ECOWAS: Stepping-stone for Morocco to conquer Africa
With King Mohammed’s VI current tour of African countries and the ongoing reverberations from Morocco’s re-admission to the African Union (AU) in late January, Morocco’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation revealed on February 24 that Morocco has sent a request to the current President of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), informing her of Morocco’s interest in joining the organization as a full-fledged member.
Founded in 1975 following the Treaty of Lagos in Nigeria, ECOWAS is a 15-member regional group, including Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Cote d’Ivoire, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Senegal and Togo.
Promoting the “ideal of collective self-sufficiency for its member states,” the overriding concern of ECOWAS is to create a single, large trading bloc through economic cooperation. This will have the effect of reinforcing security and peace on the continent by creating a borderless region, whereby African citizens will benefit from the abundant resources of the continent.
ECOWAS aims to offer stable commercial activities so that Africans will be able to live in dignity and peace. This goal echoes the statement of Moroccan Foreign Affairs and Cooperation Minister, Salaheddine Mezouar who said, prior to Morocco’s return to the AU, that the Kingdom’s helping hand is outstretched to everyone. Morocco’s goal as a leading nation is for each African citizen to be able to hold his or her head high, free of the insults and injustice they now experience.
Morocco’s Pragmatic Diplomacy
Following Morocco’s decision to join ECOWAS, Moroccan Professor-Researcher at Mohammed VI’s Institute of African Studies in Rabat, El Moussaoui Ajlaoui, told Morocco World News that the decision goes hand in hand with Morocco’s return to the AU. “Morocco’s diplomacy [in Africa] attempts to penetrate all of Africa’s geographic and economic bloc,” which includes the ECOWAS in the west of Africa.
Ajlaoui went on to say that the current list of African nations forming Morocco’s core social and economic relationships is located in the west due to the “difficult” status quo the Maghreb and North Africa are experiencing.
RIP Maghreb Arab Union
Ajlaoui sees that the “death of the Maghreb Union” (AMU/UMA), which was created to unify north African countries including Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco and Mauritania, has pushed Morocco to consolidate its relationships with west African countries.
“The issues in the north of Africa might not be over within the upcoming ten years,” Ajlaoui said. “The political future in Algeria is at stake – no one can predict what will happen, not to mention the difficulties that Tunisia faces to reach a democratic transition – while Libya has become a black hole.”
“North-West Africa”: Earthquake in Africa
Nigeria, Ghana, and Guinea represent three of the 15 member countries currently making up ECOWAS. Over the course of three months, King Mohammed paid official visits to each of these nations.
During his visit to Nigeria’s Abuja, the King and President of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, signed a bilateral cooperative gas pipeline project, which represents one the most important bilateral agreements to have been signed between the two countries yet.
While in Ghana, a longtime supporter of the Polisario, the King turned his visit into a springboard for Morocco to court the nation and to further strengthen a South-South partnership. This will be achieved by revamping ties with the rest of the continent and by tightening the grip on the self-proclaimed Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR).
Overall, Morocco and Ghana signed 25 governmental and public-private partnership agreements in different sectors of cooperation.
This forward expansion of Morocco’s diplomacy into the rest of the African continent and into ECOWAS, is viewed by Ajlaoui as efforts which will create a new “North-West Africa” geographical bloc.
“This bloc follows several factors, including geopolitical bilateral cooperative relations with the member states of ECOWAS,” Ajlaoui told MWN. “Morocco’s entry into ECOWAS will be an earthquake in the African continent.”
Morocco’s Leadership in Africa
When asked if Morocco could curb South Africa’s influence on the rest of the continent, Ajlaoui brought up the outbreak of xenophobic and violent attacks against Nigerian communities in South Africa.
Ajlaoui stressed that “Morocco’s dominance in Africa will follow its adherence to all the African blocs,” including the Southern African Development Community in Africa’s south, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, the Economic Community of Central African States and the Community of Sahel-Saharan States, in addition to the East African Community and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development.
“If Morocco wants to be strong and a leader in Africa, it should become part of [the continent’s] communities,” Ajlaoui underlined. “Therefore, its request to join ECOWAS is a future preparation to join other communities.”