Morocco Expands African Footprint with Royal Visits to Ethiopia, Madagascar, and Nigeria

Visits Follow Calls to Rejoin African Union, Recent Trips to Rwanda, Tanzania and Senegal

WASHINGTON, DC--(Marketwired - December 12, 2016) - Morocco's King Mohammed VI has concluded the second leg of a nearly two-month, six-country Africa tour with visits to Ethiopia, Madagascar, and Nigeria, resulting in some 50 bilateral agreements. The visits come on the heels of trips to Rwanda, Tanzania, and Senegal in October, when more than 40 bilateral agreements were signed.

In Addis Ababa on November 19, the King and Ethiopian Prime Minister Haile Mariam Dessalegn chaired the launch ceremony for a project to build a "world-class integrated platform for fertilizer production" in Ethiopia, estimated to reach a total annual capacity of 3.8 million tons by 2025, which would render Ethiopia self-sufficient in fertilizer. The two leaders also chaired the signing of several bilateral agreements relating to water resources, banking and finance, and establishing a bilateral business council.

In the Malagasy capital on November 21, King Mohammed VI and President of Madagascar Hery Rajaonarimampianina chaired the signing ceremony of 22 bilateral cooperation agreements in a host of areas, including agriculture, banking, renewable energy, and education and vocational training, as well as an agreement to upgrade and preserve Madagascar's Canal of Pangalanes. The Canal is four times longer than the Suez Canal and eight times longer than the Panama Canal.

Two days later, the King arrived in Antsirabe -- the Malagasy city to which his late grandfather, King Mohammed V, was exiled in 1954 -- to explore a special photography exhibit on his grandfather's stay there, view the hotel in which he lived, and rededicate the local mosque as "King Mohammed V Mosque." In an interview with Malagasy press following the visit, the King called the visit "very moving," noting that "Contrary to exile experiences in general, my family has maintained a good memory of this forced stay and has maintained a strong relation with Madagascar, especially Antsirabe." As an expression of gratitude, the King has committed to setting up a vocational training center and building a mother-child hospital for the city.

On December 1, King Mohammed VI arrived in Abuja, Nigeria, where he and Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari chaired the signing of several bilateral agreements on renewable energy, fishing, and agriculture -- including an agreement to develop Nigerian's fertilizer industry. According to an official release from the visit, "This collaboration seeks to secure fertilizer supply for the Nigerian market at competitive prices, share a real know-how in terms of developing local blending facilities, promote innovation, research and development, reinforce local distribution channels, and extend the existing agricultural systems" with the ultimate goal of developing "a sustainable agriculture in Nigeria while helping with the amelioration of farmers' daily life in a spirit of south-south partnership."

Representing one of Morocco's most ambitious infrastructure development goals, the two countries also announced plans to build a natural gas pipeline that, at completion, would bring Nigeria's energy resources through West Africa to Morocco, and eventually to European markets with Morocco serving as a gateway. Ithmar Capital, Morocco's sovereign wealth fund and co-partner in the venture with the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority, said in a release, "The new collaboration between Morocco and Nigeria is intended to set a model for South-South cooperation and act as a catalyst for African economic opportunities. It aligns with His Majesty, King Mohammed VI's regional strategy, in which he has declared that Africa is the top priority in Morocco's foreign policy and that the Kingdom will contribute to economic, social services and human development projects that directly improve the lives of people in the region. This includes on projects related to the energy sector, and notably sustainable and green projects."

The King had initiated his East Africa tour with visits to Rwanda, Tanzania, and Senegal before attending the 22nd Conference of the Parties to the UN United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP22) in Marrakesh. Though the King has traveled to Senegal many times before, his visits to Rwanda, Tanzania, and most recently Ethiopia and Nigeria were a first and reinforce his commitment to South-South cooperation just a few months after announcing his intention for Morocco to rejoin the African Union (AU). Some thirty countries have already voiced their support for Morocco's bid, including Benin, Gabon, Liberia, Senegal, Egypt, and Ghana, to name just a few.

Since ascending the throne in 1999, the King has made Africa a foreign policy priority. Beyond his many trips, in late 2013 the King established a program to train imams from across the continent. In March 2015 in Rabat, he formally opened the Mohammed VI Institute for the Training of Imams, Morchidines, and Morchidates. In April 2015, Morocco signed a memorandum of understanding with the Millennium Challenge Corporation "with the goal of reducing poverty in Africa, including a focus on promoting adoption of new technologies and innovative business models to promote entrepreneurship." The King also strongly represented Africa's interests on climate change policy at the COP22 summit.

"The significance of King Mohammed VI's recent visits in East Africa cannot be overstated," said former US Ambassador to Morocco Edward M. Gabriel. "They signal a real appreciation for cooperation and a commitment to sustainable economic development that underscores the importance of Morocco and the continent of Africa. We need more of this kind of leadership and dedicated focus in the region."

The Moroccan American Center for Policy (MACP) is a non-profit organization whose principal mission is to inform opinion makers, government officials, and interested publics in the United States about political and social developments in Morocco and the role being played by the Kingdom of Morocco in broader strategic developments in North Africa, the Mediterranean, and the Middle East.

This material is distributed by the Moroccan American Center for Policy on behalf of the Government of Morocco. Additional information is available at the Department of Justice in Washington, DC.

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Jordana Merran

Morocco's King Mohammed VI with President of Madagascar Hery Rajaonarimampianina.