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Reflections from The Morocco Summit: Gateway for Unlimited Opportunities

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image Leila Hanafi speaking at the conference

In a stimulating and action-oriented atmosphere, over 200 prominent Moroccan and international leaders from a breadth of disciplines and legal traditions convened on November 19-12, 2013, at the inaugural Morocco Summit at Sofitel Jardin des Roses, Rabat, Morocco to promote Morocco as an investment hub and gateway to doing Business in North Africa. As the President and Chief Counsel of ARPA International (www.arpainternational.org ), ARPA had the privilege to co-lead the process of convening such a diverse international gathering of leaders.

Building on the success of its renowned conferences in Africa, South America, Asia, Europe, Middle East, and North America, Fleming Gulf and ARPA concerted efforts with the National Moroccan Chamber of Commerce, Mohammed V University; the Moroccan-American Trade Center; and other  national and international partners. The Forum represented an unparalleled opportunity to set a platform for participants to come together and explore Morocco’s investments opportunities; break the legal constraints to increase understanding of the regulatory framework and investment infrastructure of the country, from legalistic and academic angles.

 

As echoed by keynote speakers Moroccan Minister of Tourism Lahcen Haddad; Moroccan Minister Delegate for Higher Education & Competencies Soumaie Benkhaldoun, and President of Mohammed V University Souissi Redouane Lmrabet, this Summit was be the first of its kind with discussions not only on investments in Morocco and its positioning as a gateway to North Africa but also its growing human capital especially youth and Moroccan competencies from abroad.

 

Given that more than  half of Morocco’s population is under 25, it is particularly important to invest in youth who can  provide an excellent resource to make a vital contribution to the  economic development of the country. Equally important is the insertion of Moroccan competencies abroad through an enabling environment for Diaspora engagement. With the ever growing Moroccan population abroad, a large multifaceted Moroccan Diaspora consisting of professionals from different sectors has been established and is quintessential to build investment bridges between Morocco and the residence country.

 

Day II of Morocco Summit: Enhancing Diaspora-led Investments

 

Moroccans residing outside the Kingdom play an important role in the development of the country, not least in terms of the remittances that they send home. In 2011, Moroccans abroad sent home over USD 6.5 billion – the equivalent of USD 220 for each of Morocco’s 30 million-strong population. Morocco ranked third in Africa in terms of remittance receipts per capita, and in the top 10 worldwide.

 

 Abdellah Sahibi, Secretary General of the Ministry of Moroccans Residing Abroad & Migration Affairs (Ministere Chargé des Marocains Résidant à l'Etranger et des Affairs de la Migration) emphasized in the Summit that the Ministry revamped its Diaspora engagement strategy after the realization that the Diaspora is an equal stakeholder in the country’s  economic development not only senders of remittances but also innovators and philanthropists and investors in human capital and technical knowledge. This strategy revolved around directing the Diaspora’s contributions towards    social and economic development (i.e: MDM Investment Fund and Knowledge transfer programs such as MAGHRIBCOM).   

 

However, obstacles still remain. As stressed by Professor  Abdelkrim Belguendouz, leading Moroccan intellectual  authority on  migration issues,  institutional arrangements  for the engagement of Moroccan Diaspora need to be better centralized through the Ministry of Moroccans Residing Abroad as they are in disarray. A centralized vision ought to be developed so that the Ministry could become the main interlocutor between Morocco and the Diaspora.

 

I would say that our challenges to facilitate investments of Moroccan competencies from abroad are so immense, that they cannot be possibly taken up by one institution. The existing mechanisms of Diaspora engagement on the investment front, while positive, are insufficient if not integrated in a broad-based strategy, premised in an inclusive legal framework for improving Policies to Boost Diaspora-Led Investment. To this end, there is also an information vacuum to be filled  for the provision of relevant information on investment opportunities in Morocco and  facilitate exchange of  information between Diaspora  business leaders and diplomatic branches of Morocco in the residence country, namely efforts should be catalyzed further towards: The createion of  a one-stop shop for investment information; The enhancement of  data  relevant to Diaspora  for a better mobilization of their skills in development; The provision of access to networks; The matching of  local entrepreneurs, business owners, and government leaders with their diaspora counterparts.

 

I truly hope that the dialogue that was initiated at the Summit will resonate far beyond the Summit, and serve as a catalyst for new debates, ideas, and solutions among Moroccan, regional, and international leaders, policy makers, and academics. The recently concluded Summit served as a culminating point for establishing a formalized network of stakeholders, to maintain and monitor cross-disciplinary partnerships initiated in Morocco and follow-up initiatives are underway in Morocco and abroad.

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