BY ANSAR MAHMOOD BHATTI
The recently concluded Crans Montana Forum held in the Western Sahara city of Dakhla, Morocco leaders from across the globe gathered to share their views as to how to address various issues facing the African countries and how to reach out to other continents, especially South Asia with a view to forging partnerships with different countries. The avowed aim of this initiative ostensibly appears to be exploring new avenues of cooperation with the outer world so as to help particularly those African countries that are lagging behind in terms of socio-economic development.
The Dakhla Forum, therefore, is held under the patronage of His Majesty King Mohammed VI on a regular basis which is participated by leaders from various countries. The Dakhla Forum 2018 became special when former French president Nicolas Sarkozy made a surprise appearance and shared his vision of taking this initiative forward. In the coming issue, we will share more details of this Forum, however, it is important to get the basic knowledge about this initiative and why is the King of Morocco so keen on building new linkages especially with the South Asia countries?
To achieve this end, King Mohammad VI of Morocco has already announced a comprehensive policy. He has characterized Africa as the top priority of his country’s foreign policy, emphasizing that “this multi-dimensional relationship puts Morocco in the center of Africa” and “Africa holds a special place in the heart of Moroccans.”
In fact, King Mohammed VI expressed his confidence that “Africa has the means to ensure its development and to take its destiny into its own hands, thanks to the resolve of African peoples and to the continent’s human and natural resources,” citing evidence of Moroccan contributions to human development, social services and trade and investment across the region.
Overall, Morocco is driving some 85 percent of its foreign direct investment into Africa, a benchmark that drew praise from the President of African Development Bank when he visited the country. This was good enough a cause for Mohammed VI to boast at the India-Africa Summit in New Delhi in October 2015, “Morocco has become the top African investor in West Africa and the second biggest in the continent as a whole.” After Morocco’s summit with India, similar contacts were established with Indonesia and Malaysia also.
According to Global Financial Centres Index not only is Casablanca ranked the second business and financial hub in Africa, but it was the only center in the entire Middle East and Africa region to have increased its overall rating and rank since the last report.
Having spent a few days in Casablanca, I can indeed second the Global Financial Centre report that the city is fast evolving as a vibrant and potential business hub in Africa, which is not only fully poised to facilitate various multinational enterprises to establish their African headquarters but also to offer lucrative business opportunities to countries from other continents. The incumbent government has focused much on improving the law and order and governance situation owing to which influx of foreign investors seems to have increased manifold.
Morocco under King Mohammed VI has also largely contributed towards addressing the menace of extremism and his polices have already won wide acclaim. Likewise, the Climate Change issue has also been a cornerstone of the sitting government’s policies and holding of COP2 conference bears testimony to government’s commitment towards this end.
To cultivate and strengthen friendly relations with Pakistan also ranks high in the foreign policy principles of Moroccan government. Ambassador Mohammed Karmoune, in his recent interview with this publication had categorically stated that Morocco is keen to give new dimensions to its ties with Pakistan in all fields including trade, economy, education and political as well as culture. We can look forward that the brotherly relations between Pakistan and Morocco will strengthen in the days to come.