Two heads of State, some thirty African delegations, more than 2,000 economic operators … The 5th Africa Development Forum, held on March 17-18 in Casablanca, confirms a successful platform, initiated by the Attijariwafa bank group, which reinforces its positioning in Africa just like the Sherifian Kingdom which is accelerating its pan-African strategy and getting more ambitious. Far from being an end in itself, “returning home”, in other words, to the African Union, is only one step. What will be the following steps?
The Presidents of Burkina Faso, Roch Marc Christian Kaboré, and Guinea Alpha Condé – the current chairperson of the African Union behind the scenes – as well as ministers, representatives of public and private institutions from about 30 African countries, including Senegal, the Ivory Coast, Gabon, Benin, Rwanda – the only English-speaking country, and Burkina Faso – the guest of honor. And above all, more than 2,000 economic operators attended the forum. Undoubtedly, from year to year, the Africa Development Forum, held on March 17-18 in Casablanca at the instigation of the Attijariwafa banking group to establish synergies between the players in the African private sector, confirms its successful platform. The forum is viewed as a crucial business meeting in the agenda of the continent’s public and private leaders, at least, essentially in French-speaking Africa, where the bank has established branches, including in the Sherifian kingdom. Indeed, FIAD 2017 was held at a special moment for Morocco, which no one would have missed, and which was very implicitly expressed by the Attijari CEO, Mohamed El Kettani, in his opening speech.
The Forum is held “at a historic moment for the kingdom: the return to its family, the African Union, and its desire to become member of ECOWAS.”
“The meeting of the great African family, alluding to the FIAD, is taking place at a historic moment for the Kingdom: the return to its family, the African Union, and its desire to become member of ECOWAS under the enlightened leadership of its majesty, the king Mohamed VI. The tone of the event, with a more political connotation, is thus set. The head of State of Burkina Faso himself, Rock Kaboré, confirmed these words. “The return to its family will strengthen the currently-strong relationships between the Kingdom and other African countries.” These relationships, as stressed by the Moroccan Foreign Minister Salaheddine Mezouar, call for more ambitions for a ” blossoming and united Africa that believes in its capacities, an Africa capable of confirming its position and imposing itself in a pitilessly-changing world likely to crush the weakest”, in other words, a united and fraternal Africa, driven by Morocco which clearly shows its leadership ambitions.
A pan-African project in which Attijari plays a certain role
As the first investor in French-speaking African countries, now operating in English-speaking ones, the Kingdom is undoubtedly reinforcing its pan-African strategy. As a proof, the last visits of the King throughout the continent. As the VRP king has increased official visits to African countries in recent years to renew friendship relationships and economic partnerships through important contracts for the Moroccan champions – the largest companies in Morocco – the latter will never have been so numerous. Morocco, seriously embarked in South-South cooperation, confirms its growing positioning in Africa, at all levels, including the diplomatic, economic, cultural and even cultic areas. A pan-African project in which the Attijari Group, of which main shareholder is the National Investment Company (NIC), the royal holding and financial support for Moroccan ambitions in Africa, plays a crucial role.
The Africa Development Club: perpetuating the spirit of the forum
The Forum and since last year, the Africa development Club are in line with this. “At the fourth forum, we realized that expectations were not only more important but more demanding. So we decided to perpetuate the spirit of the forum through the Africa Development Club,” says Mouna Kadiri, in charge of the young institution. Concretely, launched in 2016 and still under the leadership of the SNI, the Club, which currently has 400 members, private companies and public institutions, operates on the same model as the Bank: Through its local branches, it establishes synergies between economic operators involved in market discoveries, sectorial missions, access to reliable information and tenders issued in 13 African countries, which goes far beyond the role of a banking institution and which will not fail to raise a few questions in the corridors of the Hyatt, the hotel hosting the event. “Strengthening South-South cooperation, federating energies, pooling expertise, are in our interest to all,” said the representative of an employers’ organization from Benin. But we are concerned in the fact that the mission is entrusted to a bank and not to an employers’ organization, though CGEM, the Moroccan employers’ association, is involved in the project, through its director, Myriam Bensalah, who was very active during the forum.
Ally or competitor?
More generally, questions are beginning to arise “about the deal Morocco is submitting to us,” said a West African banker … If it is a winning-winning partnership – as they claim that the more we are united, the stronger we will be to face the global challenges – the Kingdom should also play the card of reciprocity. To be more direct: Morocco should open its market. If tomorrow I want to set up a business in Morocco, it will be impossible because the law is extremely protective, while in my country, I am directly competed by Moroccan banks, including the Attijari group, both ally and competitor? It is not easy to perform such a role for both Moroccan group and the Kingdom…