31 January 2017

Africa: King Mohammed Vi Highlights Ties to Africa in African Union Speech - Jean R. Abinader

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"It is time to return home" says king as Morocco rejoins the AU

Just a year ago, most political observers were sure that Morocco's push to rejoin the AU had only a remote possibility of success. Yet, it has happened. Relying on a broad offensive that combined astute political outreach coupled with economic diplomacy, Morocco generated broad goodwill across the continent and entered the AU on Monday with an overwhelming majority of member votes on its first attempt.

King Mohammed VI addressed the final session of the AU Summit the day after and was clear that "In fact, despite having been absent from the AU institutions for so many years, our links, which have never been severed, have remained strong and African sister nations have always been able to rely on us."

He went on to mention that since 2000, he has signed 949 agreements with African countries covering a broad range of activities, from finance and tourism, mining, education, and agriculture, to renewable energy. The king said that his 46 visits to 25 countries provided the backdrop for these agreements with the public and private sectors.

Most recently, Morocco and Nigeria agreed to embark on a coastal natural gas pipeline reaching 13 other countries, creating new opportunities for infrastructure, power, and economic development projects. As he noted, "It will, indeed, contribute to creating a regional electricity market and be a substantial source of energy which will help develop industry, improve economic competitiveness and speed up social development. The project will thus create wealth for neighboring countries and populations, generating crucial momentum that will stimulate the emergence and the development of parallel projects."

It is this kind of vision that has propelled Morocco into a vanguard role as a gateway to Africa. Its extensive infrastructure links to the continent's markets and affords it with experience that plays, as the King noted, a significant role in Morocco's cooperative agricultural projects promoting food security and rural development that benefit the host countries as well as Africa's wider agricultural sector.

The king mentioned the Adaptation of African Agriculture initiative, launched by Morocco at COP22, calling it"an innovative and extremely concrete response to the common challenges posed by climate change. As soon as it was launched, the initiative was backed by some thirty African countries."

King Mohammed VI then pointed out the role that Morocco plays in ensuring security and stability in Africa, mentioning its role in UN peace-keeping missions, some of which are still ongoing; its mediation efforts to reduce conflicts; and its continued support for encouraging South-South cooperation.

"My vision of South-South cooperation is clear and constant: my country shares what it has, without ostentation. Within the framework of a clear-sighted collaboration, Morocco - which is a major economic player in Africa - will become a catalyst for shared expansion." Of special note, he listed steps taken by the country to normalize the status of African refugees in Morocco, a first among the countries in the region. "We are acting to stop these people from living on the fringes of society, with no work, no healthcare, nowhere to live and no access to education. We are acting so couples, particularly those from mixed marriages - between Moroccans and sub-Saharans - will not be parted. All this constructive action to help migrants has bolstered Morocco's image and strengthened the bonds we had already forged."

According to the king, these concrete steps underscore Morocco's commitment to act as an enabler of greater stability on the continent. "You will see: as soon as the Kingdom becomes a member and is able to contribute to the agenda of activities, its action will, on the contrary [to those who insinuate otherwise], help bring about unity and progress. We participated in the creation of this beautiful pan-African edifice and we naturally look forward to regaining the place that is ours within it."

It was clear in the speech that Morocco was able to achieve economic progress despite limited natural resources by relying on its people and homegrown initiatives to reach its level of achievement. In the past, "Morocco has always considered that its strength comes primarily from the integration of the Maghreb sub-region." Yet the failure of the Arab Maghreb Union to carry out its mission of regional economic integration has made it imperative for Morocco to play an instrumental role in promoting African progress.

He said, "All this confirms that Morocco is right to choose Africa. By doing so, my country has opted to share and transfer its know-how; in concrete terms, it is offering to build a safe, solidarity-based future. We are proud to see history has proved us right. Morocco is not returning to the African Union through the back door, but by the main gate. We enthusiastically invite African nations to join our country's dynamism and to give new impetus to the whole of our continent."

In his closing remarks, King Mohammed VI returned to his constant theme of Africa for Africans. "It is time for Africa to benefit from Africa's wealth. We must work to enable our land, after decades of looting, to enter an era of prosperity... Africa should be proud of its resources, its cultural heritage, its spiritual values, and the future should strongly support this natural pride."

"This is the path to solidarity, peace and union chosen by my country. We reaffirm our commitment to the development and prosperity of African citizens. We, peoples of Africa, have the means and the genius; together, we can fulfill the aspirations of our peoples."

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