Monday, September 24, 2012

Here's What Happened when Bill Clinton asked the Wal-Mart CEO about Libya

By John Carney

Not long ago, most American companies were urged by the U.S. government to avoid doing business with Libya. It was a pariah state, a sponsor of terrorism, a sworn enemy of the West.

On Sunday, however, former President Bill Clinton asked the chief executive of Wal-Mart Stores if he would open a store in Libya.

"If the new president of Libya asked you to open a store in Tripoli, would you consider it?" Clinton asked CEO Mike Duke at the opening panel of the Clinton Global Initiative.

The Wal-Mart CEO said that the company does not currently have any stores in the Middle East or North Africa, although it does have stores in South Africa and fourteen other sub-Saharan African nations.

What followed next was quite interesting, because it exposed a gap between the way Clinton thinks and the way Duke thinks about business expansion.

Clinton’s question, which he reformulated a few moments later to be about any country’s president calling on Wal-Mart to open stores, packs in an assumption about the centrality of government’s role in business decisions. For Clinton, government really is the starting place. It’s not even a short jump from his Libya question to Obama’s infamous “you didn’t build that” claim.

Read the rest here.


  1. "His answer began by explaining that Wal-Mart begins thinking about where to open a store by looking to see where there might be customers who are “under-served” by traditional retailers. In short, Wal-Mart thinks first about business opportunity questions: would market demand support a new store, and what kind of competition is in place?"

    Funny, that response sounds an awful lot like the entrepreneurial discussions that have been taking place here recently. It sounds like the guys at Wallyworld are looking for opportunity, rather than just "taking risks".

  2. I thought much of Africa was already linked to China. Why would they need a Walmart to sell them Chinese products?