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Second Millennium Challenge Compact with Morocco Gathers Steam

Initial Contracts Being Signed; Formal Approval Needed by Moroccan Chamber of Deputies

There is good news coming from Washington and Rabat as the second Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) compact with Morocco – valued in excess of $517 million ($450 US, $67.5 Morocco) — is taking off. The partnership between Morocco and the US that makes the MCC compact feasible is the result of years of collaboration across a range of projects funded by various US agencies. The mutual respect and trust engendered serves both as a model for other programs and a legacy of a friendship of shared values and interests in human, economic, and social development. The link to the compact site is http://compact2.cg.gov.ma , and the actual compact document is at https://assets.mcc.gov/documents/compact-morocco-employability-and-land.pdf

The process began in November with a “technical” signing that enables the release of funds for initial activities. The MCC press release notes that “Signature of the compact allows MCC and the GoM to begin the work necessary to ensure a successful and timely implementation of the program such as hiring staff and beginning key studies.  A larger, public ceremony to celebrate the commencement of compact activities is planned for spring 2016.”

With this “technical” signing, some $21.4 will million to be spent in the coming months to set up: financial management and procurement activities; basic administrative functions, including staffing, offices, equipment, and other items; finalizing monitoring and evaluation activities; hiring consultants for preparatory studies and activities; and other steps needed while awaiting final approval by the Chamber of Deputies.

In Morocco, the GoM will set up its MCC counterpart (in the office of the Head of Government); to establish its accounting and budgeting process; ensure that it “will not reduce the normal and expected resources that it would otherwise receive or budget from sources other than MCC for the activities contemplated under this Compact and the Program”; and continue to contribute its committed funding to existing programs that will be part of the compact.

 How the Process Works

Once Morocco was approved as a candidate for a second MCC grant, extensive consultations with stakeholders and a study by the African Development Bank identified weaknesses in workforce development and land management as obstacles to greater economic momentum. This resulted in a two-phase compact focusing on “Education and Training for Employability,” assigned $220 million; and $170.5 million allocated to “Land Productivity,” which concentrates on more effective management and investment practices for agricultural and industrial land. The rest of the grant is for monitoring and evaluation, program administration, in addition to contributions from the GoM.

Signing for the Moroccan side was the Head of Government, Abdelilah Benkirane, while Jonathan Bloom, Deputy Vice President, Africa, represented the MCC. It was attended by representatives of the seven Ministries, who, along with a private sector representative and two from civil society, will make up the Moroccan board of directors for the compact.

Once program areas are identified, “terms of reference” are developed to describe the goals of each program in sufficient detail that companies and organizations can submit comments – through “call for ideas” conferences –and eventually bid on services. The initial “call for ideas” conference results in public RFPs (Request for Proposal) in which competitive bids and project descriptions are submitted.

This process often results in new initiatives that had not been considered initially. One example is the Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) program to focus on support for new and existing public-private training centers, with companies taking the lead in the training and placement of trainees. The goal is to deeply involve the private sector in curriculum development, standards for qualifications, and eventual employment.

Land development is a much trickier proposition, as titling and management issues “inhibit access to and productive uses of rural and industrial land, thus diminishing investment and the consequent demand for labor.” “In rural areas, the project develops a faster, fairer, replicable process for moving the country’s collective irrigated land into the hands of smallholder farmers. In the industrial sector, the project develops a new model for industrial zone development” enabling the government to streamline how it brings industrial land to investors.

Overall estimated beneficiaries of the program are: more than 1.7 million graduates from improved and skills-centered secondary schools; 275,000 from the workforce development efforts; more than 80,000 farmers benefiting from improved rural land management; and some 96,000 benefiting from upgraded industrial land policies.

In addition, the MCC compact emphasizes sustainability across all sectors. Secondary Education “will pilot an Integrated School Improvement Model that will demonstrate how to achieve cost-effective, quality education, and a plan will be developed during the Compact for expansion of this model post-Compact. The Private Sector-Driven TVET grant facility is intended and designed to continue functioning after the Compact. GoM co-financing during the Compact will continue afterwards and enable the grant facility to continue.” Throughout the program, GoM and MCC “will collaborate to ensure that interventions aimed at mainstreaming social and gender inclusion will include mechanisms that promote sustainability beyond the Compact Term.”

There are many additional details available on the website, and more will emerge as future “call for ideas” conferences are announced. At this point, MCC is pleased with the enthusiasm and responses to the initial conferences from both Moroccan and US entities. Hopefully, the Chamber of Deputies will approve the overall compact in time for a formal signing in conjunction with the US-Morocco Strategic Dialogue in Rabat in April

Encouraging Private-Public-Partnerships for African Development

Africa50 Infrastructure Fund Sets its Mission

Casablanca Finance City (CFC) took another step forward in its goal to be the financial services hub for business in West, Central, and Atlantic Africa when the African Development Bank (AfDB) opened its Africa50 Fund headquarters in the CFC this week. The purpose of the Fund is to build private-public partnerships (PPPs) to finance national and regional infrastructure projects “to accelerate the continent’s development rate.” The concept crystallized in 2012 when African leaders “called for innovative solutions to facilitate and accelerate infrastructure delivery in Africa.” This led to a recommendation for a PPP Fund that would reflect the lessons learned in critical sectors including energy, transportation, and water, and pursue projects that are development-oriented and commercially operated. Key to the Fund’s ethos is that “operational decisions will be made by a management team selected solely on technical merit and demonstrated managerial competence.”

African50 Fund Operational at Casablanca Finance City

African50 Fund Operational at Casablanca Finance City

Africa50 has two business areas – project development and project finance. The project development arm aims to increase the number of bankable infrastructure projects through substantial increases in early-stage project development activities working in tandem with highly skilled development experts. Project finance focuses on developing and launching investment vehicles needed to attract additional infrastructure financing.

The Fund’s goal is to shorten the time “between project idea and financial close from a current average of 7 years to under 3 years, thereby delivering a critical mass of infrastructure in Africa in the short-to-medium term.” The investors/shareholders are African countries, the AfDB and other development financiers, African diaspora and high net worth individuals, and institutional investors, including pension and sovereign wealth funds.

What’s at Stake

In an AllAfrica.com interview on the Africa50 Fund, AfDB president Donald Kaberuka pointed out that Africa currently only has about half of the $92 billion needed annually for infrastructure. “We have to build a vehicle with an equity base based on Africa’s own pools of savings. And on those bases we go into the market to raise money.” Tas Anvaripour, Africa50 director, believes that eventually, “Africa50 will be able to finance infrastructure projects across the continent with an estimated value of more than $100 billion.” This is not beyond reach, Ms. Anvaripour indicated, pointing out that AfDB “during the past six years, has financed 49 infrastructure projects totaling more than $30 billion.”

RAM1The Africa50 Fund’s presence in CFC validates Morocco’s key role in African development and furthers the extensive business and financial services that its banks already provide in the region. With its emphasis on building PPPs for infrastructure projects, the Fund has a ready partner in Morocco, which has financed the bulk of its energy development through PPPs. Morocco’s consistent efforts to improve its economy and business climate make it a natural fit for the new Fund.

Reports to Results: Dealing With Youth Unemployment in Africa

http://www.fairobserver.com/region/africa/reports-to-results-dealing-with-youth-unemployment-in-africa-57014/

How should Africa deal with millions of young people entering the job market each year?

With more than 290 million people between the ages of 10-24, Africa is the youngest continent in the world. Youths constitute about 60% of Africa’s entire population, yet their participation in the formal economy is greatly limited. “Although the youth population constitutes two-fifths of the continent’s working-age population, they make up three-fifths of the unemployed,” according to Foresight Africa. In 2011, 82% of African workers were working poor, more than twice the world average. In southern Africa, 51% of young women and 43% of young men are unemployed.

Youth Unemployment in Africa

Three major factors coalesced to garner this attention. First, the people factor: Demographics of growing young populations are forcing policymakers to address employment issues that will not be solved by public sector hiring. Second, people are more educated, yet they find fewer opportunities due to the mismatch between education and available and prospective jobs — supply does not even approach demand. Finally, governments are generally ill-equipped in terms of expertise or management, or both, to address employment issues when it means upsetting those who control much of the economic activity of a country.

The future of Africa needs action now

The future of Africa needs action now

These trends occur within a shifting global marketplace dominated by spiking commodity demands, increased competition in semi-skilled production and technologies, and great pressure for opening up the labor force through higher private sector investment. Although sub-Saharan Africa faces similar problems as the rest of Africa and many emerging economies, others are unique to the continent, such as the potential superstar role of the agricultural sector.

While the overall macroeconomic indicators are up and generating optimism, this is based on the continued expansion of African economies, largely due to exploitation of commodities and expansion of telecommunications infrastructure. Yet the picture is far bleaker, if factoring in actual improvements in the quality of life of most Africans.

According to a McKinsey update on the continent:

Africa is harnessing its natural wealth, and … sectors across the economy are growing rapidly. These sectors include agriculture, manufacturing, and local services such as retail, banking, and transportation and communications, in addition to the natural resources sector, which was the largest single contributor to growth … Income inequality, however, remains unacceptably high and is falling in only about half of Africa’s countries; hundreds of millions remain trapped in poverty. Africa’s growth needs to be inclusive if it is to improve human welfare and ensure increasing social and political stability.”

People are more educated, yet they find fewer opportunities due to the mismatch between education and available and prospective jobs — supply does not even approach demand.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) reflects this theme of inclusive growth in a number of its publications, and calls for “job-rich growth” that does not ignore the youth, women and unskilled in terms of economic opportunities. “High levels of youth unemployment, poor structural and labour market transformation call for more employment-friendly policies to promote a job-rich growth in Africa’s development strategy.” Its Global Employment Trends 2014 report stated:

“Employment growth remains weak, unemployment continues to rise, especially among young people, and large numbers of discouraged potential workers are still outside the labour market … As a result, the demographic change characterised by a growing young population is considered to be a burden on the economy rather than an asset due [to] the scarce job opportunities in the region and [the] necessary conditions required to absorb and employ this growing young population [that] are absent.”

Less than 14% of the working-age population is in paid employment, which limits the growth of a consuming middle-class. When combined with the low contributions of manufacturing and agriculture to national gross domestic products (GDP), this challenging outlook calls for proactive partnerships among stakeholders to advance the employment landscape.

Africa’s Unique Opportunities

There are at least six major targets in improving youth employment in sub-Saharan Africa:

1) Relevant and widespread education and training at all levels

2) An integrated ecosystem to support entrepreneurs, including financing, mentoring/training, access to markets, protective and supportive regulatory regime, and available infrastructure

3) Pro-business policies by governments, so investments in infrastructure, services, commercial law and related regulations are timely and transparent

4) Sustainable programs built around competitive advantages and cultural acceptance

5) A stable political environment that does not exclude new entrants or restrict sectors based on existing power relationships

6) A mindset about labor that values work as a path to a career and provides the means to acquire additional skills to progress

All eyes on agriculture in Africa

All eyes on agriculture in Africa

The African Development Bank (AfDB), among others, is very active in building programs that target many of these concerns. In a series of papers, it has tracked programs aimed at building youth employment in sub-Saharan Africa that provide important models for member countries. There are several variations, for example, of entrepreneur promotion efforts that address financing, training and mentoring issues, but lack sufficient scale to generate the number of jobs needed to dent the growing employment deficit.

One theme focused on by the AfDB, and others, is the importance of reviving and building the competitiveness of the agricultural sector. Nowhere in the world is there as much underutilized arable land as in Africa. Significantly, the least skilled and literate populations are in the rural areas. With the ever increasing demand for food, experts believe the agricultural sector offers benefits to feed locals and supply overseas demand.

Shantayanan Devarajan, chief economist for the World Bank’s Africa Region, articulated this need for understanding the roles of the formal and informal labor forces: “The challenge of youth employment in Africa, therefore, is not just to create more wage and salary jobs — important as this may be — but to increase the productivity, and hence earnings of the majority of young people who will be employed in informal farms and household enterprises.” He emphasized that:

“…because most Africans will work in informal farms and household enterprises, the challenge of increasing their productivity needs to be met by first, increasing their basic skills, which they can then take with them when they move to the new enterprises; and second, creating jobs in the formal sector by improving the economy’s competitiveness, so that this sector can absorb more qualified workers into a productive workforce.”

According to Busani Bafana, writing for Africa Renewal: “Despite the negative perceptions, the agricultural sector employs as much as 60% of Africa’s labour force … and accounts for only 25% of the continent’s gross domestic product (GDP).” He cites experts who see agriculture as an important engine of growth, if the government and private sector act together to build the supply chain and distribution infrastructure that will turn today’s deficits into jobs and income. As importantly, it is a sector that can absorb large numbers of youth and women in productive jobs.

Turning Good Intentions into Results

The broad consensus among the private sector, international donor community and host governments about the need to aggressively pursue youth employment policies is an opportunity. Such an initiative could scale-up existing effective programs and help absorb the 10-12 million annual new entrants to the job market in sub-Saharan Africa. By implementing a broad strategy that incorporates rural as well as more traditional manufacturing options, utilizing technology across all sectors to improve productivity, and including women and youth in employment programs that increase their skills and employability, Africa has a viable and realistic opportunity to diminish its employment deficit and build a strong middle-class.

Moreover, if the countries of sub-Saharan Africa can understand the regional and local benefits that can be obtained from labor mobility, resource sharing, better distribution and power infrastructure, and streamlined business procedures, the task of generating worthwhile jobs becomes less onerous and reflects the deep commitment needed to propel Africa forward.

Sura Nualpradid / Shutterstock.com

New Reports on Africa Highlight Areas of Opportunity and Obstacles to Growth

Ahead of US-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, DC, August 5-6, Overall Picture Promising, Yet Challenges Continue

Several recent publications have put the challenging road to prosperity for Africa center stage. The most thorough assessment is in the 2014 Economic Outlook published by the African Development Bank (AfDB). It is comprehensive, covering all 54 African countries.

Every year, the publication revolves around a central theme. This year’s “Global Value Chains and Africa’s Industrialization” takes a hard look at how African economies need to move beyond exports of commodities and marginal agricultural and industrial sectors to meet growth targets. The report combines the overall theme with local data, sifting it through reports by multinational organizations and analysts to move beyond rhetoric to realism. Recommendations include praise for what has been done, and also what will accelerate progress towards each country’s largely self-defined goals.

Invest in Africa report 2014

AU – Invest in Africa 2014

Another publication is “Invest in Africa 2014,” supported by the African Union but published independently by News Desk Media. Unfortunately, Morocco is not a member of the AU; thus the report is missing data and narrative from the second largest investor in Africa. Also absent is an in-depth look at cross-border investment opportunities.

The AU report was previewed in a program at the US Chamber this week with remarks from the AU, US officials, and African Ambassadors to the US. Comments during the panel “Opportunities across the Continent” were striking in their similarity: From infrastructure and renewable energy to value-added agriculture and resource management, the key priorities were consistent from north to south, east to west.

In introducing the program, Ambassador Don Gips, who co-chairs the Africa Business Initiative at the Chamber, focused on the upcoming US-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, DC August 5-6, which will include separate private-sector elements: a Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) meeting and a CEOs Forum. He said that the US goal is to increase US interest and investment in Africa. Yet, as a commentary issued by Brookings Institution pointed out, there are many challenges to a successful summit, especially the need for the African leaders to come with a unified, coherent agenda.

What Africa Needs and Wants

Peter Barlerin, Acting US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State highlighted several positive indicators for Africa, including its rapid growth rate and young human resources. He also noted challenges, such as dealing with jobs and youth employment within an inclusive growth strategy. Mr. Barlerin emphasized the critical importance of involving the private sector and taking advantage of Africa’s resources in agriculture.

Regarding negative perceptions of the continent, Olajobi Makinwa, Head of Transparency & Anti-Corruption Initiatives at the UN Global Compact, pointed out that government and stakeholders must confront gender and youth issues. She characterized government transparency regimes as “some good, some are bad, getting worse.” Ms. Makinwa said collaboration among public and private sectors and civil society is needed to support human rights and accountability.

Ambassador Girma Birru of Ethiopia began the conversation on investment opportunities, mentioning agriculture and food industries followed by infrastructure, including power and railways, and value-added manufacturing. Ambassador Steve Matenje of Malawi spoke about factoring in climate change in assessing the agriculture sector — gauging its effect on crop varieties and water management. Matenje also noted related opportunities in livestock and fisheries. Power and, especially, transportation linkages in roads, rail, and aviation are on his infrastructure list. Ambassador Matenje highlighted the importance of attracting young people to the huge potential in agriculture and paying close attention to gender inclusion.

Obama Speaks about Upcoming US-African Leaders Meeting

African Leaders to meet in US August 5-6, 2014

Ambassador Bockari Stevens of Sierra Leone repeated the need for transportation links among the countries in West Africa, along with added-value mining, attention to fisheries and airport management to meet growing demands, and opening new efforts in promoting financial services. Ambassador Daouda Diabaté of Côte d’Ivoire, chair of the African Ambassadors in the US, concluded the panel with comments related to the importance of peace and security for enabling economic growth, and the priority that West Africa is placing on highway linkages and greater economic integration. He restated the importance of utilizing the vast arable land resources of Africa to end the dichotomy of the co-existence of farmland and famine.
The Case for Morocco

Although the AU report does not include Morocco, the country’s economic progress is much more than a footnote to Africa’s development profile. While Morocco continues to work hard to meet its own Millennium Development Goals, its prognosis is largely positive, according to the AfDB report. “Overall, Morocco’s performance has been encouraging and benefited from a context of political and social stability.”

Morocco’s strongest asset for investors is that it is stable, has a reputable and functioning business infrastructure, and very good relations throughout the western half of Africa. On the macro-level, swings in Morocco’s GDP have been more a function of the disproportionate impact of poor harvests on the economy than systemic issues. And Morocco is moving to “spread the risks” by attracting greater investments in manufacturing, tourism, and service industries for a more balanced economy.

Morocco is also working to improve government efficiency and its effectiveness in attracting high value investments to generate high value jobs. Its trade balance continues to benefit from increases in exports of high-value products, although traditional sectors such as textiles suffer from poor consumer demand from Europe. Most importantly, based on the government’s agenda, Morocco knows where it needs to go. “Improvements to the support system for the private sector are needed and must still be implemented, in particular for land management, training, financing (especially for SMEs), and removal of bureaucratic red tape, as well as in the fight against corruption.” Recent initiatives such as the constitutionally mandated Economic, Social, and Environmental Council (CESE); Council on Higher Education, Training and Scientific Research; and the Competitiveness Council, made up of stakeholders, specialists, and government, underscore Morocco’s commitment to do it right.

Companies turning to Morocco to do business in Africa

Morocco is cited for strong business environment

The AfDB report is not the only external source to recognize Morocco’s continued progress as a home for global business. The Heritage Foundation’s 2013 Index of Economic Freedom report place Morocco ahead of Thailand, Indonesia, Russia, and Luxembourg based on the steps it has taken to date. Much more is expected of Morocco, and all indications are that it is ready to deliver a first-class business relationship, both as a destination for investment and as a hub for the region as a whole.

US plan to Power Africa can benefit from Morocco’s renewable energy

On his recent trip to Africa, President Barack Obama announced his Power Africa initiative to spend $7 billion over 5 years to fund an electricity program in sub-Saharan Africa that includes geothermal, hydro, wind, and solar power.

Critics have attacked the plan from all directions: it is too small and doesn’t involve a long-term commitment; it doesn’t give enough attention to solar power; it doesn’t deal with distribution issues; and it doesn’t bring enough focus on cleaning up conditions that keep the global private power industry wary of investing in Africa—“poorly enforced property rights, corruption, and patchy enforcement of the rule of law.”

Yet no one denies the need as nearly 590 million people lack access to power in sub-Saharan Africa. Ironically, “indoor air pollution from wood stoves now kills 3.5 million people per year, more than AIDS and malaria combined.” In some cases, US regulations will have to be changed to support the project because some environmental rules restrict OPIC funding for projects that emit greenhouse gases. And due to the rural locations of many of those in need, renewable power, according to the International Energy Agency, “could be the most cost-effective option for expanding energy access in about 70 percent of rural areas in developing countries.” One solution already provided by the US company SKYei, is the installation of mini-grids powered by a hybrid of solar and gas that are inexpensive and well suited to rural areas. So far, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, and Tanzania have signed up for the first round of projects. Andrew Mayock of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) believes that the initial fund of $7 billion, which has already attracted an additional $9 billion in commitments from private sector investors, could grow to $30 billion in energy infrastructure investments annually.

Morocco and WAPP – where the roadmap is already en route

While Power Africa moves forward, there are burgeoning opportunities across the continent in central and west Africa. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), through its West Africa Power Pool (WAPP), has made regional power grid access a priority for the next decade. WAPP intends to integrate the various national power systems “into a unified regional electricity market – with the expectation that such mechanism would, over the medium to long-term, assure the citizens of ECOWAS Member States a stable and reliable electricity supply at affordable costs…facilitating the balanced development of diverse energy resources…for their collective economic benefit, through long term energy sector cooperation, unimpeded energy transit and increasing cross-border electricity trade.”

It should come as no surprise that Morocco is a significant player in WAPP through its close ties to ECOWAS and revived leadership of The Community of Sahel-Saharan States (CEN-SAD). More importantly, Morocco is a strong partner for energy development due to its dominant role in Africa in investing in renewable energies; its success in bringing electricity to 98% of its rural areas; and the logistical ties that exist between Morocco and the countries in Central and West Africa.

As this illustration from the African Development Bank indicates, trends in energy consumption and production favor a strong regional grid between Morocco and its neighbors to the south. Given the expanding utilization of its national resources for local projects, the region is collectively demanding more efficient and productive investment in all types of infrastructure. With this strong commitment to economic and human development, more reliable energy supplies are a core requirement. Reliable energy is an enabler and multiplier of opportunities across many sectors and is a key driver in attracting foreign direct investment, creating jobs and enhancing stability.

”The development of Africa’s electrical power sector is a prerequisite for growth in other industries. A regular, consistent power supply will do much to attract foreign investment and entice international companies to establish operations in Africa…Power sharing has become more prevalent in the African electrical power context in recent years…[as] neighboring countries have seen benefit on the sharing of electricity…countries with limited or unreliable power generation capacity will now have access to power, without the intensive capital investment required to construct new facilities.”

Despite the fading demand from the European leg of the Desertec project, which linked renewable energy from the Maghreb to European customers, it is now obvious that, given projected high growth for sub-Saharan Africa, Morocco’s strategic investments in renewable energies and extension of its power grid southward will provide a critical backbone for regional power distribution. Given the already extensive inputs in power generation and distribution in West and Central Africa, the US should consider broadening its Power Africa program in partnership with Morocco to accelerate the delivery of sustainable energy along the north-south power corridor in the region.

Morocco in a rising Africa: Expand opportunities, extend friendships

Last week, the annual meetings of the African Development Bank (AfDB) were held in Marrakech, Morocco under the theme “The Structural Transformation of Africa.” It has been 29 years since Morocco last hosted the meeting and the event and its location demonstrate how few divides now exist between north and sub-Saharan Africa.

In the past, policy analysts and companies treated North Africa as part of the Middle East; to many, Africa began at South Africa, and extended upwards to Nigeria and Kenya, encompassing the largely English-speaking areas of the continent.

While that is still the dominant perspective, leaders in the Maghreb have increasingly forged closer and more robust economic, commercial, and political ties with their counterparts in central and West Africa.

Some of these efforts were clearly political, as with Gaddafi’s investments throughout the continent. Other ties have grown out of the need to have common efforts against smugglers, militants, terrorists, and extremists who populate the poorly guarded territories along common borders. The bottom line is that building long-term south-south relations is now a permanent feature of intra-African affairs.

In his message to the annual meetings, King Mohammed VI of Morocco emphasized that Africa’s human capacity and natural resources are great assets in the economic and social development that is occurring. He also noted that “we must root out the causes of national and regional conflicts so that peace may prevail throughout Africa.”

The King called for “major projects at the level of sub-regional groupings, and to insure the sustainability and optimal management of our resources, for the mutual benefit of our populations.” In outlining his vision, the King calls for Africans to take the leadership in the development of their countries without becoming dependent on foreign entities.

King Mohammed VI also spoke to the need “to ensure food security for all our African peoples and to reduce our dependence…through the creation of a common African agricultural market. Finally, we should promote support and assistance programs to reduce social and spatial inequalities and ensure inclusive, shared growth.”

These challenges echo themes of conferences held earlier this year in Morocco on south-south dynamics, most recently the 8th Morocco International Exhibition of Agriculture in Meknes, where attendees discussed topics related to regional markets, food security, and innovations in agriculture.

Yet the AfDB’s mission is built around the capabilities of its 79 members (54 African, 25 non-African) to not only grow their GDPs but put into practice the means of further reducing poverty, inequality, and discrimination. Despite a doubling of GDP since 2000, great disparities remain and there is an over-reliance on FDI to drive growth that is often uneven among and within countries.

As reported in the final communiqué of the meetings, there is a need to use the current UN discussions on revising the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) to set realistic goals regarding the inclusion of youth, women, and other vulnerable groups.

The final AfDB statement included a strong emphasis on committing higher levels of investment in human and infrastructure development, promoting strategies that accelerate economic growth including support to small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs), improving human capacity and skills development especially for youth, and renewed efforts to build efficient regional markets through joint public-private investments.

In his remarks at the closing session, Nizar Baraka, who was named “Minister of Finance of the Year” in Africa, pointed out that a key outcome of the meetings was to review, evaluate, and discuss AfDB’s activities to better develop strategies to mobilize financial resources for the structural transformation of Africa so as to better serve the African people and “meet their expectations for a dignified life, social mobility, and job opportunities.”

Morocco garnered additional awards including Best Bank of North Africa to Attijariwafa Bank and Best Development Financing Institution to Credit Agricole, which was cited for “working hard…to build a model of sustainable and efficient financing for development in rural areas, with good management practices.”

These institutions and their counterparts throughout Africa are key players in the fact that 13 of the 20 fastest growing countries in the world in 2012 are in Africa. In its third annual financial review, the AfDB noted that regional economic integration is the “key factor” for African producers to develop regional value chains, to achieve economies of scale, and become competitive internationally.

And for AfDB, the private sector is the main engine of growth and poverty alleviation, providing 90% of the jobs, two-thirds of the investments, and 70% of the earnings growth on the continent.

Morocco and the rest of the Maghreb will gain mutual benefits from a heightened involvement in Africa, one that shares a common vision for dynamic human and economic growth.