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Moroccan official pitches investors at AMPA conference

by Sarah Alaoui

With the bleak headlines coming out of the Middle East and North Africa on an almost-daily basis, it’s no surprise that potential investors aren’t jumping headfirst at business opportunities in the region.

To allay these fears and highlight Morocco as a bright opportunity in an otherwise dark neighborhood, Aziz Rabbah, the country’s minister of equipment, transport and logistics, presented the keynote speech at this year’s Moroccan-American Bridges conference.

The all-day event, organized by the Association of Moroccan Professionals in America (AMPA), took place on Dec. 4 at the Washington Marriott Georgetown.

Aziz Rabbah, Morocco’s minister of equipment, transport and logistics, speaks Dec. 4 to the Association of Moroccan Professionals in America (AMPA) in Washington. Photos: Mogador Production

“Morocco, under the leadership of His Majesty King Mohammed VI, has embarked on a series of structural reforms, firmly placing the kingdom on the path to development and progress,” Rabbah said.

The conference, built around the theme of “Educating Business for the 21st Century,” featured a variety of panels on Moroccan investment opportunities in strategic sectors including education and entrepreneurship, energy, water and infrastructure.

One segment focused on the intersection of education and business, underlining the need to tailor educational curriculum to the needs of the marketplace, as well as showcasing U.S. and Moroccan universities, media companies and public-private partnerships.

Laura Lombard, president of the Middle East and North Africa Consultants Association, and Chaouki Zahzah, president of the Association of Moroccan Professionals in America.

Another panel shed light on the North African country’s efforts to enhance its commitment to an integrated energy plan including solar and wind power. The country has made sustainable development a key policy priority, and Marrakech will host the 22nd Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in November 2016.

Echoing the themes of the conference, Rabbah stressed the need to build and maintain effective links among education, entrepreneurship and empowerment. He also proposed the creation of a logistics free zone for U.S. companies in Morocco.

Kamal Tabine, professor of linguistics at George Mason University, and Said Temsamani, political analyst and former senior fellow at the Meridian International Center, attend the AMPA event.

“Morocco possesses all of the ingredients necessary to become a free zone thanks to its strategic geographic location and its stability, as well as the incentives, clear direction and transparency available to investors,” he said.

In the spirit of entrepreneurship, the Moroccan-American Bridges event also included a mini-exposition featuring Moroccan handicrafts and local products made by women’s cooperatives presented by the Association d’Enfant dans les Hautes Montagnes, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of rural mountain children.

Elisabeth Myers, founding principal of Myers Energy International and adjunct associate professor at American University’s Washington College of Law.

After the conference, AMPA unveiled its new Women’s Entrepreneurship Network, whose mission is to motivate Moroccan-American businesswomen to achieve their goals through social empowerment and educational support. On Jan. 14, the group will host a meetup event at which participants will share their business ideas and lessons learned.

“The conference is a confirmation of the long and strong ties that link Morocco and the United States,” said Loubna Kadiri, co-chair of the new network. “AMPA has worked for a long time through its ever-growing membership to bridge the gap between both countries, socially, economically and educationally.”

In a reflection of the historically close bilateral bond — Morocco was the first nation to recognize the United States in 1777 — some 85 Americans and Moroccans attended the event, including entrepreneurs, artists, students studying Arabic, and Peace Corps volunteers who had served in Morocco.

Sarah Alaoui is an occasional contributor to The Washington Diplomat.



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