In which ways may ECOWAS benefit from Morocco joining the regional organisation
The decision of the Kingdom of Morocco in February of 2017 to join the West Africa regional bloc, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), was received by varied expectations by existing members of ECOWAS as well as observers of the geopolitical developments in the sub-region. Whiles the bloc could not readily make a decision on the application of Morocco, the 51st Ordinary Session of the Authority of Heads of States and Governments of the ECOWAS in Monrovia Liberia indicated an acceptance in principle of the request made by Morocco. This was to be followed by an assessment of the implications of Morocco’s accession to the regional bloc by the ECOWAS Commission – a prudent move one could say!
The mixed ‘feelings’ expressed by many observers and country’s such as Nigeria, regarding the decision of Morocco, much as remain valid are rather curious positions to hold in the current era of globalisation and an agenda of Africa to ultimately integrate, and crucially underscore the age old adage – whether men were made for laws, or laws for men. Morocco may not be the only North African country in the Maghreb region to have expressed this interest and certainly may not be the last, so the decision of the ECOWAS could be telling on future developments.
A cursory read of article 3 – aims and objectives, of the revised treaty of ECOWAS indicates among other things the heads of states (i) … note that the present bilateral and multilateral forms of economic co-operation within the region open up for perspectives of more extensive co-operation… (ii) …accept the need to face together the political, economic and socio-cultural challenges of the present and the future, and to pool together [resources]…while respecting our diversities for the most rapid and optimum expansion of the region’s productive capacity, and crucially (iii)…aware that the review of the treaty arises, inter alien from the need for the community to adapt to the changes on the international scene in order to derive greater benefits from those changes. It is strange how the accession of Morocco could be perceived to undermine these objectives, without stretching the underlying decision of Morocco to include issues not necessarily at the heart of the essence of integration and indeed in the aims of the revised treaty.
Take for instance the case of a spirited defence and opposition reportedly mounted by Nigeria for which some experts have indicated the desire of Morocco to challenge Nigeria’s leadership of the Community. It is a strange position to hold, to say the least. However one that requires a careful assessment. To the extent that the Community is governed by fair rules of engagement between and among countries in the sub-region and their counterparts outside of it, it is difficult how this purported leadership of Nigeria could be undermined. In any case, unless the fundamental principles in Article 4 of the revised treaty are only present in letter and not abided by, in which case provisions such as ‘the equality and interdependence states’ for instance do not matter in reality, there really isn’t a course for alarm.
The Moroccan economy today has an import portfolio which is skewed along the following product lines; crude petroleum, textile fabric, telecommunications equipments, wheat, gas and electricity, transistors, and plastics, from destinations such as France, Spain, China, Italy, Germany, United States and Saudi Arabia. This portfolio immediately presents an opportunity to countries within the sub-region such as Nigeria to explore.
Some have gone as far as, questioning the motives of the decision of Morocco, it’s geopolitical alliance with Europe, it’s historical engagements with it’s neighbours – Algeria, Tunisia, Mauritania and Libya, it’s ‘neglected’ leadership role in the Maghreb Union, among others. As valid as these may by, they actually cannot be the source of threat to the stability of the ECOWAS, and if these threats are real, they only underscore the weak institutional support of ECOWAS and not an attempt by Morocco to undermine these institutions. This provides an opportunity for the ECOWAS to review its institutional systems to ensure that even in the existing scheme of engagement, no country gains undue advantage, and cannot single handedly hold back progress and development of the Union. The terrible effects of colonialism on Africa, have done little to prevent African countries from doing business and establishing trade pacts and Unions with their counterparts, such as the Commonwealth, why should Morocco’s historical political narratives influence it’s future with ECOWAS – with clearly defined rules of engagement? Very curious!
The tectonic shifts in the global political space appear to suggest the need for countries and sub-regions to find new friends, and alliances based on fair rules of engagement to not only generate strengths collectively, but support sustainable growth and development.
The Moroccan economy today has an import portfolio which is skewed along the following product lines; crude petroleum, textile fabric, telecommunications equipments, wheat, gas and electricity, transistors, and plastics, from destinations such as France, Spain, China, Italy, Germany, United States and Saudi Arabia. This portfolio immediately presents an opportunity to countries within the sub-region such as Nigeria to explore. A scalable investment in crude petroleum and textile fabric industries for instance in the sub-region, could mean a readily available market in Morocco and beyond, barring all else. The ECOWAS’ economy although is service driven today, continues to see a greater percentage of it’s labour force in agriculture. For the purposes of boosting agricultural growth per capita of labour employed, mechanisation and the provision of inputs for large scale commercial farming has been identified by most member countries. A great deal of expertise in this regard include the production of fertiliser sits in Morocco, and could provide some form of trade relief for the sub-region under it’s membership.
The financial industry – banking, insurance, and general capital markets, of Morocco is one of the robust across the continent. Many analysts lose sight of the fundamental fact that, movement of goods and services is driven by the legitimate movement of capital and finance – vehicle through which value is held. Thus Morocco’s financial industry will provide the sort of depth that is required to effectively compete against legacy financial institutions of European origin. This will deliver value for the ECOWAS economy.
Morocco has taken the lead in the energy sector not only in Africa but in the world, serving as a good representative of renewable energy. This is based on the large-scale projects that they have embarked on, one of which includes the Noor Complex, which currently serves as the world’s largest solar plant. Other major infrastructure projects include the Atlantic gas pipeline, launched in 2017, which has been set up from Nigeria right through to Morocco, connecting 20 West African countries including Ghana. Indeed, Morocco asserts that the accession and partnership with them could further streamline and strengthen these projects that are meant to be of benefit to all.
Indeed the accession of Morocco to the ECOWAS holds tremendous value. The only caveat under which this value can be unlocked is; both parties – ECOWAS and Morocco, must approach this with the objective of unlocking that value synergistically. Any attempt to undermine the other could jettison any gains to be made. With Morocco making the gesture, it is crucial that the ECOWAS critically engages with clean hands, with the view of unlocking win-win value for both parties. The focus on historical geopolitical narratives, even in the absence of Morocco, could threaten the Community and indeed any other regional bloc for that matter. A case in point is the now infamous Brexit! This is echoed in the words of JFK, ‘you cannot negotiate with people who say, what is mine is mine, and what is yours is negotiable’.