In a welcome development, the North African nation of Morocco has been accorded an agreement in principle to join the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas). It will be recalled that Ecowas is a sub-regional bloc with 15 full-fledged members such as The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Senegal. Morocco has long shared strong linkages with many of these countries which have only grown over the past few years. This has been due to the efforts of Morocco’s King Mohammed VI who has accorded great primacy to economic relations with West African nations under the framework of South-South cooperation.
After Morocco re-joined the African Union earlier this year, the kingdom’s application to become a full-fledged member of Ecowas is only a natural progression. In fact, Morocco is already the No.1 investor in West Africa and has inked scores of economic cooperation agreements with Ecowas member nations. Its economic resolve with respect to West Africa is best exemplified by the projected Morocco-Nigeria Trans-African pipeline. The mammoth 4,000 km regional gas pipeline will become the main energy artery of West Africa and will seek to attain multiple objectives such as speeding up electrification projects in the region, setting up a competitive regional market for electricity, supporting the creation of regional industrial hubs, and eventually supplying energy to Europe via Morocco.
For Morocco, joining Ecowas would not only give a fillip to its exports but also consolidate its position in Africa. In that sense, Ecowas will be Morocco’s pole in Africa and the regional grouping will benefit tremendously from Moroccan expertise in sectors such as agriculture, phosphates, fishing, finance and manufacturing. That said, Morocco becoming a full-fledged Ecowas member also needs to be seen in a larger perspective. There’s no denying the fact that we are living in a time where advances in communication technology have greatly multiplied the channels of expressing dissent and creating chaos.
It is this chaos that eventually becomes a national security threat for a country as inimical external forces conspire to fish in troubled waters. In an earlier era grievances of the people could be addressed through political processes. However, today, political processes are perceived to be too slow to deliver benefits to the people. This is precisely what is happening in Morocco’s northern Rif region where for months people have been demanding better governance and tangible benefits such as a cancer hospital and a university. While Moroccan authorities are now trying to address their Rif residents’ demands, there’s no denying that things wouldn’t have come to this pass had the Moroccan government been more proactive in fulfilling the development needs of the Rif earlier.
The same principle applies to Morocco’s foreign relations. But here, thankfully, King Mohammed has guided Morocco on to a wise path that will secure the country’s future by investing in economic partnerships today. And Morocco’s application for joining Ecowas is an expression of this. For, in this increasingly globalised world no one succeeds alone. Morocco’s multi-dimensional foreign policy is based on this principle. This is precisely why India should take this opportunity to boost its ties with Morocco, which can be India’s springboard to Francophone West Africa. In this context, Morocco’s eventual accession to Ecowas should be welcomed by India.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.