August 4, 2014
The US-Africa Leaders Summit—designed to foster deeper economic and diplomatic ties between the United States and African governments and businesses—began on August 4. Consonant with the summit’s objective, the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center hosted an event marking the release of its new Issue in Focus report, “Morocco’s Emergence as a Gateway to Business in Africa.” The report was coauthored by Africa Center Director J. Peter Pham and Senior Fellow Ricardo René Larémont.

Atlantic Council CEO and President Frederick Kempe opened the event with welcoming remarks, during which he spoke about the Atlantic Council's links to Morocco and also thanked Council Board Director Ahmed Charai for his support of the Africa Center's work on the country and, specifically, the new study. Pham then presented the report and moderated the ensuing panel discussion. The panel featured H.E. Moulay Hafid Elalamy, minister of industry, trade, investment, and the digital economy for the Kingdom of Morocco, Mohamed El Kettani, chairman and CEO of Attijariwafa Bank, Karim Hajji, CEO of the Casablanca Stock Exchange, Nabil Habayeb, GE’s president and CEO of Middle East, North Africa and Turkey, and H.E. Moustapha Ben Barka, minister of industry and investment promotion for the Republic of Mali.

Several themes that echoed the report’s findings emerged during the panel discussion. All speakers agreed that the perception of Africa as a uniquely difficult and unrewarding place to do business is inaccurate and should change. Several noted the continent’s remarkable human and natural resources wealth, while others spoke of Morocco’s sophisticated financial services sector and strong and rewarding commercial ties with Europe, North America, sub-Saharan Africa, and beyond.

20140804 Morocco 2A frank discussion about the continent’s challenges was had as well. Several panelists emphasized the challenge of ensuring young people are employed and assured of the basic prerequisites for enjoying a life of opportunity. Lack of power generation capacity was also a recurring theme, as was the need for infrastructure improvements.

The event was attended by US government officials, former and current ambassadors from African countries and the United States, private industry leaders, NGO members, and other key stakeholders.

The report finds that Morocco, a bastion of stability on the doorstep of an often-turbulent continent, is a rising economic power. With burgeoning economic and commercial links—across the continent and beyond—and expanding contributions to regional political stability and security, Morocco is an especially attractive portal for investment and a significant US partner in Africa.

The report can be downloaded here.