By Tamba François Koundouno
Rabat – Morocco’s appointing of Mouhcine Jazouli as minister in charge of African Affairs is an important message to the Kingdom’s African peers.
By creating a ministry fully dedicated to African affairs, king Mohammed VI is moving beyond the mere symbolism of South-South relations. It also shows that Morocco-Africa is no longer a tiny part of a bigger agenda; it is part and parcel, the backbone in fact, of Morocco’s new foreign policy guidelines.
When the king announced the prospects of a ministry delegated to African Affairs late last year, he said that the appointed minster would be responsible for “African affairs, and especially investments.”
Morocco is asserting a growing presence in Sub-Saharan Africa; the kingdom wants to reclaim its historical significance in the continent, Le Point reported yesterday in article that discussed the strategic significance of the new ministry. The King wants to showcase, the article noted, that like in the 1960s and early 1970s, when Morocco was an indispensable actor in the political affairs of the continent, a financial and strategic support to liberation movements like the ANC in South Africa and the MPLA of Agostino Neto in Angola, king Mohammed VI the article explains, is building a foreign policy machine where Sub-Saharan Africa is the priority in terms of exchange and policy co-operations.
Morocco’s African agenda is no longer a secret; in fact, it has so often been reported on, talked about, commented upon (either by Moroccans or Sub-Saharan), lauded (by specialists or simple observers) so that eventually, it may run the risk of becoming part of the furniture. But such a conclusion would fail to take into account something of prime importance: A paradigm shift is happening in Morocco’s foreign policy.
A Minister at ease in Africa’s political landscape
In a piece published earlier this month in the Guardian, Jason Burke, the Guardian’s Africa Correspondent, wrote that the motto for Africa 2018 should be “Africa is diverging”. This, the author rightly explains, is due to the fact that Sub-Saharan Africa is not a monolith. It is an era of striking diversities, be it politically or socially. “Africa heads in different directions—politically and economically”, he argued. This presence of such confounding narratives can downplay the efforts of anyone who focuses on a global vision of the region.
But the fact is that Mohcine Jazouli, the Moroccan minister now in charge of African Affairs, is familiar with the political climate of sub-Saharan Africa. And so, his expertise in dealing with numerous African governments and start-ups for the past decade and his strategic acumen will be an asset for the ministry he will be leading.
Jazouli, 49, is founder and chief of Valyans Consulting, a commercial and financial juggernaut solidly implanted in Africa.
Between 2011 and 2014, he worked on various strategic projects, including those with Ivorian and Gabonese governments. And so, with his business-centered visions, his profile that defies that of the traditional technocrat fixated on slow and generally frustrating administrative proceedings, it goes without saying that Jazouli will bring a new breath to Morocco-African relations.
Jazouli may not have been the first name that would come to mind when the king announced that a ministry delegated to African affairs would be created. But his profile—the strategic powerhouse that Valyans Consulting became under his leadership, and his already existing and numerous strategic ties in Sub-Saharan Africa—give signals of a possible success story within the boundaries of the new ministry.
South-South is the new way
It may sound like a truism, a “pious fiction”, or sentimental magnification of an elusive narrative. But the fact of the matter remains that Sub-Saharan Africa, given the economic imperatives of our globalized planet, is no longer a locale to ignore. Plus, in this “age of phenomenal complexity and interlocking changes,” we are witnessing a world that no longer looks to Europe for inspiration. With the West losing its glamour, Morocco can lead the dance in Africa.
Will it? How will it proceed? Is the kingdom going to impose its will on its Sub-Saharan peers, or rather cooperate with them? These should be the real questions, and also the challenges of the teams in charge of implementing Morocco’s Africa Agenda.
But as of now, prospects are rather rosy, promising. Today, more than 1000 Moroccan businesses are operating in Sub-Saharan Africa, investing around $2.2 billion; the King’s recent numerous tours around the continent culminated in more than 600 treaties with his counterparts, with focus on commercial exchanges and policy co-ordinations on sustaining security and peace in the continent.
With Nasser Bourrita’s shift towards a dynamic foreign policy and Jazouli’s established reputation in strategic planning, all that is left now is the delivery of bold, clear, and consistent policies. And so, should Morocco uphold the genuineness of its Sub-Saharan African venture, which entails involving all relevant stakeholders (governments and businesses), the creation of a ministry of African affairs will turn out to be the beginning of an auspicious saga.