Luis Felipe Luis Tavares, Cape Verde’s double minister of defense and foreign affairs, has said that Nigeria’s geopolitical weight is the key to unlocking the one-year long stalemate in Morocco’s bid to join ECOWAS.
Tangier – Speaking at wide-ranging panel on Morocco’s relations with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Tavares argued that full-fledged collaboration with Nigeria is the missing ingredient in Morocco’s West African recipe.
The panel, which discussed new paradigms on regional integration and South-South momentum to come to terms with emerging challenges in developing countries, highlighted the enormous socio-economic advantages of regionalization and strong intra-African cooperation in this “age of disruption.”
While other panelists noted the historical and economic aspects of Morocco-ECOWAS prospects, the Cape Verdean diplomat pointed out the unmistakable weight of diplomacy in convincing “reticent countries.”
Whatever Morocco does next with regards to its continental and regional aspirations, it cannot afford not to engage with Nigeria. Morocco, Tavares argued, should ensure that its “excellent and dynamic diplomacy is focused on convincing Nigeria of the benefits of Morocco’s membership.”
Full of praise for Morocco’s “highly-trained human resources,” especially its “competent and exemplary diplomats,” he said that the benefits of Morocco’s membership outweigh its potential costs for the region.
But for all the socio-economic benefits and the unmistakable value that Morocco will bring to the regional table, Rabat, Tavares warned, should take nothing for granted.
The Cape Verdean diplomat’s suggestion, as he later confirmed in an interview with Morocco World News, is that an unconvinced Nigeria can undermine all the momentum that Rabat’s soft power has been gathering in the Francophone part of the region.
‘Invite Nigerian businessmen to Morocco’
As some originally reticent countries have pledged support for Morocco, what Moroccan diplomats now need is to wholeheartedly engage with their Nigerian counterparts, he told Morocco World News.
But what does that mean in practice? Does the Western Sahara question continue to play a substantial role in Lagos’s half-hearted inclination towards Morocco?
“Western Sahara is completely irrelevant in an ECOWAS debate,” the Cape Verdean firmly offered.
He continued: “In practical terms, engaging with Nigeria means inviting Nigerian businessmen and policymakers to Morocco for a roundtable or a forum such as [MEDays] to candidly discuss about all the common challenges and opportunities. Convincing Nigeria is the final step, and it really is key to Morocco’s admission in ECOWAS.”
Tavares’s remarks have been made before, although in a more technical and less direct wording.
In a study published in August, Fitch Solutions assessed the “uncertainty” and “serious obstacles” facing Morocco’s ECOWAS bid. Fearful that Morocco could unsettle regional power balances, Nigeria so far disapproves Rabat’s admission in the West African club.