Morocco’s Return to AU, Opportunity for Greater Trade with Africa: Newsweek

Morocco’s return to the African Union (AU) is an opportunity for greater trade with African countries, wrote US magazine Newsweek, in an article published on its electronic website.

The article highlighted that one of the benefits of Morocco’s reintegration into the AU is “the opportunity for greater trade with African countries, many of which are growing much faster than European states.”

The American publication stressed that, while economic exchange with Sub-Saharan African countries has witnessed steady growth in recent years, this exchange still represents a small percentage of Morocco’s overall foreign trade.

Newsweek went to add that Morocco’s new African policy offsets the failure of the Union of the Maghreb (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Mauritania and Libya). Due to the ongoing dispute over the Western Sahara, pitting Morocco against Algeria, the union has been unable to uphold its promise of improving trade between the five countries.  The author of the article, Conor Gaffey, recalled the various visits paid by King Mohammed VI to several African countries, adding that Morocco has signed almost 1,000 agreements and treaties with various African countries since 2000.

“Moroccan banks have expanded throughout Africa, with a presence in more than 20 countries. The country’s state-run airline, Royal Air Maroc, is one of Africa’s biggest airlines, with Casablanca used as a transit point for many sub-Saharan Africans traveling across the continent,” Newsweek underlined.

“Morocco has opened a number of interesting diplomatic and commercial interests with their nearest African neighbors,” noted the US magazine, quoting Claire Spencer, a North Africa expert at the international affairs think tank, Chatham House.

According to the same source, the second benefit of Morocco’s return to the AU is giving Morocco more “legitimacy” and leverage to work toward finding a political settlement to the Western Sahara dispute.

Citing Liesl Louw-Vaudran, an analyst at the Institute of Security Studies in South Africa, the Newsweek article argues that, with its return to the African family, Morocco will have more leverage to push for a political settlement that respects its sovereignty over the Western Sahara.

“I don’t think there’s anyone who thinks that total independence for Western Sahara is still on the card,” Louw-Vaudran was quoted as saying.