Morocco reaps rewards of major changes in its diplomatic strategy

We can infer though that a nationalist or irredentist policy towards the SADR probably enjoys wide popularity, and that a Moroccan withdrawal from the SADR would be met by some protests within Morocco.

When King Mohammed VI ascended the throne in 1999, he took cognizance of the fact that siteen years of boycotting the OAU had failed because the SADR remained an AU member in good standing. The new king used Morocco’s strengths as both an Arabophone and Francophone country to lobby zealously.

His success can be measured by the fact that Morocco’s application to rejoin the now strengthened African Union was supported by 39 out of 54 votes, with a majority of AU members, 28 out of 54, petitioning to suspend the SADR as a member. The SADR was only saved by the two-thirds rule which applies to suspension.

During these two decades of Moroccan diplomacy, the kingdom had also joined the Community of Sahel-Saharan States (CEN-SAD), until this became dormant after Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s assassination in 2011. It also negotiated, but didn’t sign, a free trade agreement with the francophone UEMOA, the west African economic and monetary union.

Morocco has now formally stated that it will apply to join the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), as “part of the royal vision for regional integration”. (This is also a tacit admission that the Arab Maghreb Union is moribund, and going nowhere.)

If this seems startling, we should note that regional definitions are as much political as geographic, and are dynamic, not static. Rwanda, for example, moved from the central African grouping to the East African Community in 2007. Egypt and Libya have joined the Common Market of Eastern and Southern Africa, Comesa.

And the AU has urged other states to follow the Tripartite Free Trade Area precedent by amalgamating with Ecowas.

Economic success
We now need to consider the economic dimension. Morocco now has the fifth largest GDP in Africa.

In addition, Morocco has an economy as diversified as Egypt’s and South Africa’s, unlike Nigeria and Algeria which are brutally affected by slumps in oil and gas prices.

In addition to tourism and food exports, Morocco has deftly used free trade area partnerships with the EU until it has, for example, built up over one hundred companies that are partners in aerospace global supply chains.

This niche surpasses both South African and Egyptian manufacturing. Morocco is also installing some of the largest solar power plants in Africa, monetizing the Sahara sunlight.

The future will tell us what further diplomatic successes Morocco will achieve.

Keith Gottschalk is Political Scientist, University of the Western Cape.This article is published courtesy of The Conversation (under Creative Commons-Attribution / No derivative).