Morocco uses busi­ness diplo­macy to win friends in Africa

Kuwait Times - - BUSINESS -

With con­tracts across Africa run­ning into bil­lions of dol­lars, Morocco is plac­ing busi­ness at the heart of its strat­egy to win sup­port for its re-en­try into the African Union. From Sene­gal to Mada­gas­car, King Mo­hammed VI is lead­ing a drive to in­vest in bank­ing, in­sur­ance, tele­coms, man­u­fac­tur­ing and con­struc­tion projects. And while it has long nur­tured warm ties with its fran­co­phone neigh­bors in West Africa, Morocco is now us­ing megapro­jects to mend ties with East African coun­tries long at odds with Rabat over the Western Sa­hara is­sue. Rabat of­fi­cially re­quested in Septem­ber to re­join the African Union, 32 years af­ter quit­ting the bloc in protest at its de­ci­sion to ac­cept Western Sa­hara as a mem­ber.

“The Moroc­can vi­sion con­sists of mak­ing its na­tional com­pa­nies real am­bas­sadors in Africa,” said Amine Dafir, pro­fes­sor at Has­san II Univer­sity in Mo­ham­me­dia near Rabat, who la­bels the strat­egy “eco­nomic diplo­macy.”

It is a drive that has seen the monarch lead a co­hort of min­is­ters and busi­ness lead­ers on of­fi­cial vis­its across the con­ti­nent. In re­cent months they have been hosted by Rwanda, Tan­za­nia, Gabon, Sene­gal, Ethiopia and Mada­gas­car, where they fin­ished a 10-day visit on Thurs­day. Nige­ria and Zam­bia are next on the list. Each trip has re­sulted in a flurry of busi­ness deals. The king’s trip to Mada­gas­car in Novem­ber pro­duced 22 agree­ments in­clud­ing a vast project to “up­grade” the Pan­galanes canal, a se­ries of wa­ter­ways that ex­tends around 700 kilo­me­tres (430 miles) along the coun­try’s east coast. Also in Novem­ber, Morocco signed an agree­ment to build a gi­ant fac­tory aimed at mak­ing Ethiopia self-re­liant in fer­tiliser by 2025. The an­nounce­ment came dur­ing as King Mo­hammed vis­ited Ad­dis Ababa-seat of the African Union.

‘African Strat­egy’

Morocco quit what was then called the Or­ga­ni­za­tion of African Unity in 1984 to protest at the ad­mis­sion of the Sahrawi Arab Demo­cratic Repub­lic de­clared by the Polis­ario in­de­pen­dence move­ment. Morocco main­tains that Western Sa­hara, a for­mer Span­ish colony un­der its con­trol, is an in­te­gral part of the king­dom. The Polis­ario Front, which cam­paigns for the ter­ri­tory’s in­de­pen­dence, de­mands a ref­er­en­dum on self-de­ter­mi­na­tion. Iso­lated in Africa for decades, Morocco launched an “African Strat­egy” in the early 2000 sin part­ner­ship with its“na­tional cham­pi­ons”Moroc­can firms that have de­vel­oped branches across the con­ti­nent. Since then, the king­dom has inked around 500 deals in sub Sa­ha­ran Africa, ac­cord­ing to the Moroc­can think tank OCP Pol­icy Cen­ter. The re­gion is now the tar­get of more than 60 per­cent of its for­eign in­vest­ments. Un­til 2016, those in­vest­ments mainly tar­geted Rabat’s fran­co­phone West African neigh­bors, which largely sup­port its po­si­tion on Western Sa­hara. — AFP

LA­HORE: A Pak­istani ven­dor waits for cus­tomers at a main fruit and veg­etable mar­ket in La­hore yes­ter­day. —AFP

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