Washington D.C.- After years of absence from the halls of the African Union (AU), Morocco has moved from the periphery to the center of Africa’s political and economic stages. This impressive reversal is due in large part to Morocco’s King Mohammed VI relentless efforts to reach out to African leaders in the four corners of the continent.
Nonetheless, Nasser Bourita, the “fairly new” Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation has been a key figure behind the recent victories of the Moroccan diplomacy in Africa and some parts of Latin America.
The arrival of Mr. Bourita at the helm of the most prestigious ministry in the government has boosted the morale in the rank and file of the Moroccan diplomatic machine and jump-started a wave of “house cleaning” in some embassies. The new top diplomat, who ascended the echelon of his organization on merit and without a hint of nepotism, is a product of Moroccan public schools and not the customary French elitist “Grandes Écoles.”
This career diplomat, who grasps King Mohammed VI’s strategy in Africa, used his knowledge and experience to create a new diplomatic momentum for his nation in “unfriendly territories” like Latin America.
He has moved Morocco from isolation into a leadership role in key capitals. While a lot of work remains to be done to win over a universal endorsement of Morocco’s rights to Western Sahara, Rabat seems to be heading in the right direction for the first time.
In fact, when the Monarch first embarked on his diplomatic-economic push into Africa, the Moroccan diplomacy struggled to keep up with King Mohammed’s fruitful trips and had few setbacks until Mr. Bourita showed up. This obvious turnaround and recent victories in high profile diplomatic skirmishes with Algeria earned the former Ambassador a Royal endorsement.
Mr. Bourita’s big achievement and major asset have been his ability to keep the usual Palace foreign policy players in check. Since his arrival at the Foreign Ministry, Nasser seems to have the full confidence of the King and complete control of the diplomatic corps. Reports, albeit unconfirmed, of Bourita’s efforts to dismiss some “well connected” inept ambassadors are good signs for the Moroccan diplomacy.
Bourita avoids the high-profile foreign policy approach for a more low-intensity contact with an economic message and a humanitarian touch. This pitch seems to work for the Kingdom and fits with his personality. Many African nations that voted in the past for the self-declared Sahrawi Republic to the join the AU have welcomed Moroccan investments and commitments, and renounced their support for the Algeria backed plan for the Westerns Sahara.
In the 1970’s, 80’s and 90’s Moroccan diplomats were viewed as arrogant in Africa and clueless in Latin America. But, the ongoing transformations within the diplomatic corps and King Mohammed’s personal involvement in overseeing the Kingdom’s foreign policy have changed these perceptions to the better and made the relations with sub-Saharan African nations especially as close as it has been recently.
Unlike his predecessors, the Moroccan diplomat understands and considers the goals of his African counterparts making his efforts sincerer and far more effective. However, the challenge remains the ability of Moroccan ambassadors to capitalize on these recent gains and expand this winning formula in Latin America where the Algerian diplomacy is well entrenched.
As Morocco solidify its presence in African and extend its reach in Latin America, Mr. Bourita and his staff need to ready and formulate a long-term diplomatic strategy for these two key regions. On the domestic front, the Moroccan public hopes to see his potential distractors and “competitors” stay at bay, giving him a chance to continue his great work.
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