Morocco’s multidimensional role in Africa

Morocco’s ancient ties with sub-Saharan Africa

Social, economic, cultural and religious ties between Morocco and its sub-Saharan neighbors date back to centuries. From the founding of the Kingdom in the 7th century onwards, trade exchanges were strengthened with the existing kingdoms in West Africa. Trade routes also helped spread of Islam and brought Moroccan Sufi traditions and spiritual brotherhoods (eg; Tijaniyya) into the region. These spiritual ties helped forge a unique bond between the Kingdom and countries from Senegal to Nigeria. Thousands of West Africans visit yearly Fez to pay homage to the mausoleum of the order’s founder, Sheikh Tijani.

A decisive contribution to decolonization

Shortly after putting an end to 44 years of French protectorate in 1956 and engaging in a long decolonization process with Spain (1956 to 1975) leading to the successive negotiated retrocession of 4 of the 6 territories it held (Northern Morocco, Sidi Ifni, Tarfaya, Western Sahara), 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 1960, King Mohammed V organized the “Casablanca Conference” which brought together Gamal Abdel Nasser (Egypt), Kwame Nkruma (Ghana), Sekou Toure (Guinea), Modibo Keita (Mali), King Idriss I (Libya) and Farhat Abbas (provisional government in exile of Algeria based in Morocco). What united the “Casablanca Group” was a firm belief in the need for African political unification or federation as well as deep integration (including militarily) in order to defeat colonialism and help the continent achieve peace, foster cultural dialogue, increase its geopolitical influence and promote development.

A year after the death of Mohammed V, King Hassan II 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.

In order to counter the threatening momentum of the “Casablanca Group”, colonial powers discretely encouraged the setting up of the “Monrovia Group” (eg: Cameroon, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal) who called for a less radical approach to decolonization through negotiations and favored nationalism over pan-africanism. The two groups also held divergent views on existing conflicts such as the one in Algeria and Zaire While the Casablanca Group pledged to support the Algeria independence, the Monrovia Group backed France.

Inspiring the OAU (and the AU)

Following the wave of decolonization from 1960 to 1962, th fundamental differences between the two groups were put aside. In 1963, the two camps agreed to unite and establish a formal, continent-wide organization: the Organization of African Unity (OAU). The forwar vision of the “Casablanca Group” inspired the fundamental pillars of th OAU and many of its revolutionary ideas have been enacted such as th AU regional standby forces or the African continental free trade zone.

Morocco’s engagement on the continent

Since independence, the spirit of the “Casablanca Group” has been at the core of Morocco’s engagement towards a peaceful and prosperou Africa. Morocco has engaged in promoting South South cooperation fostering peace and stability, leading on key thematic issues for Africa calling for greater regional integration and developing mutually beneficia economic partnerships. His Majesty King Mohammed VI has bee n personally invested in defining Morocco’s Africa policy as highlighte by his 50 state visits to 32 African countries in 20 years.

The first African investor in Africa

In 2018, Morocco surpassed South Africa to become the first African investor on the continent and the sixth largest African investor in th world with an outflow of USD 4.5 billion. 62.9 per cent of Moroccan foreign direct investments (FDI) are directed to sub-Saharan Africa covering the following sectors: banking (31%), telecommunication (21%), industry (12%), real estate (11%), holdings (10%), other service (9%), trade (5%) and insurance (1 %).

Moroccan enterprises present in 30 African countries have become positive ecosystem for growth. Moroccan banks (BMCE-Bank of Africa, Attijariwafabank) are also contributing to development by extending up to USD 100 million credit loans to government-funde projects and to local small and medium enterprises.


Firm believer in regional integration

Morocco has always called for greater political and economic regiona integration. In 1989, it hosted the Summit establishing the Arab Maghreb Union in Marrakech. A decade later, Morocco joined the Community of Sahelo-Saharan States (CENSAD). In 2016, Morocco officially requested to join ECOWAS and in 2019, it ratified the African Continental Free Trade Agreement.

After developing modern infrastructures such as the biggest port in Africa (Tanger Med port), the largest solar plant in the world (Noor), the first high speed bullet train on the continent and the MENA region, the new focus of Morocco is the development of regionally integrating infrastructure projects.

In this regard, Nigeria and Morocco agreed to build a USD 20 billion Atlantic African Gas Pipeline Project transporting gas from West Africa to Europe. Morocco is also working with G5 Sahel countries and assisting them in the development of solar green energy. The Kingdom is developing the rehabilitation of the Cocody Bay in Cote d’Ivoire while assisting South Sudan in the urban planning of its future capital.

Investing in Africa’s future generations

Morocco has a longstanding tradition and history in investing in Africa’s youth dating back to the 80s. Each year, over 7000 students from several sub-Saharan African countries are enrolled in universities in Morocco benefitting from scholarships. In addition, hundreds of sub-Saharan African professionals are provided vocational training in its “centers of excellence” to benefit from Morocco’s experience and know-how.

South-South Cooperation

As a firm believer in African solutions to African problems, Morocco has placed South-South cooperation at the center of its foreign and developmental actions. Solidarity and regional responsibility have always guided its approach to cooperation ranging from human development, to food security and climate change adaptation initiatives, debt cancellation, skill and technology transfers, security and military training, to infrastructure development and humanitarian assistance. The continuation of Royal Air Maroc flights to Ebola stricken countries during the recent outbreak is another illustration of this spirit.

Triangular Cooperation

A new dimension of Morocco’s engagement on the continent is via triangular cooperation. Morocco is teaming up with major donor countries such as the US, Japan, France, but also with UNDP and USAID on joint programs in Africa.

In 2019, the US and Morocco held within their Strategic Dialogue th first Africa Working Group, which identified a series of joint actions in Africa such as a common security training platform (Sahel), youth empowerment projects (Mali), preservation of heritage sites and collaborative opportunities within Prosper Africa.

A contributor to peace and security in Africa

As an African pioneer in UN peacekeeping operations, Moroccan troops supported and continue to support stability in the Zaire, Somalia the DRC, Cote d’Ivoire, the Central African Republic and South Sudan. It also helped broker peace deals such as the ones between Sierra Leon and Liberia (Casablanca, 2000), the transition to civilian rule in Guine following the coup d’état of Daddis Camara (Rabat, 2009), and the only inter-Libyan political agreement to date (Skhirat, 2015).

As a member of the UN Security Council (2012-2013), Morocco playe a key role in promoting Africa’s interests. Morocco was the penholde for the Sahel, a region of primary importance for the Kingdom. It Presidential Statement on the Sahel paved the way for the development of the UN comprehensive and integrated strategy for the Sahel and th designation of a UN Special Envoy for the region. Morocco was als appointed chair of the UN peacebuilding configuration for th Central African Republic.

Morocco is currently a member of the AU Peace and Security Council

At the forefront of Africa’s pressing challenges

Migration: Morocco has been a regional leader on migration hostin the first euro-African conference on migration and development (2006) and the UN Global Compact on Migration (2018).

In 2017, His Majesty King Mohammed VI was designated to lead on the issue of migration within the AU. His report proposed th establishment of an AU Special Envoy on migration and the setting up of an African observatory on migration (Rabat) to follow this phenomeno and its root causes.

Morocco is the only country in the region to have enacted significan migration and asylum reform. In 2013, His Majesty King Mohammed VI officially announced a plan to adopt a “humanitarian approach” to migration and asylum. Since then, two waves of regularization for undocumented individuals took place in Morocco, with 40,000 people, mainly Africans, receiving resident permits as well as access to free healthcare and public schools.

Counterterrorism: Morocco has been at the forefront in the fight against terrorism and violent extremism since the Casablanca terrorist attacks in 2003. As the co-chair of the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) since 2015, Morocco has pressed for greater attention to the needs of African countries to build their capacity to address the threats of terrorism and concrete measures were adopted in this regard.

Furthermore, as a member of the international coalition against ISIS, Morocco took the initiative of hosting in Skhirate (2018) a meeting of the coalition with a specific focus on the Sahel, Lake Chad Basin and the horn of Africa. The ISIS threat and the need to prevent the establishment of new safe havens in Africa for foreign terrorist fighters fleeing Syria and Iraq were discussed in depth. African non-coalition members were invited to share their views and assessment of the situation. This discussion shed light on the African dimension of the ISIS threat.

Countering Violent Extremism: Based on its successful experience in deradicalisation, Morocco has been supporting African countries to counter radical and terrorist ideologies. The Mohammed VI Center for the training of Imams and Morchidates (female preacher) opened its doors in 2012 to the training of foreign imams from sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East Europe and central Asia. The training center promotes the “Moroccan brand” of Islam deriving from the Malikite Sunni School of Law, the Ash’aari doctrine and the acceptance of mysticism “Sufism”. These three elements foster moderation, openness and pragmatism. After the successful training of over 1200 Malian imams, the program has been expanded to citizens from Burkina Faso, Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, France, Gabon, Guinea, Mauritania, Nigeria, Senegal, Tunisia, UAE. Today, over 1000 foreign nationals are trained yearly.

Climate Change: Morocco is currently Africa’s leader regarding efforts to combat climate change and is ranked second globally in the climate change performance index.

In 2016, Morocco hosted the Climate Change Summit (COP22), year after the adoption of the Paris Agreement. This summit was focused on moving the climate action agenda further and addressing pressin concerns of developing countries. Morocco called on world leaders to put more focus on concrete plans for Africa’s small-scale farmer impacted by climate change. It also launched the Climate Change Competence Center in Morocco (4C Morocco), aimed at developing the capacity of Africa countries to adapt to climate change.

On the margins of COP22, His Majesty King Mohammed VI hosted th first Africa Action Summit that saw the launch of concrete transnationa projects and three Commissions focused on the Congo Basi n Commission, the Sahel and Island States. These committees have bee exploring innovative ways to address key climate related challenges in Africa and find financing for their projects.

Food Security: As a major agricultural producer, Morocco has directed large part of its investments in Africa to the agricultural sector, assistin African countries in the transformation and modernization of thei agriculture. The OCP group, Morocco’s phosphates and fertilizer producer, has been providing soil mappings and sharing best practices expertise and advice with various countries in West Africa, the Sahel and East Africa.

In 2018, the OCP signed a USD 3.7 billion fertilizer plant deal in Ethiopia. Other major projects are currently underway in Nigeria, Ghan and Rwanda to bring customized fertilizers closer to the African farme and increase productivity and quality.