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MOROCCO-ECOWAS: removing the ambiguities of membership

The geopolitical chronicle of Benoit Ngom. To decipher the news and bring geopolitical and geostrategic depth to the information, Professor Benoit Ngom deals in these columns with a weekly analysis, to be found every Thursday.

Morocco’s accession to ECOWAS has caused much ink to flow and sparked contradictory debates, the motivations of which, despite appearances, are not only economic.

The Kingdom of Morocco, an African country rooted in its Arab, Berber and Muslim cultural values, enjoys a historical past which has founded relations dating back to time immemorial with the African peoples living beyond its southern borders. This country, which despite some procrastination from part of its elite, which wanted to see its destiny anchored to Europe, fundamentally redirected its economic and cultural diplomacy towards Africa.

This impressive and efficient redeployment, the country owes it to its King, His Majesty Mohamed VI. This sovereign very attached to his African continent, animated by a real desire for power, at the service of the greatness and influence of his country, and follower of the organization and method dear to President Senghor, has gradually conquered the spirit of the most informed African economic and political circles.

Aware that economic influence and diplomatic influence had to go hand in hand, he led his country to invest in large-scale humanitarian actions for the benefit of many African countries and built multiple religious buildings across the continent.

But it is on the economic level that Morocco, which is not cited among the gas or oil countries, will have shown the most daring in its desire to contribute to the development and integration of Africa.

How then could we not understand that Morocco wants to integrate the most complete African organization in its development that is ECOWAS? How to understand and justify the movement hostile to such membership?

A real contribution to the integration and development of the continent

Morocco under the organized impetus of its King, has extended its economic tentacles in many countries and different linguistic and economic areas of the continent. These investments, to our knowledge, have always benefited from the backing of the economic and political circles of the host countries because they helped to solve urgent social problems in the real estate, health or industrial fields. These achievements, known to the populations, have also contributed to gradually establishing a positive image of Morocco which has shown that South-South cooperation is possible in all areas.

In this spirit, thanks to the deployment of its banks across many countries of the continent, Morocco has been able to structure major investment projects which are intended to have a very significant social impact.

In Ethiopia, we can cite the flagship project of the OCP Group relating to the construction of a fertilizer factory in Dire Dawa, the financing of which comes in several billion US dollars.

Flash back.

Still in the economic field, Morocco has launched with Nigeria, the realization of the mega project of a gas pipeline with a length of almost 4000 km which will cross a dozen countries.

In the same sub-region. In addition, significant investments in very different areas have been made in countries such as Guinea, Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire for example.

King Mohamed VI understood very early on that Morocco would be all the more influential economically and diplomatically because it will be alongside its sister countries in African organizations. Thus, the return to the AU in 2017 was an illustration of this deeply rooted desire to consolidate Morocco’s definitive anchoring in Africa. This decision could have been followed by accession to ECOWAS if it had not been countered by a movement of refusal.

Africa must unite

Opposition to Morocco’s accession to ECOWAS seem to me to be part of more cultural than economic considerations based more on ignorance than on generally shared rational bases. Indeed, how can we understand that countries which cooperate economically with Morocco, countries in which the economic and financial presence of the Kingdom is so obvious, can maintain that by sharing with this country the same organization they would be harmed? How can one think that the raising of the economic weight of the group, ECOWAS, by the accession of Morocco, would not benefit all the member countries? In this regard, it is said that this membership would make ECOWAS the 16th most powerful economic entity in the world.

How can I imagine that Nigeria populated by 200 million inhabitants, an oil and gas power, a country of great captains of industry, some of whom, individually, are the richest in Africa, and of an intelligentsia which in all domains continues to demonstrate to the world its capacity for innovation, could feel threatened by Morocco?

Intellectuals who oppose Morocco’s accession to ECOWAS must reread the writings of our first leaders after the accession of our countries to independence, in particular Kwamé Nkrumah, the Osagyefo defender of Pan-Africanism, who around the great leaders like Gamal Abdel Nasser, Sékou Touré and Modibo Keita among others met in Casablanca in 1961 to trace the ideological and political contours of what will be the future Organization of African Unity OAU.

In truth, our strength is in unity. Colonial history had separated us, the political will must unite us. The African elite must banish selfishness, greed and the taste for ease in order to mobilize for the advent of an active solidarity which will lead us to pool our sometimes scattered strengths.

The history of the constitution of the European Union, in this regard, should inspire our leaders in the assessment of Morocco’s request for its accession to ECOWAS. Indeed, it is the lucidity of the Founding Fathers of Europe, which after bringing the new members up to standard, has made it possible to create today one of the most influential economic, cultural and political entities in the world.

Morocco has its place in ECOWAS

The obstacles to Morocco’s admission to ECOWAS are largely linked to ignorance, which marginalizes the populations concerned, and which prevents the existence of a real public opinion in favor of such a cause. Indeed, at the time of writing these lines, we can validly ask ourselves in which of the countries concerned, there has been the least large-scale public debate on this subject.

Africans must also know and accept that the self-proclaimed “pan-Africanist” elites cannot be enough to ensure the integration of Africa.

We have to admit it, Africans know very little about each other. Between nationals of different countries, rare are those who are aware of sharing a common African culture, they tolerate each other more than they know each other. Their vision of Africa is more part of the feeling than a real knowledge of the culture of others.

Thus among a good number of Africans, the countries of the Maghreb are rarely perceived as countries belonging to the cultural universe of the continent. If this vision is more nuanced in the countries where Muslims belonging to the Tidiane brotherhood reside, for example, their knowledge of the Maghreb is generally limited to religious and brotherhood considerations. Thus, their perception of Morocco or Algeria is intimately linked to their feelings in relation to Cheikh Ahmed Tidjane, founder of the Tidiane brotherhood, born in Algeria and buried in Morocco.

Moreover, for some North Africans, for a long time and still today, Africa is where the blacks live, on the other side of the Sahara, as if they lived somewhere between this Africa and Europe. In this regard, many of them have always seen their country as the backyard of Europe, a continent they believe to be their natural development partner.

It is in consideration of this that the actions of King Mohamed VI, in favor of a greater integration of his country in a global and concerted dynamic in favor of the development of the African continent, are revolutionary seen from the Maghreb and exemplary seen by others. African countries.

In truth, African countries have not really taken into account the cultural dimension in their policy of integration and consolidation of good neighborliness. Indeed, integration cannot be carried out only by football or basketball matches.

In this spirit, African countries must equip themselves with a real cultural diplomacy in order to better seal the most fraternal relations possible, first between the border countries and then with the other countries of the continent.

The awareness of belonging to a common African cultural space is the only chance to claim to achieve African integration through the AfCFTA, the very existence of which, in many respects, should be able to justify Morocco’s accession to ECOWAS.


BENOIT NGOM, President of the African Diplomatic Academy (ADA).

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