Originally commissioned early 2015
The King of Morocco, Mohammed the Sixth, recently visited several West African countries, Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal, Guinea Bissau and Gabon. The visit reaffirmed the significance Morocco places on its relations with this region. More than 50% of Morocco’s foreign investments go to Africa, and Cote d’Ivoire accounts for 25% of Morocco’s total investments. Joining the king on the trip, as well as ministers, were influential Moroccan heads of business, and business leaders in the countries visited met with the Moroccan delegation, removing any doubt that economic relations were a key aspect.
Morocco claims that it places solidarity at the centre of its foreign investment policy. Morocco seeks to become a model for other African countries and enjoy mutually beneficial development, which it also refers to as south-south development. Morocco pointed to the fact that Royal Moroccan Air was the only airline in the world not to alter its plane traffic to those countries which were struck by the Ebola virus.
In Senegal, Morocco invests in large, long-term initiatives that have added value for ordinary people. Examples include a project to bring electricity to remote rural areas and ensuring micro finance support to economically fragile individuals. Morocco even helped finance the day-to-day running of state structures in 2015. The Senegalese fishing, finance, industry, property, logistics, digital economy and education sectors have all seen considerable Moroccan investment. Morocco has also provided affordable social housing to the country as well.
Moroccan investments have been used to improve port infrastructure in the capitals of Cote d’Ivoire and Senegal, allowing the two countries to significantly broaden their export activities, and the project will also benefit the countries’ fishing sectors. This will further drive Cote d’Ivoire’s expansion of its fruits and vegetables exports, which coincides strategically with Morocco’s investment in agro-business in the country. Cote d’Ivoire is the largest African exporter of mangos and the world’s largest cocoa exporter. This is the second Moroccan visit in half a year, underlining the importance Morocco places on this market. Cote d’Ivoire, for its part, has been seeking to leverage its relationship with Morocco to improve its electricity infrastructure, with several hydro-electric dams planned for construction with Moroccan support.
While Morocco has demonstrated generosity, the country has also profited considerably from its foreign engagements. The Moroccan banks, AttijariWafa Bank, BMCE Bank and the Banque Centrale Populaire, ae the biggest in West Africa, outstripping French banks, traditionally the big players in the region. This the result of a programme begun ten years ago to expand the presence of Moroccan financial institutions in the region.
Morocco is positioning itself strategically as a vehicle for development in Sub-Saharan Africa. However, the political aspect of the visit was also significant, with increasing concerns around terrorism and instability. Morocco, with its foreign investments, hopes to maintain and indeed increase regional stability. Ultimately, Morocco sees greater potential in Africa for market growth than it does in Europe, the main factor underlying this pivot.