India-Africa Forum Summit: Morocco The New Gateway To Africa – OpEd


From October 26 to 30 New Delhi will host the third India-Africa Forum Summit summit. 54 African countries are invited. At least 41 countries will participate at the level of President, Vice-President, Prime Minister and King; 11 will be represented by ministers; two by officials.

India wii be a great venue for this summit since it enjoys significant political, strategic and economic ties with Africa. Africa is very resource-rich, and has moved from being an underdeveloped continent to having several fast-growing economies, and new democracies. There are key shared interests in battling global terrorism, and piracy in the Indian Ocean. India’s ambition to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council makes it imperative that it engages with all 54 countries of the continent. New Delhi would also want a stronger partnership with Africa on climate change ahead of the COP-21 in Paris.

Over the last 15 years, India-Africa trade has gone up 20 times, and reached, according to the government, $ 70 billion. Indian investment in Africa is between $ 30 billion and $ 35 billion. India has given concessional credit to the tune of $ 7.4 billion, of which $ 3.5 billon has been disbursed. The credit lines have helped create 137 projects in 41 countries. A Pan-African e-Network for education and health is functional in 48 countries. Since 2008, India has extended 40,000 scholarships to African countries.

Health, education, agriculture, training, etc. will remain the broad themes. More lines of credit could be extended. Indian officials have said its approach will be “non-prescriptive” and “non-exploitative”. An elaborate joint declaration covering all aspects of the growing relationship is in the works.

With preparations in full swing for the upcoming India-Africa Forum Summit, it’s time for New Delhi to renew ties with old African friends and establish synergy with new African partners.

The Moroccan sovereign, King Mohammed VI, will be in attendance at the summit – a rare diplomatic privilege and opportunity for New Delhi to boost ties with Rabat. Here it is worth reminding the constant and keen interest of King Mohammed VI in sustainable development in Africa. According to His Majesty, “this is not something which can be achieved through decisions and ready-made prescriptions,” he said. “Nor is there a single model in this area. Each country follows a path of its own, having taken into consideration its historical development, cultural heritage, human and natural resources, specific political circumstances, as well as its economic choices and the obstacles and challenges facing it.”

In a Royal message to the participants in the Crans Montana Forum held in Dakhla south of Morocco , King Mohammed VI stressed that “Morocco’s African policy is based on a comprehensive, integrated and inclusive approach designed to promote peace and stability, encourage sustainable human development and safeguard the cultural and spiritual identity of our populations, while respecting the universal values of human rights.”

“Morocco has been working untiringly to help forge a modern, bold, entrepreneurial and open Africa; an African continent which is proud of its identity, which derives its vibrancy from its cultural heritage and which is capable of transcending outdated ideologies,” he said

The King acknowledged that “the borders inherited from colonization often continue to be a major source of tension and conflict,” and that “Africa is a continent with growing and unsettling security issues”; but he stressed that “Africa’s tremendous human and natural resources should, instead, be a powerful catalyst for regional integration,” and urged that “It is up to us — Africans — to innovate in order to turn them into open spaces where fruitful exchange and interaction can flourish between African states.”

In 2000, King Mohammed VI revealed the new tone and the new ambitions of Morocco in Africa when he announced, on behalf of South-South cooperation, the cancellation of debts of the least developed countries (LDCs) and Sub-Saharan Africa and to exempt their products from tariffs.

Morocco’s efforts to give the South-South cooperation a face full of solidarity, has resulted in its continued commitment to noble causes of peace and development, as well as its constant position to express solidarity towards the concerns of developing countries, and their aspirations for progress and well-being.

Morocco is also seeking to develop a strategy for tripartite cooperation channel aid funds made available in the framework of international programs for the financing of infrastructure projects or socio-economic development in African countries and to entrust those projects to Moroccan companies (consultancies, engineering companies, service providers, etc).

Morocco attaches great importance to national education by providing college scholarships to African students. More than 10,000 students pursue their studies each year in universities and schools through scholarships provided by the Moroccan Agency for International Cooperation (AMCI).

Following the success of this program and the positive results recorded, Morocco expressed to its African partners its willingness to jointly develop a regional development project of artificial inducement of rain in Africa. This would assist African countries with expressed needs in this area, thus contributing to the achievement of the NEPAD strategy for the generalization of access to water in Africa by 2015. Senegal has also been a recipient of technical and logistical support for the country to launch its artificial rain.

Morocco has initiated many African countries to triangular cooperation, rich and varied, based on a true partnership and effective solidarity, in addition to cooperation programs implemented bilaterally. It has many advantages and allows many African countries to benefit from the know-how and expertise already experienced in the land of Africa and to overcome the lack of budgetary resources.

Given the multiple benefits of triangular cooperation, Morocco considers that this type of partnership can be a vehicle for supporting the efforts of developing countries in sub-Saharan Africa and expresses its readiness to invest with donors and regional donors and international collaboration seeking to achieve tripartite programs for countries in SSA..

Export Morocco spares no effort to promote exchanges between Morocco and many African countries, through participation in international fairs and exhibitions, and the organization of business missions, advising businesses, hosting meetings with economic operators, and finally by sponsoring prospective studies of areas and countries.

Morocco has always supported the initiatives of the United Nations for the restoration of stability in Africa and has, since 1960 to nowadays, has provided military contingents at the disposal of UN peacekeeping operations in the Congo, Somalia, Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo and Côte d’Ivoire.

In December 2006, Morocco sent a contingent of Royal Armed Forces, consisting of specialists and experts to participate in a demining operation in the Casamance region of Senegal. Morocco has also provided medical field camps in many needy African countries to provide immediate medical assistance.

Moroccan spiritual diplomacy has been very successful in West Africa due to the country’s historic Maliki School through Sufi channels and methods of reaching worshipers in the sub-Saharan region and West Africa. The Tijaniya sufi order widely operating in West Africa was founded in North Africa during the 18th century. Other Sufi orders – including the Qadiriyya and Chadiliya orders – soon followed, gaining large numbers of devotees who identified heavily with Morocco, where the tomb of Sheikh Ahmed Tijani, the founder of the Tijaniyyah order, is buried.

Apparently Morocco’s religious authority – Imarat Lmouminin – is highly venerated by many Africans, whether in Mali, Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire… In all his trips in Africa, King Mohammed as Commander of the Faithful, receive all leaders of major Sufi orders. In all his trips in West Africa, he provided thousands of copies of the Quran issued by the Mohammed VI Foundation for Holy Quran Publishing to be distributed mosques and other major Muslim institutions. In short, a credible and very successful spiritual diplomacy led by the King to promote a tolerant Islam that teaches respect, love to other religions and contribute efficiently to counter all extremist voices who unfortunately seem to gain ground in some countries in West Africa.

In March 2015, King Mohammed VI inaugurated the Mohammed VI Institute for the Training of Imams, Morchidines, and Morchidates in the capital, Rabat. The religious training center that aims to instill the values of Morocco’s open, moderate form of Islam, based on the Maliki rite and Sunni Sufism, in the next generation of Muslim religious leaders (imams) and preachers (morchidines and morchidates) from across the region and the world.

The new foundation (Mohammed VI Foundation for African Ulema) will be a key element in Morocco’s ongoing efforts to promote religious moderation and tolerance as a shield against extremism in the region. The spiritual ties between Morocco and many African Sub-Saharan countries are mirrored throughout history in the exchange of muslim scholars, saints and sufis who spared no effort to spread the genuine Islamic values of tolerance and moderation.

Morocco will continue to be present in Africa and reinforce south-south cooperation to contribute to the development of the African continent and collaborate with American and European allies to bring peace and stability to this continent.

At the Moroccan-Ivorian Economic Forum, held in Abidjan on February 24 2014, King Mohammed VI laid out a compelling vision for Africa’s development. He said that “This objective [prosperity for future generations] will even be more readily attainable when Africa overcomes its Afro-pessimism and unlocks its intellectual and material potential as well as that of all African peoples. Just imagine what our continent will look like, once it frees itself of its constraints and burdens!”

In its latest World Economic Forum report, Morocco has been named as the most competitive economy in North Africa. Given Morocco’s strategic location on the western edge of North Africa with a substantial Atlantic costline just a stone’s throw away from Europe, Morocco could be India’s economic entry point into both Francophone Africa and European economies. Taken together, both in terms of economic cooperation and security collaboration, Morocco can be an important lead for India in Africa. This will certainly broaden India’s engagement in Africa, especially in Francophone Africa. Plus, King Mohammed VI’s vision and Morocco’s position outside the Africa Union provide New Delhi an alternative and fresh African voice that will surely enrich India’s strategic depth in Africa. An emerging landscape of stable economies and growing democratic freedoms in much of Africa is allowing the continent, for the first time, to take advantage of its extensive natural resource endowments, its improving human capital, and its increasing attractiveness to global investors. Indian policymakers have shown recent signs of understanding Africa’s position and are seeking to strengthen economic relations with African countries. They would be wise to formulate a comprehensive economic policy, not just with interagency coordination, but also in full partnership with the legislative branch, with the private sectors in India and Africa, and with African governments.

With the right strategies, Morocco and India could reap greater benefits. Morocco would improve its access to the Indian market. India could use Morocco as a platform for the entire Africa. Morocco, therefore could become an interesting trade and economic platform to potential Indian investors and at the same time African countries could benefit from this important trade partnership to access the Indian market. Morocco is then the new gateway to Africa.

Said Temsamani

Said Temsamani is a Moroccan political observer and consultant, who follows events in his country and across North Africa. He is a member of Washington Press Club.

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