KARIM El Aynaoui, managing director, OCP Policy Center, OCPPC, a think tank based in Rabat, Morocco, also serves as advisor to the chairman of OCP Group, a global leader in the phosphate sector. Also the dean of the Faculty of Economics and Social Sciences of the Mohammed VI Polytechnic University, Aynaoui from 2005 to 2012, worked at Bank Al-Maghrib, the Central Bank of Morocco. He was the director of Economics and International Relations, where he provided strategic leadership in defining and supporting monetary policy analysis and strategy. He was also in charge of the Statistical and International Relations Divisions of the Central Bank; led the research division and was a member of the governor’s cabinet. Before joining Bank Al-Maghrib, he worked for eight years at the World Bank, both in its Middle Eastern and North Africa, and Africa regions as an economist. He has published papers, books and articles in scientific journals on macroeconomic issues in developing countries. Recently, he co-authored a book outlining a growth strategy for Morocco and was the guest editor of a special issue on food price volatility in Oxford Economic Papers. Aynaoui is a board member of the OCP Foundation, a member of the strategic advisory board of the French Institute of International Relations, IFRI, and a member of the COP22 Scientific Committee. He also participates in the Malabo-Montpellier Panel. Aynaoui, who holds a PhD in economics from the University of Bordeaux, where he taught for three years courses in statistics and economics, speaks exclusively with Maureen Chigbo, editor, Realnews, on the margins of the Atlantic Dialogues conference organized by OCPPC from December 13 to 15, in Marrakech, Morocco. He provides a perspective on rebalancing transatlantic relations between North and South, and between generations (old and emerging leaders) in the interest of global economics, security and human development, and also on why migration crisis should not be the worries of Europe alone. Excerpts
Realnews: What is the Atlantic Dialogues all about?
Aynaoui: This is the 6th edition of the Atlantic Dialogues and what we have achieved is to build a community of the wider Atlantic which is to have a larger broader perception of the traditional transatlantic relations which is mainly Europe and United States, US, to move it down south and integrate Africa and of course, Latin America. And there are two things we are very keen on pushing which is this rebalancing between North and South and making the Atlantic Dialogues the platform where the North meets the South to discuss issues of common interest both economics, security and human development. The second objective in terms of rebalancing is to rebalance between generations. Also that is why we have 80 emerging leaders here at the Atlantic. There are 50 new emerging leaders for this year. Of course, we have been doing this for the past five years. We have 250 of those. But this year we invited 20 of the Alumni and 10 others from various networks. So that’s 80 out of 350 participants. We are not just doing it in terms of the topics we cover but in terms of the people we have here. And I think what is important for African and advanced economies is what space you want to give to the next generation. We are seeing political developments and demands from societies both in the North and in the South that are demanding more space for this young generation.
Realnews: Over the years have you achieved your objective?
Aynaoui: I think we have achieved the objective of building a community because after five years we have about 350 people. We try always to renew. We have core group that stays which is 40 percent of the participants and every year we add. Also, we have been able to organize small versions of the Atlantic Dialogues in Brazil, in Africa, in Senegal particularly. And really I think we need to continue and this is important particularly to have Latin America and Africa in this discussion.
Realnews: What you are trying to do essentially is to bridge the gap between the North and the South. Have you done that effectively?
Aynaoui: Well, we have started the process. I think we have been achieving some results. But this has to continue as you can witness from the discussion, there are issues to cover between Africa and Europe like the dialogue on migration. We have published a piece in the report that we issue every time before the Atlantic Dialogues. We have to change the narrative on Africa on the migration. It cannot only be the worries of Europe because 80 of the migrants actually move within Africa. It’s only 10 or 12 percent that are moving to Europe. So you have to go beyond the security approach to migration.
Realnews: Do you think Europe is making a lot of noise about migration given the fact of the statistics showing 80 percent of migration is within Africa?
Aynaoui: It is internal political debate in Europe but the facts are the ones that I told you. It is how you position the dialogue between Europe and Africa. It cannot be only that and given the demographics in Europe, it’s clear that they have to be more open to migration.
Realnews: Part of the fall out of the discussion at the Atlantic Dialogues 2017 is that Africa is lamenting too much about who is responsible for its backwardness instead of holding its fate in her hands and matching forward. Do you agree with all the lamentation that Europe is the cause of Africa’s problems?
Aynaoui: I don’t necessarily agree. This is not necessarily what I got out of the discussion yesterday. Of course, you have this dynamic which is saying it is the others but also that could be politicians that are trying to divert attention from their own lack of result. But everybody knows that you have to do your own homework and engage with others knowing what you want to do. That’s another thing we are trying to do here in the Atlantic dialogues. It means that we have to be serious. We have good policy – take care of education, service delivery, infrastructure for the population, inclusive growth, jobs etc – These are internal agendas, growth strategies of countries. If you are strong and know what you want. And I think a few countries in Africa know what the want. Ethiopia appeared yesterday as one of countries that know what they want. Morocco is another one and then your engagement with the rest of the world within this framework which is what we are trying to achieve in this particular one and then diversifying your partners. That’s what we are trying to achieve here. Latin American is not our natural sort of partner, but we have countries in Latin America with strong interest in Africa
Realnews: Leadership is another issue raised here. We have been having leadership crisis in Africa. Do you think this dialogue here can help us overcome this malaise?
Aynaoui: It goes back to what I mentioned earlier about rebalancing within generations. I think it is also an intergenerational issue. It is the role of countries to clear the space for this to happen. Given the structure of the demographics as it is today in Africa, this has to be accelerated and you have to address the needs of youth. If you don’t do that you have problems domestically.
Realnews: Youth unemployment has been described as a time bomb in Africa. How will the discussion here help in the formulation policies that can assist African leaders to eliminate youth unemployment?
Aynaoui: We have 50 think tanks participating in the Atlantic Dialogues. As a think tank we are trying to do policy research, facts based analysis to suggest policies that can create jobs and address this issue. Of course, this is what keeps all policy makers awake at night. And so in a conference like this we are not ministers but we have ministers here. But they can listen. I think this is an opportunity. Let’s not underestimate the necessity to have good analytical research work on policies and to have many dynamic public policies in this area constantly testing, evaluating, correcting and moving forward and I think this is what we need from our policy makers. They need to test more, evaluate more; they need to correct more. It has to be faster, the improvement cycle of policy making, because these are complex policy issues.
Realnews: The conference also touched on agriculture which employs about 70 of the people in the continent. Do you think African governments are running agriculture the right way?
Aynaoui: Some countries are doing okay. We have heard about some success stories like rice in Nigeria and others. I think we need to do more. And particularly now a lot of progress has been achieved in science and technology which was deployed in other countries in the agriculture sector such as Brazil. We have people from OMBRAPA which is at the heart of the big success of Brazilian agriculture revolution in terms of extension services and diffusion of science and technology in agriculture. Why this is not flowing massively in Africa is of importance to transform farming in Africa. How can you be at the cutting edge of techniques that have been developed elsewhere? This is also what we have been trying to achieve here as a think tank to do some success connection with the private sector. For instance, Brazilians, in one of our conference, have done projects with Cote d’ Ivoire in transforming cocoa beans.
Realnews: Another thing that came out of this conference is changing the narrative in the way Africa is reported. As a think tank what do you think the media can do to change the narrative?
Aynaoui: It is a very important dimension. Africa should own its own narrative. Today, Africa is in bad shape. Africa is in good shape. Africa is declining and so on and so forth. This is where think tanks can play an important role and the media as well. But we just have to go beyond superficial analysis, generalizing. We have to look at specifics. It is very important dimension.
Realnews: In the bid to change the narrative have your organization as a think tank done some research on how the online media can be can be used to achieve this?
Aynaoui: I think they are the new media. But I think the main stream media cater for a specific people with a lot of influence in the media space in the world. But the social networks, Online media have fundamental role to play and I think they should get closer to universities, think tanks that do fact based analysis. I think it is with the facts that we can have a good understanding and be able to change the narrative and for the heads of states and government to take it from that point of view.
Realnews: Is there any other information you will like to give about the OCP Policy Center and the Atlantic Dialogues?
Aynaoui: We will continue and we will multiply smaller events between the two annual meetings that we have here. So we will do more in Nigeria. We hope we can do something in Nigeria particularly with Oby Ezekwesili we are in discussion to deepen the discussion between the OCP Policy Center and the Nigerian think tanks.
Realnews: How is the discussion here going to drive the bid by Morocco to move into ECOWAS?
Aynaoui: Well, that you should ask the government.
Realnews: As a think tank of the government…
Aynaoui: We try to explain the facts. We will soon be publishing the study on trade intergration and the impact of inclusion of Morocco in ECOWAS. We have not published it yet. The analytically work has to be done before.
– Dec. 20, 2017 @ 8:20 GMT |