Missing an Opportunity to Move from Ideology to Action – Jean R. AbiNader
AU Continues to Treat Morocco as Outlier although King Champions African Solutions
Jean R. AbiNader, MATIC
May 27, 2015
A number of news stories and commentaries are focusing on the visits of His Majesty King Mohammed VI to Senegal, Ivory Coast, Gabon, and Equatorial Guinea. Although they were unanimous in lauding the King’s African vision and promotion of South-South cooperation, there is one glaring omission in their analysis – the negative role that the African Union plays in attempting to disable Morocco’s initiatives to build stronger economic, social, and human development ties among African countries.
For example, one commentator, writing in the Huffington Post, lists the ties that Morocco has already built throughout Western and Central Africa, pointing out how Morocco’s strategies for human development are an example for encouraging inclusive growth. And of course, there is attention paid to the security ties between the US and Morocco that support hard and soft power programs for combating terrorism. Yet I believe that Morocco is doing so much more than security by recognizing that stability and progress are survival and growth challenges that can best be addressed by public-private partnerships.
The article goes on to remark on the extensive business ties, driven by Morocco’s private sector, that characterize trade and investment and also cooperative efforts in skills training, capacity building for governance, and important infrastructure projects in social housing, health services, and education. While there are many challenges to Africa’s sustainable development, its “talented populations and vast youth demographics have the potential to make the continent a global powerhouse.”
Given the strong coincidence of Morocco’s experiences and the continent’s needs, creating reciprocal benefits for all parties, from government agencies to businesses and civil society, would seem obvious, and that is the case for those countries willing to ignore the AU’s treatment of Morocco. The AU opposes the Kingdom’s role in the governance and large-scale human development in the Western Sahara, and has consistently opposed alternative solutions to the Sahara conflict leaving Morocco no alternative but to leave the organization when it admitted the Polisario Front as interlocutors for the Sahrawi people.
This ill-informed treatment of Morocco is supported by the powerhouses of Africa – Nigeria and South Africa, themselves challenged internally and regionally yet unable to move away from positions rooted in post-colonial discourse, despite the failures inherent in a one-size-fits-all approach to self-determination. Although international jurisprudence and the UN Security Council have moved away from formulas based on resolutions from the early days of the UN and towards accommodating political realities based on compromise and negotiations, those leading the AU remain mired in the past. Morocco has made it clear that its future is in Africa and has demonstrated that commitment concretely.
As Dr. Peter Pham noted in his op-ed in The Hill, “King Mohammed VI not only declared that ‘Morocco fully assumes its African vocation,’ but also affirmed that ‘South/South cooperation should be at the heart of the economic relationships’ between African countries.” Dr. Pham lists a number of projects already underway, across East and West Africa, in which small businesses, including farmers and fishermen, will benefit from stronger ties with Morocco.
The benefits of these relationships are clear. Dr. Pham writes, “The organic emergence within Africa of such solutions to Africa’s development challenges is of utmost importance to the continent’s international partners, some of whom are beginning to recognize the potentially game-changing impact.” In other words, the collaboration between Morocco and African states is drawing the attention and support of bilateral and multilateral agencies, which are invested in broader regional development strategies in Africa.
We see the same behavior among international investors. When companies assess opportunities in Africa, there are two options: head for the largest national markets, with their unique “rules of engagement,” or take a regional approach that considers broader markets served from a common hub. Morocco has emerged as a significant center for supporting business development in Central, West, and Atlantic Coastal African countries.
This is no accident. It is a vision that King Mohammed has been expressing for more than a decade. As the MedAfrica Times reported, “Since his ascension to the throne in 1999, King Mohammed VI has been reinforcing ties with Sub-Saharan Africa. In the past few years, his visits to Western and Central Africa have been recurrent on an annual basis, a fact that helped consolidate further bilateral ties.” While King Mohammed has moved on and up to implement his “economic diplomacy,” the African Union offers no vision, only impediments by continuing a wasted narrative that does not help meet the human development needs of the African people.