North Africa in general and Morocco in particular are key to Africa’s economic development, as are public-private partnerships throughout the continent. These are some of the takeaways from the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit held last week in Washington, according to Nathan Associates representatives who attended events that coincided with the summit.
Rachid Benjelloun, a managing director at Nathan and a native Moroccan, called attention to “Morocco’s Emergence as a Gateway to Business in Africa,” a paper presented by the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center that examined how Moroccan companies are investing in Sub-Saharan Africa. Morocco, according to the paper, is “well-suited to serve as a bridge for American commercial diplomacy into Africa.”
Now attracting investment from major U.S. corporations, Morocco has the largest stock exchange on the continent, an airport with direct flights to other African countries, many free trade agreements, including with the United States (Nathan aided in opening U.S.-Moroccan trade opportunities), and is viewed as politically stable. According to Mr. Benjelloun, one result is that Mali and countries like it are positioning themselves as “sub-hubs to better-known hubs like Morocco” where investors perceive less risk.
Jeannette Paulino, a research associate at Nathan with work experience in Egypt, attended “North Africa: Challenges and Opportunities in a Time of Transition,” a discussion sponsored by the National U.S.-Arab Chamber of Commerce at the Summit. Ms. Paulino says that to maximize growth Africa “is aiming to overcome economic and political obstacles” and that public- and private-sector collaboration will be an essential for growth throughout Africa.
Leon Skarshinski, a managing associate who has worked throughout Africa, noted that various speakers at summit-related events asserted that public private partnerships (PPPs) will have to be well defined before they can fulfill their promise for Africa’s economic progress. Panelists observed, for example, that African countries can attract more U.S. investment through better regulatory procedures, rule of law, and introduction of trade-enhancing measures—and that to fulfill their potential, PPPs must be administered in a fair and transparent manner.
Similarly, the promise of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), long seen as the primary vehicle for stimulating U.S.-Africa trade, can only be fulfilled by increasing U.S. investment and African exports. Meghan Scholl, an international recruiter and business development specialist at Nathan, attended AGOA’s 13th annual forum immediately before the Africa Leaders Summit. Ms. Scholl said that civil society groups at the AGOA forum discussed how trade initiatives and investment strategies alike depend on sound customs and infrastructure, the need for regional economic integration, and the perils of cutting corners on infrastructure and transportation development.
Africa will remain a focus for the Obama administration. The Global Entrepreneurship Summit for 2014 takes place November 20–21 in Marrakech. The Obama administration began the summits to unleash entrepreneurship worldwide. The 2015 summit will be held in sub-Saharan Africa.
Nathan Associates has been engaged in projects throughout Africa to build markets, develop the financial sector, facilitate trade, improve telecommunications and transportation, and privatize industries. Countries where Nathan is or has been active include Botswana, Egypt, Ethiopia, the Gambia, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, and Zimbabwe. Nathan projects also have examined issues for the entire continent, such as food and infrastructure