Caitlin Dearing Scott
November 1, 2016
King Mohammed VI has just wrapped up a two-country tour of East Africa, part of his “royal vision seeking to reinforce south-south partnership.” During the tour, King Mohammed VI visited Rwanda and Tanzania, shoring up strategic relations with two countries that have figured little in Morocco’s diplomatic history until now. Beyond the symbolism of expanding Morocco’s African engagement outside of its traditional domain in North and West Africa, the tour aimed to strengthen the country’s economic partnerships, its religious leadership, and support for its bid to rejoin the African Union after more than three decades.
In Rwanda, King Mohammed VI and Rwandan President Paul Kagame oversaw the signing of 19 bilateral agreements and reaffirmed their commitment to establishing a strong partnership, based on cooperation, exchange, and the sharing of expertise. Among the sectors covered in the cooperation agreements are agriculture, finance and investments, banking, air transport, renewable energy, and security cooperation, a domain of increasing concern in both East and West Africa. A memorandum of understanding was also signed between the Mohammed VI Foundation for Sustainable Development and the Imbuto Foundation, socio-economic development organizations in Morocco and Rwanda committed to improving health and education, training youth, and fighting against poverty. The King also visited the genocide memorial in Kigali.
In Tanzania, where Morocco has never previously had a political and economic dialogue, King Mohammed VI joined Tanzanian President John Pombe Magufuli in overseeing the signing of 22 bilateral agreements, forming the basis of a such a dialogue between the two countries. The agreements address infrastructure development, hydrocarbons and renewable energy, mines, air transport, agriculture and fishing, banking, insurance, health, and tourism. Morocco and Tanzania also signed a religious affairs cooperation agreement covering “education, religious foundations, construction and management of mosques, exchange of experiences, and other forms of cooperation which aim to preserve authentic Islamic values and help prevent all forms of deviation and extremism.” Toward that end, King Mohammed VI launched the construction of the Mohammed VI mosque in Dar Es Salam, in response to a request from the National Muslim Council of Tanzania. Tanzania is just the most recent of a number of African countries looking to learn from Morocco’s unique approach to countering violent extremism.
In addition to strengthening partnerships in each of the countries visited, the royal tour certainly met with success on the question of Morocco’s rejoining of the African Union as well. The governments of Rwanda and Tanzania expressed support for the bid, expanding Morocco’s list of allies on this issue. In a joint-communiqué, President Kagame “reiterated Rwanda’s support for Morocco’s return and its firm engagement to ensure its success, in favor of the prompt and unconditional admission of the Kingdom of Morocco into its Pan-African institutional family.” The Tanzanian Minister of Foreign Affairs noted that Morocco’s savoir-faire was indispensible in Africa.
Though there are still a number of conditions that need to be met and many discussions to be had on Morocco’s return to the AU – including a postponed visit to the AU’s administrative capital, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia – King Mohammed VI’s recent diplomatic push is undoubtedly moving the momentum in Morocco’s favor. A second royal tour in sub-Saharan Africa, expected to start in Ethiopia after COP22, will aim to boost that momentum even further.