SOURCE: Moroccan American Center for Policy

October 31, 2016 18:48 ET

Morocco's African Diplomacy Expands Eastward

King Mohammed VI Concludes Two-Country Tour of East Africa

WASHINGTON, DC--(Marketwired - October 31, 2016) - Morocco's King Mohammed VI has concluded a tour of Rwanda and Tanzania, resulting in more than 40 bilateral agreements and marking the eastward expansion of Morocco's diplomatic efforts in Africa.

The tour began on October 18 in Kigali, where King Mohammed VI met with Rwandan President Paul Kagame and chaired the signing of some 20 bilateral agreements, covering a broad range of sectors from agriculture to banking, to renewable energy and security cooperation. Among them was an agreement by Attijariwafa Bank, one of Morocco's biggest banks, to buy Rwandan bank Compagnie Générale de Banque Limited (Cogebanque), a deal worth around $41 million. Morocco's Office Cherifien de Phosphate (OCP), the world's leading phosphate exporter, also committed to build a plant in Rwanda to "produce fertilizers adapted to local soils," as reported in Reuters. While in the country, King Mohammed VI also paid his respects to the victims of the Rwanda genocide at Kigali Genocide Memorial.

On October 23, King Mohammed VI arrived for a three-day visit to Tanzania, where he and Tanzanian President John Pombe Magufuli chaired the signing ceremony of 22 bilateral agreements in the capital of Dar es Salaam. While the agreements focused on a range of economic and development issues, including infrastructure development and energy policy, the King also launched the building of the King Mohammed VI Mosque in response to a request by Mufti Sheikh Abu-Bakr Ibn Zubayr Benali, President of the National Muslim Council of Tanzania, offering 10,000 copies of the Koran to the Council. The gesture follows the King's commitment to expanding Morocco's tolerant and moderate form of Islam.

The East Africa tour comes just a few months after King Mohammed VI announced 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. Another East Africa visit, to include

Ethiopia -- the home of AU headquarters -- is scheduled to take place following the 22nd session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP22), which the Kingdom is hosting in Marrakech from November 7-18.

Since ascending the throne in 1999, the King has made Africa a foreign policy priority, visiting 35 African countries and signing more than 320 bilateral agreements. 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, which has already welcomed students from Mali, Tunisia, and France, among other countries. 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 has also vowed to represent Africa's interests on climate change policy at the COP22 summit.

Ambassador Michael Battle at the US Department of State has said of Morocco's diplomatic efforts, "Morocco is setting the pace by showing how African countries which are prosperous can be responsive to African countries which are in the process of becoming prosperous." In a recent article highlighting Morocco's growing role in Africa, J. Peter Pham, Director of the Atlantic Council's Africa Center, wrote, "US policymakers would do well to 'triangulate' -- or, at the very least, better coordinate -- their efforts with those of African allies like Morocco that are already providing home-grown solutions to the challenges faced by the continent, its nations, and their peoples today."

"The United States is lucky to have such a close and longstanding friend and ally, Morocco, expanding its influence and relationships in Africa, a continent on the rise and likely to be at the crux of future policy debates," said former US Ambassador to Morocco Edward M. Gabriel.

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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