Morocco and South Africa: A renewed partnership for the Africa we want

Morocco and South Africa: A renewed partnership for the Africa we want


His Excellency, Youssef Amrani, will be addressing SAIIA on “Morocco and South Africa: A renewed partnership for the Africa we want” in early September. Date to be confirmed. Please see below an article by the Ambassador.

Diplomatic relations between South Africa and the Kingdom of Morocco were formally established in 1991. President Nelson Mandela paid several official visits to the Kingdom of Morocco and paid tribute to Morocco and thanked the Kingdom for its “unfailing solidarity with the South African people”. He was received by His Majesty King Hassan II who decorated him, in 1992, with the highest Wissam Alaouite. 

In 2004 Morocco recalled its Ambassador for consultations. 15 years later, South Africa and Morocco agreed to come out of the stalemate and work together for a promising future, especially since the two countries are important poles of political stability and economic development, respectively in the extreme North and the extreme South of the continent.

On August 20, 2018, His Majesty King Mohammed VI appointed Mr Youssef AMRANI, former deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and adviser in the Royal Cabinet, as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to Pretoria. In 2020, South Africa designated Mr Ebrahim Edries, the new ambassador of South Africa to Morocco who was received for the presentation of the copies of his Letters of Credence by Morocco’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, on January 14 2021.

As of this very moment, Morocco and South Africa committed themselves to maintain direct contacts and to launch a fruitful economic and political partnership in order to build strong, lasting and stable relations.  This webinar aims to discuss the opportunities and challenges of the renewal of this relationship.

Youssef Amrani was born in Tangier, Morocco and holds a Bachelor in Economics from Mohammed V University of Rabat and a degree in management from the Boston University School of Management.  He joined the Foreign Ministry in 1978 and has had a long and distinguished career in public service.  Since 2019, he has been the Ambassador of His Majesty the King of Morocco to South Africa with non-resident Accreditation to Eswatini, Botswana and Malawi.


Article by Ambassador Youssef Amrani:

Morocco and South Africa are widely recognized as major actors within the continent and beyond. This recognition goes hand in hand with an important amount of duties, of challenges but also with big opportunities. It is with this in mind, that the two countries agreed, at the highest level, to reinforce and develop their relations trough a renewed Partnership. We consider that by building closer and stronger ties we actually participate in building up a prosperous, secure and forward-looking Africa.

As Ambassador of His Majesty the King to South Africa, I have a very clear mandate and very clear objectives. My mission in Pretoria is driven by 3 ambitions which all converge towards building up bridges of trust between our two countries through:

  • Strengthening our political dialogue at a bilateral level but also at the level of the African Union and today one has to admit that Africa is facing a lot of challenges. The AU needs commitment need coherence and most of all unity. Business as usual is not an option. There is no room for ideologies anymore.
  • Increasing of our economic exchanges and the support of direct investment flows. Indeed, we both face important development challenges in order to provide job opportunities to the youth of our nations while positively contributing to the development of our continent.
  • And thirdly, by promoting people-to-people relations and deepening exchanges in the areas of culture, education and tourism and by promoting a better mutual understanding.

Indeed, the relation Between Morocco and South Africa is a very eloquent expression of my country’s diplomatic commitment towards the Continent. Morocco’s African policy is based on solidarity, pragmatism dialogue cooperation and unity. In order to understand this relations, I would like to share some elements on how Morocco has succeeded in facing the main challenges of these last 20 years and how we have made of our experience the main pillar of our Foreign Policy.

Secondly, we should review the factors that plead in favour of a rapprochement between Morocco and South Africa and how this can be done. We face common challenges both internally and on the international level and we have so many unexploited opportunities. What is needed in the current phase is to implement the ambitious agenda our two countries agreed on and to put in place the appropriate tools for a shared prosperity. In doing so, Morocco relies on its deep African roots, its longstanding African commitment and its steadfast African visions and ambitions.


Africa is part of Morocco’s DNA

Africa forms an integral part of Morocco’s identity. Social, economic, cultural, family and religious ties between Morocco and the continent date back to centuries. Since the 60’s and shortly after its independence, Morocco actively supported African independence movements and their emblematic leaders from Patrice Lumumba to Nelson Mandela, providing them with diplomatic support as well as military assistance in order to defeat colonialism and help the continent achieve peace. Morocco hosted in 1961 the 1st conference bringing all the representatives of the Portuguese speaking liberation movements and sheltered many of its leaders while assisting them diplomatically and militarily until independence in the 70’s.

Morocco is a founding member of the OAU. It was the Casablanca conference, in 1961, that brought together the most charismatic leaders of the newly independent African countries such as the Father of the Moroccan independence Mohammed V, Gamal Abdennasser, Kwame Nrumah, Sekou Toure Modibo Keita, and others. What united the “Casablanca Group” was a firm belief in the need for African political unification or federation as well as deep integration. These ideas were, at the time, the first blooms that led to the birth of the pan Africanism and the Organization of the African Unity.

Morocco is African, by its geography, as well as by its history. These Human, economic and religious ties have always been strong between the Kingdom and the continent it belongs to. Withdrawing from the OAU in 1984 has never meant that Morocco left Africa, but it simply went out from an institution in very special circumstances. Nevertheless, Morocco did not wait for its return to the AU to invest in social-economic development with the African countries.


Morocco a key player in building up African Unity and Solidarity.

The spirit of fraternity, solidarity and humanism prevails in our foreign policy. HM King Mohammed VI’s initiative to support and work together with more than 15 African sisterly nations in their national efforts and endeavours to fight the Covid pandemic, confirms yet again, Morocco’s commitment for a united, strong and resilient Africa.  Integration, stability and prosperity are at the heart of our priorities. In the current difficult circumstances, the emerging solidarity, cooperation and empathy across the continent are a source of pride

The Kingdom, a founding father of the OAU, has continuously joined efforts with African partners. Morocco has established itself as a first rank actor of peace and stability in Africa. More than 1,600 Moroccan soldiers, police officers, and civilian personnel are assigned to the United Nations peacekeeping operations in Africa, which came at a high price for many of our soldiers who lost their lives, serving for peace in Africa.Peace and stability in Africa were also at the core of Morocco’s third mandate in the Security Council for the term 2012-2013 where the African issues were at the heart of our action within the Council. Morocco has contributed actively in international efforts to restore and maintain peace, security and stability in a number of African countries. These include an active involvement in mediation in several conflict resolution processes such asthe MANO River region, and more recently in Libya, as well as in post-conflict reconstruction in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Mali and Guinea Bissau.

The Kingdom contributed for many years to the education and training of the future academic, military, security and spiritual elites of Africa. Indeed, Morocco has a longstanding tradition and history in investing in Africa’s youth dating back to the 80s.Each year, over 7000 students from African countries are enrolled in universities in Morocco benefitting from scholarships.

Morocco has also become a reference in religious affairs promoting a tolerant and moderate Islam and playing a central role in regional and international security and stability. The Mohammed VI Centre for the training of Imams and female preachers opened its doors in 2012 and trains yearly over a thousand imams not only from Africa, but also from the Middle East and Europe.

Yesterday, today and tomorrow, Morocco spares no efforts to contribute in building up an emergent strong, independent and confident continent. This is also evidenced by the magnitude of investments and projects inaugurated in agriculture, housing, telecommunications, banking and basic infrastructure as well as the strengthening of commercial exchanges.

The Kingdom of Morocco has always known how to continuously focus on the progress of its nation and the well-being of its people. A few weeks ago, Morocco adopted a New Development Model that will reshape the way our nation plans its own future. As such, the New Development Model stands as a testimony to Morocco’s forward-looking approach and paves the way for a promising, inclusive and bright future for all Moroccans regardless of their gender, social, political or religious backgrounds.

This New Development Model is a result of large-scale comprehensive national dialogue that aims to tackle contemporary and future challenges. Objectives of the New Development Model include doubling the per capita GDP by 2035, increasing the capacity of the economy to generate jobs, significantly reducing social and territorial inequalities, ensuring universal health coverage, and providing quality education as a basis.

This takes a greater importance in the context of the efforts to overcome the various crises that the continent is currently facing in a serene and appeased manner. It is our belief that what we achieve internally must equate and adequate to what we promote on the level of our continent.


Morocco’s strong contribution to the African institutional scheme and Rabat’s call for coherence

Morocco’s return to the AU is the result of this proactive and sustained policy of His Majesty King Mohammed VI and a Royal Vision in favour of a South-South cooperation development and a win-win partnership. It is a return to normal, to our natural place. This return is the fruit of a long term vision that has seen our relations with Africa progressively strengthened on a bilateral level with all the countries of the continent. This return is the crowning achievement of the renewal of Morocco's relations with the African continent and the capitalization on the richness of its centuries-old ties with the continent.

Africa has the potential of becoming the world’s next food basket and Morocco’s expertise in agriculture and phosphates is being put to use to address food insecurity and increase productivity of African farmers, of all scales. We will achieve progress only through significant reforms and we will meet the needs of our fellow African citizen only trough meaningful decisions.

Africa should rely on its own capacities and it can afford to do so, since our youth, our people, our assets and our skills are showing unexpected level of resilience. Being relevant today means thinking about tomorrow. Perhaps Africa will show the way forward and set an example for others to follow. “An Africa of Health” could be one of the most valuable outcomes of this crisis that is not only a stigma but also a great opportunity.

All these elements fully reflect in our way of doing diplomacy with South Africa. Morocco aspires not only to build up a strong economic partnership with Pretoria but also to shape the frame for an effective political cooperation based on understandings, responsibility and common ownership. We have the tools, the will and the necessary reasons to do so.


Economic opportunities should bring us closer

On the economic level, Morocco and south Africa acknowledge in their trading history some big success stories. Saham and Sanlam, Aredei Capital and so on. But of course, this is not enough. We have to push this dynamic even further to create more value for our people and our young generation. This is what matters the most.

Last month Morocco and South Africa signed 2 agreements. Casablanca Finance City Authority (CFCA) and the South African Agency Wesgro signed a memorandum of understanding to promote investment opportunities in Morocco and South Africa. Morocco’s regional Chamber of Commerce, Industry, and services of the Souss-Massa region signed an MoU with South Africa’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Cape Province. Under the MoU, the two chambers of commerce commit to establishing a partnership framework across areas of common interest, including industry, investment, trade, and services. These new instruments pave the way for the establishment of a support platform for companies in their respective investment projects, whether in South Africa for Moroccan companies or in Morocco for South African companies.

The important involvement of Moroccan operators and their strong engagement in the areas of banking, insurance, air transport, telecommunications and housing are such that the Kingdom is now the number one investor in West Africa. At the same time, the Kingdom of Morocco and South Africa are the largest investors in the continent and as regional hubs, they are called upon to play major roles in the African integration process.

They can do this by enhancing inter-African trade and investment to promote growth and prosperity through appropriate tools like the African continental free-trade area. The creation of this African continental free trade area marks only the beginning of a broader collective plan and a new model of supportive, efficient and inclusive co-development in the service of African countries. In our continent, integration is a priority, so time has come to be pragmatic and proactive, to break the borders. We must both aim to common and shared objectives like peace restoration, strengthening democracy, strong economic growth, in order to enhance States’ resilience and promote inclusive, sustainable development for the benefit of our populations.

The time has come to build up a renewed and strong partnership, more than ever rich in its substance, positive in its approach and promising in its perspectives. By working together, we can increase trade and investment and promote economic and human development projects, as means of promoting stability and security throughout the continent. How to create jobs, promote economic development and respond to the expectations of our younger generation, while facing at the same time the urgency of the situation created by the Covid pandemic, is not an easy task.

Both our leaders have made courageous choices, despite the devastating economic costs involved for our developing countries. Today the mistake would have been to put economic ambitions and health requirements on the same level of urgency. Neither one nor the other must be neglected. The priority today is to support our societies as closely as possible to bring this deadly virus to its knees.

More than ever, Africa must take responsibility for its own destiny through a renewed commitment that puts human development at the heart of its priorities. The most highly commendable initiatives taken by the South African President Ramaphosa, when chairing the AU, to urge our continent to act in solidarity against the threat we all are facing, is evidence of African awareness. An awareness that more than ever rests on the fundamentals of altruism, respect and empathy. President Ramaphosa made it very clear that a continental co-ordinated response was more important than ever before, in order to stop the rapid spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Morocco and South Africa are among the very few African countries that currently have the equipment and the know how to efficiently address the needs of the African continent in vaccines and medical equipment. Today, though financial and technical assistance from other horizons is obviously welcome, it will certainly not be enough to save a continent that faces multiple challenges. With all clarity and responsibility, we must work internally, by our own means, to review realities that are now obsolete. More than ever, policies of solidarity are needed. To face this global challenge, we have to provide common responses.


Promoting Peace and Security together

It is in this particular context that we need to shape the common action of Morocco and South Africa to serve peace and security together. Morocco has been committed and persistent in enhancing its relationships in Africa. We see an added value in building up a strong AU with stability and ambition. We believe in the need to step up our efforts, within the African Union to speak with one voice to shape and influence the international decision-making process.

Africa is facing new and old challenges in a particularly complex and serious terrain and multiform chronic instability (political, economic, social, security, climate, migration…), which are hampering States’ capacity for development. While it is true that Africa is an economically emerging continent, it remains nonetheless vulnerable, as evidenced by the situation in the Sahel and in the Mozambique. We have seen clearly how those risks and opportunities cannot be tackled without strong and pro-active regional integration to counter the region’s underdevelopment. No policy, security advances or development can be sustained if it is pursued by individual states. Security in the North, in the Sahel and in the Southern Africa presents challenges that cannot be dealt with separately.

Security in Africa requires an efficient and reshaped regional co-operation system, generating efficient and concrete actions, more specifically in the fields of peacekeeping, conflict prevention and socio-economic development. We need to work together, through integrated, symmetrical and consolidated partnerships, involving all development actors, within the framework of a comprehensive approach, in order to promote security, economic growth and human development.

Today we are all committed to work together for a promising future by deepening and reinforcing our historical relations. We have always been proud to outline that Morocco backed and supported South Africa in its courageous and legitimate fight for the establishment of a renewed and democratically based order. Today, driven by very similar visions for Africa our two countries are undertaking a process of rapprochement, which will undoubtedly benefit our people but also the emergence of continent as a whole.

Our countries have made a joint commitment to work together for the mutual benefit of our people and I am fully committed to pursuing this path by building bridges of trust, cooperation and mutual understanding. Our artists, civil society actors, intellectuals and business community members are our greatest assets and are invited to join these efforts to create platforms and links towards unity. We hope that soon we will be able to make some important announcement in this domain.


How to achieve a renewed partnership?

This key question is at the core of my mandate in South Africa is how do we transform our shared aspiration into a concrete regional dynamic, leading to economic integration, sustainable stability and security, as well as shared prosperity. Political dialogue between our countries, as well as economic integration, free trade, interconnectivity of networks are of paramount importance.

This is why we have oriented our efforts here in South Africa towards three levels of action: Firstly, we believe in dialogue in the purest African tradition as a way of building bridges of trust and finding ways to act together. One has to understand that African Unity is a moving target. We have to constantly adapt our self to the requirement of goal-oriented policies.

At the level of the Continent, we believe that the AU must provide the space that unites ambitions and pulls strategies. Its role is crucial to express a continental vision that breaks with past approaches. The AU must be the locomotive of an Africa that moves forward, an Africa that trusts itself and an Africa that evolves. Morocco deeply believes that Africa’s future must rely on common ownership and dialogue. The course of history is that of a close and unequivocal support for the priorities of an African youth in search of prosperity and opportunities.

This is where the cooperation between Morocco and South Africa takes a new dimension in the prospects of building a strong and prosperous continent. As I said earlier, Morocco and South Africa have both in their respective regions a relevant role that goes hand in hand with heavy responsibilities. Morocco and South Africa engaged in a frank, global and positive dialogue. We have nothing to hide from each other. Our divergences and our convergences are well known and transparently expressed.  

Today, a strong partnership between our Morocco and south Africa, represents a strategic necessity and a political ambition not only for our two countries but for whole Africa


Overall, we have to turn the pages of past shortcomings to build-up a common future based on shared prosperity and common values. Today, Africa is an example of ambition and a model of commitment. Let us persevere along this path and we will overcome not only this epidemic, but also the rest of the trials endured by our continent and its people, looking forward to a future of peace and security in Africa.