Since 2008, Moroccan King Mohammed VI has placed the African continent at the forefront of his country’s strategic, geopolitical and economic priorities. This has materialized through a gradual and continuing openness toward many African countries, of which Morocco is an integral part. Consequently, successive visits were made by government delegations and officials of major companies, including Moroccan banks. Numerous agreements were signed, including agreements on the acquisition of shares in African airlines and the opening of branches of banks such as the Moroccan Bank of Foreign Trade, not to mention the implementation of training programs and the qualification of executive officials in public institutions in African countries that have enjoyed historic ties with Morocco since the reign of the late King Hassan II.
Despite the fact that King Mohammed VI has made several visits to his African neighbors since he ascended to the throne in 1999, his last tour of West Africa, which lasted from Feb. 18 to March 8, had a special character. The exceptional duration of time allocated to this tour reveals a great extent of commitment. Second, the tour sheds light on Morocco's new strategy aimed — through active diplomacy — at consolidating the kingdom’s economic and geopolitical influence in the African continent and consecrating religious relations at the government level.
Europe sees Morocco as the fifth economic power in Africa. This country seems to have a relatively modest economy, with a gross national product of only $105 billion in 2013, compared with the $240 billion registered by its neighbor Algeria. However, Morocco is annually registering significant breakthroughs at all levels among African states. Several factors have had a positive role in this progress, such as Morocco's ability to repair its structures, improve its administration and business environment, succeed in gaining investors’ confidence, create high quality infrastructure and accept social reforms while concurrently maintaining an adequate consensus on social peace and security stability.
Among the most prominent indicators of the success of the Moroccan openness toward the African continent — especially regarding recent visits by King Mohammed VI to Mali, Guinea, Gabon and the Ivory Coast — is the signing of around 80 agreements within three weeks. Some officials in the EU were surprised by statements issued by a number of African presidents and ministers indicating that Morocco has become a great regional African power. Morocco’s expertise — in addition to the knowledge accumulated by this country for years as a result of cooperation with the countries of Western Europe and the United States and the great support from the Gulf states, in particular Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — has strengthened Rabat’s position and contributed to the conclusion of dozens of agreements during the Moroccan monarch’s tour.
In a speech delivered at the opening of the Economic Forum in Abidjan, the king confirmed that credibility is without a doubt beneficial for the wealth of the African continent and primarily for African peoples. According to him, this requires South-South relations to be at the heart of African economic partnerships. Although foreign trade with Africa does not exceed 2.5% for Morocco, 85% of the kingdom’s foreign investments are currently concentrated within the African continent, where Morocco comes second only after South Africa.
It is worth recounting in more detail — to emphasize the importance of this Moroccan economic breakthrough in Africa — that the Moroccan public and private sectors signed 26 partnership agreements with the Ivory Coast, in addition to making investments covering a large range of productive sectors. For example, agreements were signed on reciprocal promotion and protection of investments.
There are also agreements on cooperation in the fields of banking, bank guarantees to small and medium enterprises, fishing, tourism, exports, housing, pharmaceuticals, higher education and industrial zones. Through the signing of two agreements, Morocco also committed itself to providing $50 billion in funding in the coming years under different forms to all the countries Mohammed VI visited.
In Gabon, Mohammed VI signed 24 governmental agreements comprising different sectors, including agriculture, health, housing, professional training, banking and finance, mines, information technology, transport and tourism. Cooperation to ensure food security was another item on the agenda of the negotiations, leading to the conclusion of a strategic partnership agreement in this area. In Mali, 17 cooperation agreements were signed, while in Guinea 20 conventions and agreements related to water, energy, mines, tourism, fishing and education were concluded.
As part of the plan to improve the situation of Muslims in the continent, Mohammed VI announced the launching of renovation works valued at 400,000 euros [$545,000] at the mosque of King Faisal. Accompanied by Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, the king placed the foundation stone of a project to build a children’s hospital in Bamako, and another foundation stone for a housing project in the Ivory Coast. He also announced a program to build 10,000 houses implemented by the Moroccan group Alliances Développement Immobilier.
In terms of prospective plans, and the expansion toward the African continent, there is information about major Moroccan companies and institutions seeking to create partnerships in oil and gas in the Congo, buy shares in communications groups in Mozambique and acquire permits to open branches to expand their networks on the continent. The information also noted that Moroccan officials are waiting for the elections and the passing of new laws in Guinea Bissau, as they aim to invest in fishing, gas, oil, phosphate and bauxite.
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