Banlieues Now Seen as Bastions of Innovation

After years of neglect, periodic riots, and unfulfilled promises from the state, Paris's low-income suburbs are finally doing for themselves what had long been promised to them - creating opportunities for economic development and social integration.
May 15, 2013, 6am PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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"For decades, the disadvantaged suburbs that ring Paris and other large French cities have been places of privation, plagued by discrimination and poverty," says Liz Alderman. "France has long vowed to improve the plight of the banlieue populations, often Muslim and primarily people with Arab or sub-Saharan African family roots in the French colonial past. Despite pledges by Nicolas Sarkozy when he was president to address economic and social inequality after a series of violent riots in 2005 and 2007, though, critics say little has changed."

"That is why a new generation of people like [restaurant owner Mourad Benamer] are trying to turn the suburbs into incubators for entrepreneurs, who see using their own initiative as the only way up and out of the banlieues, which are home to an estimated 10 percent of France’s 63.7 million people."

"Through persistent lobbying, banlieue entrepreneurs have been founding 'angel' investment funds, persuading big French companies like AXA Insurance and BNP Paribas to contribute seed money that fuel start-ups ranging from trash removal to taxi fleets." explains Alderman.

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Published on Tuesday, May 14, 2013 in The New York Times
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