the United Kingdom, and have worked in many places including Austria, the United States, and South Africa. I have often worked in male-dominated sectors, including mechanical engineering and politics. I was the first woman to hold the position of Minister of Tourism in Tunisia. All of these experiences and cultures have taught me to think globally and act with flexibility. There are many routes to achieving your goals.

What has fueled your passion for education?

I am passionate about helping children receive a quality education because I was so fortunate to receive some myself, which, had I been born a few years earlier, might not have been available to me.

When the first President of Tunisia, Habib Bourguiba, came to power in 1956 after the country had achieved independence, he raised funding for education to nearly 36% of government budget. His priority was free
and quality education for every Tunisian child. That level of investment was high even by today’s standards. Several people protested demanding for the money to be invested in infrastructure instead. But I would argue that the most important infrastructure in which to invest is educated minds.

Together with millions of other Tunisians of my generation, I am deeply indebted to President Bourguiba’s historic decision…

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EDITOR’S NOTE: Read the full interview here. It’s on page 8 of our ’50 Most Influential Women in Business’ edition.

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