Report on Stakeholder Discussion on Morocco’s Accession to ECOWAS held at the Movenpick Ambassador Hotel on 15th May, 2018
On the 15th of May 2018, Imani Center for Policy and Education, a Ghanaian think tank, in partnership with Institut Amadeus, a Moroccan think tank, hosted a successful conference on the topic: Moroccan Accession into ECOWAS: Towards the Strengthening of the West African Community. The event brought together several Moroccan and Ghanaian stakeholders including prominent civil society groups, youth groups, government officials, chiefs, academics and businesses to discuss the implications of Morocco’s accession – the potential benefits to Ghana and the entire West African community, and possible inhibitions to this move.
The general consensus at the event was that, Morocco’s accession to ECOWAS could be beneficial to Ghana and the wider West African community. These benefits were identified in many areas including trade, industrialisation and business growth, and social and cultural exchange. For instance, the accession presents an opportunity for increased trade between Ghana and Morocco which is currently low. In 2016, Ghana’s export to Morocco was about $7.4m, representing less than 1% of the country’s total exports. In the same year, imports from Morocco was just about $87.9m
Despite these potential benefits, some concerns were raised. One of the primary concerns that constantly surfaced was the idea that the accession may not be mutually beneficial for all countries involved. The Moroccans however assured the gathering that, their track record of investment reveals a genuine dedication and commitment to West Africa. Other concerns also included the fear that Morocco’s acceptance into ECOWAS could derail the regional integration process. However, Morocco confirmed that indeed, they are ready to accept these regional integration terms.
To facilitate Morocco’s accession and to ensure that the benefits from this union are mutual, a few recommendations emerged from the discussion. These included the need to improve trade and business relationships between Ghana and Morocco through shared information, and by growing specific and direct relationships between firms and industries to learn from one another. Other recommendations highlighted included the need to get the ordinary Ghanaian to understand and appreciate the conversations around the accession of Morocco into ECOWAS and the benefits that will accrue to them.
List of Abbreviations
|CSOs||Civil Society Organisations|
|ECOWAS||Economic Community of West African States|
|CGEM||General Confederation of Enterprises of Morocco|
|GNCCI||Ghana National Chamber of Commerce and Industry|
|JBC||Joint Business Council|
Morocco made headlines early in 2017 when their request to rejoin the African Union (AU) was granted. Winning the majority vote, they were accepted back into the AU after 33 years of being absent. This was seen as a positive step towards peace-building and promotion of African unity. Three weeks later, on the 24th of February 2017, Morocco made even bigger headlines when they officially submitted their application to join the 15 – member regional group – the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Indeed, this was unexpected and has been recorded in history as the very first time such an event has taken place. In June 2017, the ECOWAS Heads of State agreed to the accession in principle, however, the wider community including all the important stakeholders were never included in the debate regarding the accession. This gap has therefore been gradually filled by a series of dialogues organised in member countries that will be affected by the accession.
On the 15th of May 2018, at the Movenpick Ambassador Hotel in Accra, and in light of the recent events aforementioned, Ghana hosted a successful and enlightening conference on the topic: Moroccan Accession into ECOWAS: Towards the Strengthening of the West African Community. This event was organised by the Moroccan think tank, Institut Amadeus, in partnership with Ghanaian think tank, Imani Center for Policy and Education. The event brought together several stakeholders ranging from prominent Ghanaian and Moroccan civil society groups, youth groups and government officials to chiefs, academics and businesses.
The event took off with a heartfelt speech from the President of Amadeus, Brahim Fassi Fahiri, who revealed that Morocco has been a close observer of ECOWAS since 2005 and has, since then, gradually come to admire the closely knit, integrated community; one that they feel proud to join. Debunking all claims, accusations and conspiracies that suggest that Morocco has ill and selfish intentions, he disclosed that Morocco is one of the main investors in Africa. The Moroccan King, Mohammed VI, has stated before that: “Africa must trust in Africa”. This quote has served as encouragement to all Moroccans to be deeply concerned and involved in the affairs of the continent and, has continued to be the driving force of Morocco’s dedication to investing in the continent. The President of Imani, Mr. Franklin Cudjoe, also gave a brief speech, identifying the conversation as a unique one. He however urged such conversations to continue, stating that it is a critical and much needed conversation that involves “a battle for people’s prosperity, wealth and souls”.
After the introductory speeches, the event then launched into a discussion on the political, cultural, social and economic implications of Morocco’s accession into ECOWAS for all member states, especially Ghana.
In April 2017, the Foreign Minister of Belarus, pointed to Morocco and Ghana as the new growth poles in Africa. This was an interesting observation given that, the economic and social relationship between Morocco and Ghana dates back to the 1950’s. This notwithstanding, economic activity and social exchange between the two countries have been minimal. For instance, in 2016, Ghana’s exports to Morocco was about $7.4m, representing less than 1% of the country’s total exports. In the same year, import from Morocco was just about $87.9m.
To enhance economic and social activities between both countries, possible areas of collaboration were discussed, some of which included: Trade, Industrialisation and Business Growth, Infrastructural Development and Cultural Exchange. These areas are discussed in further detail below.
It was established very quickly that the accession presents a good opportunity for increased trade between Ghana and Morocco. It was also revealed however, that current trade between Ghana and Morocco has been extremely low. Though Ghana exports wood, fuel and oil to Morocco, and Morocco – fish, seafood, sugar and fertiliser to Ghana, in 2015, Ghana’s exports to Morocco was a mere $3.6m, less than 1% of its total exports. On the other hand, import from Morocco was about $64.8m, less than 0.29% of their total exports. Further statistics reveal that Ghana takes up 3.9% in Morocco’s total exports in Africa while Morocco has a 0.2% share in Ghana’s exports. Based on these statistics, delegation from both countries acknowledged the huge potential for trade between both countries which could be facilitated with Morocco’s accession into ECOWAS. For instance, Morocco has a vibrant automotive industry which can meet Ghana’s demand for cars and other automotive products. In 2016, Ghana imported automotive products worth US $1.8 billion, some of which could now be imported from Morocco. Ghana is also heavily endowed with the bauxite mineral, which is a key input in the automotive industry and could also become a potential key import for Morocco. Furthermore, in 2017, Morocco’s total merchandise imports was about US $ 44.9 billion, which included agricultural products, raw materials and crude petroleum, some of which can be imported from Ghana.
Industrialisation and Business Growth
Moroccan businesses in Ghana can mainly be identified in the insurance and banking sectors
(e.g. Bank of Africa) and in building and construction (eg. Addoha group, which has so far built over 7000 social housing units in Ghana). It is therefore believed that the accession will further enhance business opportunities between Morocco and Ghana, and Morocco and other West African states. One important, possible area of collaboration identified to facilitate business growth in both countries is the strengthening of capital markets to provide long term financing to businesses especially in Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). Collaboration among capital markets in the sub-region could help mobilise savings across the sub-region to finance businesses and help create jobs for the young generation.
With regards of industrialization, possible areas of collaboration outlined at the event included agri-business, machinery for agricultural processing, bauxite production, energy, salt production and financial inclusion.
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.
Cultural and Social Ties
It was also highlighted at the event that Morocco’s intentions to join ECOWAS were not only to strengthen economic ties but also, to deepen cultural and social ties. One Moroccan representative identified the language barrier, referring to it as an “invisible barrier” – one that should not prevent Ghana and Morocco from getting to know each other and, from learning from one another. It was further revealed that Morocco is a common study destination for a number of Ghanaian students, some of which were present at the event. These students recounted their experiences in Morocco, all of which were positive. It was therefore concluded that education is another avenue that can be explored in relation to the accession.
Despite these areas of possible collaboration, there were a few concerns that were voiced during the discussion. One of the primary concerns that constantly resurfaced was the idea that the accession may not be mutually beneficial for all countries involved. The Moroccans however reassured the gathering that, their track record of investment reveals a genuine dedication and commitment to West Africa. Furthermore, they confirmed that their goal is to continue investing and building up the region. Other concerns also included the fear that Morocco’s acceptance into ECOWAS could derail the regional integration process. This included issues surrounding migration within West Africa and the adoption of a single currency by 2020. Morocco confirmed that indeed, they are ready to accept these regional integration terms including the adoption of a single currency with the ECOWAS zone once it is launched. Morocco also demonstrated their willingness to accept the free movement terms, highlighting that there is already free movement between Morocco and 11 ECOWAS countries (which Ghana is not a part of yet).
Another main area of concern was the overall political dynamics of the integration, and the possible political interferences and power plays that could hinder the accession and any other benefits associated with it. Indeed, there is a need to ensure the right political environment for the accession to be successful, and for any future engagements to be sustainable. In other words, political structures must be able to support the economic goals of the community. Some of the main political challenges that could potentially interfere with the accession include i) mindset challenges especially among the business community, and their overall reluctance to do business across Africa ii) the issue of borders and free movement (often having to cross several barriers to get to countries that are physically close and finally, iii) lack of mutual trust within the African community.
Next steps agreed at the event included the establishment of a Joint Business Council by the General Confederation of Enterprises of Morocco (CGEM) and the Ghana National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GNCCI) towards improving the legal framework for the movement of people, goods and capital between both countries. Civil society organisations (CSO’s) also have a huge role to play in terms of i) conducting research into any further implications of the accession, and ii) enhancing accountability of the policies and projects that are agreed on during the accession. With regards to enhancing accountability, it was suggested that a scorecard be created to monitor progress. Below are some other recommendations proposed at the event.
- Some recommendations that were made towards improving the trade relationship between Ghana and Morocco included the creation of online platforms that can facilitate the sharing of trade information. Both countries were also urged to create and maintain a conducive environment that promotes intra-African trade; intra-African exports accounted 18% of total exports in Africa in 2016, leaving much room for improvement.
- Recommendations towards improving business relationships between Ghana and Morocco included the need to focus on growing specific and direct relationships between firms and industries to learn from one another. For instance, company A in Ghana can identify and learn all about company B in Morocco to establish real business connections and thriving partnerships.
- It was identified at the event that there was an overwhelming focus on trade and other areas, but very little focus on technology. It was therefore recommended that both countries should also consider collaborating in the area of technology especially since Ghana has a vibrant, innovative environment. This is necessary to reduce the sub-regions dependency on other countries for their technology needs.
- Finally, it was highlighted that there is a great need to get the ordinary West African citizen to understand and appreciate these conversations around the accession of Morocco into ECOWAS. One of the ways to achieve this is to get the media involved in educating the public. This will significantly aid in building trust between all countries involved.
Indeed, partnership between West Africa and Morocco presents an opportunity for all countries involved to pull their resources together to produce synergies that can fast-track Africa’s growth and development. However, some questions still remain: To what extent will Ghana benefit from this partnership? And to what extent will this be a win-win for the West African community and Morocco? These are questions that need to be addressed as negotiations regarding Morocco’s accession commences.
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