Morocco's King, King Mohammed VI, timely trip to West Africa has been by all accounts a success. His economic, political and religious activities during his stops in Gabon, Senegal and Cote D’Ivoire gave the Moroccan diplomacy a much needed boost in Africa and expanded the economic presence of Moroccan businesses in the region. In fact, despite Morocco’s absence from the African Union, the Moroccan-African relationships never ceased to develop and extend.
The king’s visit to sub-Saharan Africa came at a time when Africa is facing political and security crises in some regions and enjoying economic growth in others. With assistance and encouragement from the Moroccan government, the Moroccan business community has started important and crucial ventures in several African nations.
The most impressive aspect of these investments remains the Moroccan private sector’s leadership role in initiating significant” infrastructure projects” in “poor” African countries long before the business world discovered the economic potential of the African continent. Even though Morocco faces several challenges typical of an economy in the way of development, Morocco-Africa ties in the spirit of South-South cooperation face unprecedented opportunities for development.
Morocco has been a champion of a south-south. Since the early Eighties, Moroccan companies initiated joint ventures in Mauritania, Senegal, Cote D’Ivoire, Mali and Guinea Bissau. The presence of Moroccan companies and expertise promotes the development of local economy and expand Morocco’s political and diplomatic reach in the African continent.
The Moroccan Monarch has encouraged the deployments of engineers’ graduates of Moroccan engineering schools to assist in development projects in the fields of agriculture, water management, rural electrification and telecommunications throughout sub-Saharan Africa. The people of Senegal, Cote D’Ivoire and Gabon reserved a warm and popular reception for Mohammed VI to manifest their appreciations and thanks for Morocco’s help and assistance.
Morocco’s strategy of using economic cooperation to advance political agenda seems to be paying dividends to the Moroccan diplomacy. In the aftermath of the Kings meetings with his African hosts, Senegal, Cote D’Ivoire and Gabon reaffirmed their support of Morocco’s Local Autonomy Plan for the Western Sahara.
The raging war in Mali clearly remains a source of concern to the Moroccan King and his African counterparts. With the ever expanding presence of extremists in West Africa, King Mohammed VI religious activities had a particular significance. The Moroccan Sovereign audiences with leaders of local religious organizations and tribal leaders from both the Muslim and Christian communities was a display and an avowal of Morocco’s historic and deep religious links that tie West African Muslims to the Moroccan Malikite rite.
King Mohammed VI’s visit to Africa was not a symbolic diplomatic venture; it is rather a part of a well-planned effort to bring back Morocco to the African fold. As Algeria’s diplomatic presence continues to shrink on the African scene, the Moroccan Monarch is taking the lead in an aggressive campaign to re-claim Morocco’s righteous place at the heart of the African continent. Mohammed VI populist style and approach during his stops in Abidjan, Dakar and Libreville are in clear contrast to Algeria’s stale cold war based foreign policy line.
Some in Algeria’s independent media has chastised the Bouteflika’s government for badly performing on the African scene. Morocco’s king successful visit to Africa was an opportunity for the Algerian press to condemn Algiers failure to challenge Rabat’s aggressive African diplomatic postures in what used to be “an Algerian turf”.
At each stop of their African tour, the Moroccan diplomats and businessmen set priorities for future cooperation and reinforced mutual political support. Rabat and its West Africa friends’ display of political and diplomatic consensus on major bilateral and international issues should be duplicated at the pan-African level.