At the 28th Summit meeting of the African Union (AU) held in Addis Ababa in late January this year, leaders decided by an overwhelming majority to welcome Morocco back to its fold. The North African country was then officially admitted as a full-fledged member of the AU. Addressing the Summit following the decision, Morocco’s King Mohammad VI said, “It is so good to be back home, after having been away for too long. It is a good day when you can show your affection for your beloved home. Africa is my continent and my home”.
Morocco was reunited with its African family 33 years after she withdrew from the Organization of African Unity, the AU’s predecessor, in 1984 for sharp differences over the status of the Saharan region, especially the decision of the OAU, under the influence of a handful but vocal members, to admit the Algeria-backed self-proclaimed Saharwi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) as a full member of the organization. This was when King Hassan II, the current Monarch’s father, was on the throne in Rabat. With the African policy adopted by his son King Mohammed VI over the past decades putting Africa at the top of his agenda, an increasing number of African leaders called on Morocco to rejoin the African family. In fact most found it necessary, recognizing the new orientation of Morocco’s foreign policy.
Morocco’s rejoining the African Union was greeted with joy at home and welcomed elsewhere in the world where it was rightly seen as a diplomatic triumph that will help the country to assume its position as a major player in the continent. The re-admission is also viewed as a personal success for King Mohammed VI, who for the last few years has been on a concerted drive to reach out to sub-Saharan African countries, signing nearly 1,000 co-operation agreements since 2000, and projecting his country as a reliable friend, a responsible neighbour, and a significant investor. Morocco’s return to the African Union after a thirty-three-year break marked the culmination of a lengthy and intense diplomatic offensive designed to expand its circle of African allies to key nations in regions far from its historic sphere of influence in the Sahel, as well as in West and Central Africa. Morocco remained focused on delivering to a new breed of moder- ate and pragmatic African leaders the message of win-win economic and securities benefits and creating conditions for political entente. Such a dynamic and pragmatic insight also helped dilute ideological dogmas of the past and will help diminish Cold War era relics in the long run. The diplomatic dividends of this strategy were on dramatic display on 02 February 2017 immediately following the 28th African Union (AU) Summit in Addis Ababa, when the President of Gabon, on behalf of twenty-eight AU member countries, penned a letter to the President of the AU, calling for the suspension of the SADR’s membership. This may gain momentum now that Morocco has found its rightful seat in the forum.
In the African region as a whole, Morocco enjoys a significant comparative advantage over its regional competitors, already making it the first investor in West Africa and the second largest in the continent. Its advanced firms, including banking, insurance, and telecommunications, industrial companies, mainly phosphates, increasingly sophisticated manufacturing like aerospace, electronics, and cars and rising capabilities in renewable energy, allows it to play a leading role in advancing King Mohammed VI’s cherished goal of solidarity-based South-South cooperation. In this vein, the country recently launched major initiatives to power agricultural sustainability and improve food security through the building of mega fertilizer plants adapted to local soils in several African countries, most notably Rwanda, Ethiopia, and Nigeria. Another ambitious and strategic South-South partnership is the recent agreement between Morocco and Nigeria to build a transcontinental gas pipeline designed to power Africa. Being a Muslim majority nation, Morocco has also succeeded in keeping its voice audible and in sound health among Islamic countries.
Morocco’s enviable success of its Africa centered foreign policy has been hugely enabled by the remarkable strides the country has made at home in socio-economic fields under King Mohammad VI. Situated as it is in a region that is imploding under the weight of faith based and sectarian violence and political uncertainty, Morocco today resembles a country ready to face the challenges of ensuring stability, sustaining economic growth, and maintaining a pluralist society where Mosques, Churches, and Synagogues stand close to each other as symbols of communal harmony. Thus, when others around it wobble, awesome Agadir on the Atlantic, charming Casablanca on the cornice, and magical Marrakesh in the middle, continue to draw visitors in droves. Morocco’s triumphant re-entry into the African Union, therefore, is a vindication of its regional posture and the earned fruit of its sound foreign and domestic policies.