Business Dialogue Algeria-Morocco: Webinar on Women’s Empowerment
On July 7, the EastWest Institute convened a webinar entitled “Women’s Empowerment and Entrepreneurship: Challenges and Opportunities,” in cooperation with its partner organizations, the German–Algerian and German–Moroccan Chambers of Industry and Commerce.
The webinar brought together four high-ranking female business leaders, two each from Algeria and Morocco, to take part in a cross-border business dialogue aiming to promote greater economic connectivity between the two countries. It marked the second event in a year-long project, which commenced with an initial conference early this year on “Food Security and Agriculture” in Berlin.
Funded by the German Foreign Office, the project seeks to promote a climate of trust by bringing pragmatic business professionals together to identify creative solutions for circumnavigating the closed border currently preventing the two countries from conducting greater cross-border trade.
During the two-hour discussion, participants highlighted the shared economic complementarity from which both countries could and should profit. A border closure since 1994 is the chief reason behind both countries’ inability to tap into this economic potential. All parties participating in the webinar argued the political standstill behind the installation of the closure is the primary trade complication that unnecessarily drives the business communities on either side of the border to export to third countries in Europe rather than with each other.
Even during these unprecedented times of the COVID-19 crisis, the political situation between Algiers and Rabat continues to prevent both countries from governing in more practical terms, as personified by the fact Moroccan-made face masks and other PPE are still mainly exported to Europe rather than across the border, despite a huge demand in Algeria.
A particularly noteworthy topic during the debate centered on female cooperatives and women’s business organizations, with participants noting these types of female associations are much more prevalent among rural women in Morocco than in Algeria. Participants from both countries agreed that a much more intense exchange between female-run cooperatives at this level would greatly benefit rural communities on either side of the border by providing employment, as well as special know-how and marketing for region-specific agricultural products. Furthermore, all parties identified trade fairs as a unique platform for entrepreneurs to work closer together and exchange ideas.
Finally, towards the end of the discussion, the German-Algeria Chamber of Commerce AHK, together with German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ), launched the creation of a business platform for the regional medical sector. This initiative is a first step in generating greater contact between business professionals from Algeria and Tunisia (with the hope of eventually incorporating Morocco) to exchange information, experiences and modes of best practice as a catalyst for greater cooperation and regional integration.
EWI’s Algeria-Morocco Business Dialogue is an ongoing project within its Middle East and North Africa program and its next conference is scheduled to take place in October this year either in Berlin or via video conference.