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Ifrane Forum: A Philosophy and Not Just an Event

The Ifrane Forum in Morocco is a platform for exchange, reflection, and action on African trade and investment. Khadija Idrissi Janati, President of the Forum, discusses what to expect in the upcoming edition happening from 6-8 December with Hichem Ben Yaïche. What sets the Ifrane Forum apart from other forums in Morocco and what is its purpose? The Ifrane Forum, also known as the African Trade and Investment Summit, is more than just an event; it’s a philosophy. It aims to connect Africans to help them better understand each other, build trust, and work together more effectively. The Forum is designed for exchange, reflection, and action by Africa and for Africa, with a focus on contributing to the development of intra-African trade and investment. It prioritizes Africa’s private sector, particularly small businesses and SMEs, and aims to create discussions around these issues to emphasize the crucial role that operators play in the continent’s economy. The Forum has been successful in bringing together a network of SME managers, decision-makers, principals, and opinion leaders committed to a prosperous Africa over the past seven years through its various editions. How are guest speakers and issues addressed chosen? The Forum’s focus on action and impact guides the selection of participants and speakers. The platform is made available to individuals who share the Forum’s philosophy and mission. The program features speakers with enriching experiences embodying the intelligence, determination, and potential of Africans who demonstrate generosity and a strong sense of belonging to the continent. The Forum particularly highlights the careers and commitment of inspiring African women and men. The themes for the summit are chosen based on the challenges of the moment, keeping in mind the African Union’s Agenda 2063, and they aim to engage private sector operators and align with the forum’s ambition. Where do we stand today in regards to the emergence of economic Afro-Champions and the strengthening of the African Continental Free Trade Area? The African private sector plays a crucial role in the transformation of the continent, particularly with the establishment of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). The AfCFTA, which aims to boost intra-African trade and increase Africa’s income, has been signed by 53 out of 54 African countries and is expected to have a profound impact on the African economy. The implementation of the AfCFTA will provide substantial opportunities for African SMEs with access to an open market of nearly 1.3 billion people. The growth of intra-African collaboration has been witnessed in recent years, with increasing M&A deals and a growing awareness among African businesses regarding the potential of the African market. How does the Forum plan to contribute to the debate focusing on the AfCFTA and the role of the private sector in the new market? The forum’s program includes panels and workshops focusing on various sub-themes related to the AfCFTA and private sector’s role in this new market. These sessions are led by expert speakers to provide practical insights for the community to understand the AfCFTA and its implications. Field visits to Moroccan companies and networking sessions are also organized to share best practices and encourage discussions. The forum will also launch a new initiative aimed at providing high added-value to further contribute to reflection and proposals related to the AfCFTA and the private sector in Africa. How do you see the revival of Morocco’s approach towards Africa more than 15 years after initiating it? Morocco’s approach towards Africa, led by King Mohammed VI, has been focused on openness, collaboration, and co-development. The policy has led to numerous cooperation agreements and engagement with African countries, with a clear message of confidence in Africa. Observers believe that the work on the ground has continued, with Moroccan companies operating in various sectors in Africa and strengthening Moroccan FDI in the continent. The next stage is seen as an opportunity for Morocco to consolidate the presence of its companies through the creation of ecosystems and value chains, facilitated by the provisions of the AfCFTA. How should Morocco’s branding evolve in a world in crisis? The branding of Morocco should continue its focus on openness, collaboration, and co-development in the context of a world in crisis. The country’s continued engagement with Africa, combined with its proactive economic policies, will be essential in enhancing its image and strengthening its presence on the continent.

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