Morocco's Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita defended Rabat's position as a gateway to Africa for the United States. In a speech to the 14th edition of the Africa-US Business Summit, Bourita boasted of the Kingdom's relations with both the African continent and Washington, and stressed that Morocco has placed "tripartite cooperation" at the heart of its common action with both partners, investing these ties in a "dynamic that promotes development" in Africa.
The Summit, held in Marrakech from 19-22 July under the patronage of King Mohammed VI, is an annual event promoted by the Corporate Council on Africa, an American association aimed at boosting business relations between the United States and the African continent. This edition, marked by an uncertain economic outlook and food crisis, dragged down by the pandemic and worsened by the war in Ukraine, had as its declared objective the promotion of public-private engagement to build stronger trade and financial ties between Africa and the United States, with the theme "Building Forward Together".
With plenary sessions, specialised panels, meetings with government representatives, high-level dialogues, networking and business advocacy, among other activities, the Summit aims to connect businesses, governments and agencies in sectors ranging from agriculture to finance, energy, health, infrastructure and security.
According to the Corporate Council on Africa, the meeting was attended by more than 400 government and business representatives, including the Vice President of the United States, Kamala Harris, the President of Botswana, Mokgweetsi Masisi, and the President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Akinwumi Adesina.
For Bourita, the holding of this event in the Kingdom demonstrates Morocco's strong ties with the rest of the African continent, as well as the maturity of the strategic partnership between Washington and Rabat, positioning the North African country as the key pivot in this triangular relationship. Here, the representative highlighted the opportunity that Africa represents as a source of human capital and natural resources, highlighting a gradually more structured and interconnected market thanks to the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), its regional groupings and economic growth of 6%.
"It is time for Africa to reap the benefits of its countless potential and dynamic youth, and to play its central and natural role on the international stage and in major global developments," he said. Bourita also stressed that in order to boost and achieve a strong African economy, it is necessary, on the one hand, to create an appropriate business climate and, on the other hand, to mobilise the continent's international partners, highlighting the role of the United States in making a qualitative contribution in this regard.
"Morocco, under the enlightened leadership of His Majesty King Mohammed VI, is proud to belong to its continent, Africa, and believes in its future," Bourita said, noting that Rabat was pursuing a "coherent and integrated policy towards our African brothers". In the past, the Kingdom played an active role in continental politics, being one of the founders of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in 1963. However, the entry of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic into the OAU in 1984 led Rabat to leave the organisation, disconnecting the Alawi kingdom from subsequent regional developments, including the re-founding of the OAU as the African Union in 2001.
But since his accession to the throne in 1999, Mohammed VI has sought to reinvigorate Morocco's ties with sub-Saharan Africa, although initially the Sahara issue poisoned its relations with several major countries in the region. In 2017, however, Rabat decoupled Western Sahara from the development of these ties, joining the AU and unleashing a rapid improvement in relations with the rest of the African states.
This momentum has resulted in a major development of the Kingdom's economic ties with the continent, as well as many diplomatic victories, including the recognition of the Moroccan status of Western Sahara and the opening of consulates in Dakhla in several African capitals.
This renewed continental positioning comes on top of the Kingdom's close relationship with the United States, with Rabat being its main partner in the Maghreb, particularly since the Abraham Accords of 2020, whereby Washington recognised the Moroccan status of Western Sahara and Morocco established diplomatic relations with Israel. Rabat now seeks to take advantage of this privileged position between Africa and the US to enhance its own role and include Washington in the continent's development.
The summit also featured other keynote speakers, such as Kamala Harris, who addressed the plenary via videoconference. "The goal of our administration is to promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth and development across the continent, expand capital flows and promote the vibrant spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation that prevails in Africa," said the vice president, who, to this end, defended the convenience of "public-private partnerships". Harris also announced the upcoming Africa-US Leaders' Summit on 13-15 December in Washington, D.C., which will bring together Joe Biden and his African counterparts.
Washington has repeatedly signalled its concern about China's expanding economic and business presence on the continent, and this forum offers an opportunity to increase US engagement with Africa. "We believe the United States offers a better model, but we are not asking our African partners to choose," a US official told Reuters.
Americas Coordinator: José Antonio Sierra.