Washington DC, September 26, 2019 (CABNC) King Mohammed VI of Morocco has been looking south since 2010. Now, after almost a decade, there are facts to prove that African economies and its people are the better for it.
In January 2017, Morocco, led by the king, returned to the African Union (AU), after withdrawing in 1984. Morocco, however, was a principal founding member of the Organization of African Unity (now African Union).
Since his coronation in 1999, at the age of 36 when he succeeded his father, King Hassan II, King Mohammed VI has implemented a broad range of radical initiatives designed to improve the lives of Moroccans and strengthen the country’s relevance in Africa, part of which included the return to the AU.
Before that event, King Mohammed VI made personal trips to several African countries. For example, in 2015, King Mohammed VI visited Senegal, Guinea-Bissau, Cote d’Ivoire and Gabon in three weeks.
The Intelligence Unit of The Economist noted that the 2015 trip was “the king’s third visit to West and Central Africa in as many years. As on previous trips, the raft of the public- and private-sector agreements signed will help to strengthen political ties and create new inroads into the continent’s fast-growing economies. This diplomatic outreach is largely driven by economic concerns, as Morocco works to reduce its exposure to stagnant European markets, but the political implications are also significant.
“The ongoing Western Sahara dispute continues to be an obstacle to multilateral relations in Africa—Morocco withdrew from the Organisation of African Unity, the predecessor to the African Union, when the self-declared state claiming authority over Western Sahara, the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, was admitted in 1984. Therefore, the king’s regional tours provide a vital platform for Morocco to engage with its southern neighbours.”
Moreover, King Mohammed VI used the occasion of the 43rd anniversary of the Green March, a 1975 peaceful rally against Spain’s presence in Western Sahara, to reaffirm his attachment to Morocco’s African roots and to clarify matters concerning joining the AU and the Western Sahara quagmire.
He was quoted on the occasion thus: “Our return to the African Union was dictated by the pride we take in belonging to Africa, as well as by our commitment to sharing in the development dynamic it is witnessing and to contribute to tackling the various challenges facing the continent, without compromising our legitimate rights and best interests.”
Even as reclaiming Western Sahara remains of paramount importance to Moroccans, “the aim is to make sure the Moroccan Sahara can once again play its historical role as an effective link between Morocco and its sub-Saharan African roots, be it from the geographical or historical perspective,” the King said.
King Mohammed VI by this unequivocal statement made it clear that Morocco’s return to the AU was for no surreptitious motive of acquiring Western Sahara.
His statement that the return was born out of “a commitment to share in the development dynamic it is witnessing and to contribute to tackling the various challenges facing the continent” makes sense, as The Economist Intelligence Unit report notes that “Morocco has become a key economic partner for developing African countries in recent years, as firms in telecoms, banking, insurance, construction and mining have expanded into the region in search of faster growth.
“This has helped to boost turnover for firms in more established Moroccan markets—particularly banking and mobile telephony—but also provides access to investment capital and foreign expertise for developing economies.
“To this end, Moroccan authorities and private firms have signed several technical co‑operation agreements meant to strengthen local capacity in agriculture, healthcare and rural electrification.”
A policy paper published in February this year by Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, titled ‘Reassessing the Power of Regional Security Providers: The Case of Algeria and Morocco’, states that “Morocco’s combination of elements of soft and hard power to advance its regional aims effectively provides an interesting case study that offers a clear counterpoint to Algeria’s approach to exercising state power.” Algeria is supposed to be the regional power in the region of Africa where Morocco is.
Emphasising the economic impact of Morocco on African nations under the king’s leadership, the paper notes that “the world’s leading phosphate exporter, Morocco’s Office Cherifien des Phosphates (OCP), Maroc Telecom, Royal Air Maroc, real estate developer Addoha Group and Attijariwafa Bank are well-implanted in several African countries.”