Event Recap

On May 24, Youssef Amrani, the Moroccan ambassador to the United States, and Jessye Lapenn, the US State Department’s senior coordinator for Atlantic Cooperation joined the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center for a special fireside chat moderated by Senior Director Rama Yade. The discussion focused on the new US Partnership for Atlantic Cooperation launched in September 2023 and the new Moroccan royal initiative announced two months later, in November 2023, that gives four landlocked Sahelian countries (Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali and Chad) access to the ocean. 

Yade opened the discussion by recognizing Africa Day and highlighting the importance of the “maritime border” between Africa and the United States. She noted that 39 countries, including 20 in Africa, have joined the US Atlantic partnership since its launch. 

Lapenn emphasized that the Partnership for Atlantic Cooperation is important now because “the problems that we face collectively are too significant, too complex, and too multifaceted for any one country” to tackle alone.  Lapenn emphasized that “the door stays open” to Atlantic countries who have not yet joined the Partnership for Atlantic Cooperation, including South Africa and France. 

The Partnership for Atlantic Cooperation focuses on initiatives around science and technology, environmental and marine protection, and building a sustainable blue economy. Currently, the partnership is not taking on security challenges. Lapenn explained that this decision is a collective one made by member states based on what they believe are issues that “benefit from a pan-Atlantic framework.” 

Amrani said that both initiatives mentioned in the discussion are important for “building bridges” in a difficult and fragmented world. He added that the Moroccan initiative, announced by King Mohammed VI late on the occasion of the 48th anniversary of the Green March, emphasizes the importance of cooperation, and countries must leverage the Atlantic for “strategic diplomacy.” 

Amrani said that “cooperation, connectivity and consistency” inspired Morocco to connect countries not only through the African corridor and to the Atlantic, “but also to [their] partners in Europe.” 

Lapenn pointed to the African Union’s vision for African integration, and said it should extend that integration to Europe, North America, and Latin America. Similarly, Amrani emphasized that in Africa, “the real change must come from within” and emphasized the importance of the African Continental Free Trade Area.  

“Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea is a crucial issue for us,” emphasized Amrani. He continued, highlighting that “drug trafficking, illegal migration and terrorism are all linked.” 

“NATO is a military and security operation,” Amrani said. “However, some issues need other approaches.” 

A “more prosperous future depends on greater coordination with countries that share common opportunities and challenges,” argued Atlantic Council Vice President and Senior Director of the Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center Jason Marczak in closing.  

Sibi Nyaoga is a program assistant with the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center 

Event Description

For Africa Day 2024, the Africa Center places a spotlight on the enduring strategic partnership that the US and African nations share across the Atlantic.

Having been launched in September 2023, the Partnership for Atlantic Cooperation now counts thirty-nine states. These states are focused on regional cooperation, fostering connections, and establishing common approaches to a host of topics including sustainable ocean-based economies, and climate and environmental challenges.

Nearly half of this partnership’s members are African.

According to the Policy Center for the New South (PCNS), the importance of the Atlantic cannot be understated for Africa with its twenty-three coastal nations home to 46 percent of the continent’s population, 55 percent of its GDP, and 57 percent of its trade.

With such importance placed on the Atlantic region, the time is ripe for a conversation to discuss this next chapter of US and African relations and engagement across the Atlantic.

Each year for Africa Day, the Africa Center organizes high-level programming to highlight new developments and initiatives that enhance the US-Africa relationship. Past events have included Africa’s geopolitical role in the aftermath of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and a series on Democratic and Republican policy priorities toward the continent.

This year, the Africa Center will highlight the role of the new Partnership for Atlantic Cooperation in strengthening old ties and shared values.

Join us in-person or virtually on Friday, May 24 at 9:30 a.m. ET.

Fireside chat featuring

Ambassador Jessye Lapenn
Senior Coordinator for Atlantic Cooperation
US Department of State

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Jessye Lapenn is the inaugural senior coordinator for Atlantic Cooperation. Starting in February 2023, she has led the development of the Partnership for Atlantic Cooperation, a new multilateral forum that recognizes the Atlantic Ocean as an integral convening space for coastal nations to collaborate on shared opportunities and tackle shared challenges.

A career member of the Senior Foreign Service with the rank of minister-counselor, she was previously the US ambassador to the African Union and the US permanent representative to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa. She also served as the chargé d’affaires at the US Mission in South Africa from 2016-2019 and deputy chief of mission at the US embassy in Kigali from 2012-2014.

A committed multilateralist, Ambassador Lapenn directed the Office of Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs in the Bureau of International Organizations and advised the US Delegation to the United Nations in New York on security council matters.

Ambassador Lapenn’s other domestic US assignments have included chief of staff to the Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy and Human Rights, staff to the under secretary for political affairs, desk officer for Libya and Tunisia, and State Department fellow at the US House of Representatives. Additional overseas tours have included Jeddah, Riyadh, Paris, Tbilisi, Baghdad, and Jerusalem.

Ambassador Lapenn was born and raised in New York City.  She received a B.A, with honors in women’s studies from Harvard College and an M.Phil in international development from Cambridge University. Her fifteen-year-old son has been along for all of her most recent adventures.

Ambassador Youssef Amrani
Ambassador of His Majesty the King of Morocco to the United States
The Kingdom of Morocco

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Youssef Amrani was born in Tangier, Morocco, and holds a Bachelor in economics from Mohammed V University of Rabat and a degree in management from Boston University’s School of Management. He joined the Foreign Ministry in 1978 and has had a long and distinguished career in public service, including:

  • 2023: Ambassador of His Majesty the King of Morocco to the United States
  • 2019: Ambassador of His Majesty the King of Morocco to South Africa with non-resident     accreditation to Eswatini, Botswana and Malawi
  • 2013: Member of the Cabinet of His Majesty the King
  • 2012: Minister Delegate of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation
  • 2011: Secretary General of the Mediterranean Union Barcelona.
  • 2008: Secretary General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation
  • 2003: Ambassador, Director General of Bilateral Affairs MFA
  • 2001: Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of His Majesty the King of Morocco to Mexico, Non Resident in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Belize
  • 1999: Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of His Majesty the King of Morocco to Chile
  • 1996: Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of His Majesty the King of Morocco to Colombia non Resident in Ecuador and Panama
  • 1992: Consul General to Barcelona
  • 1989: Chief of Staff and State Secretariat in charge of the Maghreb Arab Union
  • 1984: International Expert at the Islamic Centre for Development of Trade
  • 1981: Member of the Cabinet of the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation
  • 1979: Member of the Cabinet of the State Secretary for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation.
  • 1978: First Secretary of Foreign Affairs


  • Encomienda de numéro de la ordendelmérito civil, conceded by His Majesty The King Juan Carlos of Spain, by Resolution of June, 23rd 2007.
  • Order of San Carlos, conceded by His Excellency Don Andres Pastrana, President of the Republic of Colombia.
  • La Grande croix Extraordinaire Ordre de la démocratie, conceded by the President of the House of Representatives of the Republic of Colombia.
  • Order of Bernardo Ohiggins, conceded by President Ricardo Lagos of Chile.
  • Ordre Mexicaine Aguila Azteca, conceded by President Vicente FOX of Mexico.
  • Legion d’Honneur France, conceded by the President of the Republic of France.

Moderated by

Closing remarks by

In partnership with

Presented by

The Africa Center works to promote dynamic geopolitical partnerships with African states and to redirect US and European policy priorities toward strengthening security and bolstering economic growth and prosperity on the continent.