New Delhi - Continuing his series of visits to sister African nations, Morocco’s King Mohammed VI recently undertook a momentous tour of the East African nation of Ethiopia.
New Delhi – Continuing his series of visits to sister African nations, Morocco’s King Mohammed VI recently undertook a momentous tour of the East African nation of Ethiopia.
The state visit – from November 18 to 19 – was the first undertaken by the Moroccan monarch to Ethiopia. In fact, it was the first time since 1984 that a Moroccan leader was visiting Ethiopia. The reason for this hiatus is rooted in the fact that in 1984 Morocco withdrew from the African Union (AU) – then known as Organisation of African Unity – over the pan-African institution’s recognition of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic. The latter is the creation of the Polisario separatist movement that is seeking to craft an independent state in the Moroccan Sahara.
Since the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa is the headquarters of AU, Morocco’s separation from the pan-African body also affected ties between Morocco and Ethiopia. It’s precisely against this backdrop that King Mohammed’s visit to Ethiopia gains tremendous significance. It marks the renewal of an old friendship, as well as a new determination to take the bilateral relationship to the next level. It’s also noteworthy that the visit comes at a time when Morocco has expressed its desire to return to the AU fold and has been drumming up support for this from other African nations.
In this regard, the joint communique released during King Mohammed’s state visit clearly mentions that Ethiopia supports Morocco’s decision to rejoin AU and would like to see this happen as early as the next AU summit. This is a massive endorsement given Ethiopia’s position within the pan-African body. And the AU will certainly benefit from Morocco’s return. For, over the last few years Morocco has proved itself as an island of stability and development in North Africa. It was one of the few countries in the region to successfully weather the Arab Spring upheaval and come out stronger. Add to this the fact that King Mohammed has been championing the concept of South-South cooperation for some time now. This is rooted in the conviction that Africa must learn to be self-reliant and not depend on foreign handouts.
In fact, a manifestation of this South-South cooperation was Morocco’s recent decision to ink an agreement that would see it invest $2.4 billion in Ethiopia to build an integrated fertiliser production plant. The move is aimed at making Ethiopia self-sufficient in fertilisers by 2025. That said, King Mohammed’s Ethiopia visit shouldn’t be seen only as an effort to rejoin the AU through boosted Rabat-Addis Ababa ties. Morocco is playing a larger game here. For decades now, Morocco was seen as a pillar of Francophone Africa. However, this visualisation restricted Morocco’s strategic space. It’s now under the guidance of King Mohammed that Morocco is trying to break out of the shackles and realise its true potential at the international stage.
Morocco no longer wants to be seen only as a Francophone African country or a North African Arab nation. These descriptions only capture a part of Morocco’s ambitions. Morocco today wants to be a strong voice of Africa with equally strong relations with all major non-African nations. It wants to spread its wings and contribute towards addressing all major international challenges, be it climate change – Morocco successfully held the latest UN climate summit COP 22 in Marrakech – international terrorism – Morocco’s efforts at the UN led to the creation of the Group of Friends Against Terrorism – or Islamic radicalism – the Mohammed VI Foundation for African Ulema was created to promote moderate interpretations of the Islamic faith.
Taken together, it would be fair to say that Morocco is certainly rising in Africa. And any non-African nation, including India, that wants to boost ties with the continent would do well to enhance its relationship with Rabat.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial policy.