As Executive Director for Morocco, Tunisia and Togo, Mohamed Mahroug has his hands full. Morocco, his country, hosts this year’s AfDB annual meetings and it would not be the first time. Mahroug speaks on the preparations, the readiness of Marrakech, the beautiful tourist-friendly city where all the events will take place, and of course, how the Bank may serve the continent even better than it is now doing.
How prepared is Morocco to host the AfDB Annual Meetings?
It is not the first time Marrakech will be hosting a big event. We are really used to hosting big, important events, so we are well prepared.
This year, the Bank and the Government of Morocco have given the organisation to a professional events company for maximum efficiency. We are expecting about 4,000 people so it is important that we are fully prepared. It is important for the image of Morocco, the image of Marrakech and the Bank.
Why Marrakech and not Rabat, the capital or Casablanca, which is very popular?
Marrakech is a modern city. The most African city in Morocco is Marrakech. You will see it even in the colour of the people and it is more southernly than Rabat or Casablanca. It is a link between Europe and Africa. Most people prefer Marrakech to Casablanca which is a big, congested industrial city. Marrakech is built for such events, good for tourists and well planned. Everybody is welcome in Marrakech.
What do you think people want to know about the Bank’s operations?
People want to know how the Bank is helping countries with resources in these difficult times, with the Euro crisis coming after the global financial crisis.
The truth is that the AfDB is doing quite well as the results of last financial year shows. Many countries including Morocco are getting assistance even more than before.
What is your opinion on the Bank’s proposed return to Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire?
One of the most important discussions scheduled to take place in Marrakech would be the decision to return to Cote d’Ivoire. It is a very important decision which is already taken in principle. Marrakech will only serve as the venue for finalising the implementation procedure.
The theme of the meetings, ‘Structural Transformation in the framework of Inclusive Growth’, will also enable us to discuss how the Bank can help regional member countries to achieve it.
How much has Morocco benefitted from AfDB?
Morocco is the Bank’s biggest client, by far. At least 20 percent of the whole public portfolio of the Bank goes to Morocco. Morocco has hosted the meeting once before and this will be the second time. This shows how close our country and the Bank are.
Projects on roads, rail, water, power, and government reforms — the most important reforms implemented in Morocco — were backed by the Bank. So, we consider the Bank one of the country’s most important partners.
You are also Executive Director for Tunisia. How does Tunisia feel about losing the Bank which has been in Tunis for 10 years?
Incidentally, Tunisia is the second biggest client of the Bank after Morocco. If you add Tunisia to Morocco, you see that I am in charge of the Bank’s most important clients, consuming a big chunk of the institution’s resources.
Tunisia has always acknowledged that the Bank’s headquarters are in Abidjan. No problem there. Tunisia has also always had good relations with Cote d’Ivoire and they are happy to see that there is great improvement in that country in terms of political stability, security and so on. They have no problem with the return to Cote d’Ivoire. Like other countries, they are only concerned that all the conditions for return are met to enable the Bank to continue to function properly and to provide development assistance to member-countries.
In what areas do you want the Bank to improve its services to African countries?
I think the Bank should improve on how they are reinforcing capacities of the countries especially in fragile states which have a lot of problems. The countries need plenty of support in the area of administration. Many have broken systems and need to rebuild institutions. We can do more in this area.
Are you satisfied with the Bank’s recruitment policy and balance in the different nationalities?
There is some imbalance because you have many Tunisians, Ivoirians, Nigerians and West Africans generally. But this is understandable because if the headquarters were in Morocco, we probably would have many Moroccans. And for Nigeria, it is the biggest country in Africa with a huge population, so it is also understandable that it presents many candidates.
That said, I think there should be more diversification because there are many good people around Africa and the more the mix of people, the better the balance.
However, we should not sacrifice quality for balance. We should not pursue balance at the expense of competence. We must always give the best qualified people the chance to serve the Bank since we expect international standards and optimum efficiency. I advocate balance but not at the expense of quality.