The next technological frontier is in blockchain technologies, and Morocco’s growing continental prominence means it could become Africa’s leader on this digital revolution front.
Call me a traditionalist, but any student of American history should have a great respect for the role Morocco has played on the international stage.
Morocco was the first country to recognize American Independence, less than two years after the Declaration of Independence was issued. The two countries then signed a treaty of peace and friendship in 1786, fortifying the longest unbroken relationship in American history.
Recently, former US Senator Carol Moseley-Braun (D-IL) noted that Morocco should be considered a key player in US-African relations. She’s right, of course. Morocco’s recent realignment with the African Union under King Mohammed VI, in conjunction with their role as one of Africa’s most advanced economies, allows the country to lead on a number of policy issues which could affect the economic direction of the continent for decades.
In a speech given at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa on January 31, 2017, King Mohammed promised that Morocco will be “a motor for common economic growth,” adding that “[i]t is time that Africa’s riches benefit Africa.”
The King went on to lament the fact that, for far too long,“the African continent has had to look “elsewhere to make decisions, commitments.” And so, as it advocates for a continent “responsible for its own destiny,” Morocco finds itself in the driver’s seat on one of the most impactful economic decisions sovereign nations may see in decades.
Just recently, Bank-Al-Maghrib, Morocco’s central bank, announced that it had established an exploratory committee to consider a central bank digital currency (CBDC). The explosion of cryptocurrencies has led many countries to take a closer look at CBDCs, but Morocco is, in many ways, in a unique position.
For one thing, Morocco banned Bitcoin in 2017, though it remains popular in the country. For another, digital assets are only one potential use of powerful blockchain technologies. But, perhaps most glaringly, the African continent does not have a consensus on whether cryptocurrencies should be accepted, and, if so, how they should be regulated. In fact, South Africa’s policies are so disjointed that crypto-preneurs are actually fleeing the country for more stable environments.
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Moroccan leadership has long taken bold positions, leading on matters of international security and, most recently, sustainability. It is a country which the United States heavily relies on in joint counterterrorism efforts, as well as in efforts to stop illicit trafficking. Morocco fancies itself as a shipping and logistics hub, and it offers bustling renewable energy and environmental technology industries.
When Moroccan leadership saw the potential that sustainability, as a concept, had in terms of future economic growth, they seized the opportunity. Now, that same opportunity exists again. The next technological frontier is in blockchain technologies.
The African continent is waiting to see a country look at the opportunity and challenge ahead, then move forward with a commonsense regulatory plan which promotes innovation while mitigating risk.
Given its leadership on complex security issues such as counterterrorism and trafficking, it makes sense for Morocco to again lead on cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology. The industry yearns for a regulatory environment which cracks down on money laundering and develops competent regulatory guidance to ensure that exchanges are safe from hacks and bad actors with visions of malfeasance.
Morocco can be that safe environment, while opening up new opportunities in an exciting new sector for its people. Technology is the great equalizer where talent is often more important than all else. It is an arena where innovators thrive. And, conceptually, the blockchain, like sustainability, is not going away. Countries which embrace its strengths will revolutionize a segment of their economy in ways that will pay dividends for decades. Morocco could be that hub in the Sahara.